One of the most significant Corvettes of the modern age is currently being offered by GT Motorcars in Wallingford, Connecticut. While you may be limited in what you can do with this particular car, its significance, beyond being the first one to roll off the line at Bowling Green Assembly, is in the places it has been and the things it accomplished while it was there.
When the C6 Z06 was introduced, it took the performance world by storm. Reducing Corvette’s weight while infusing the largest-displacement small-block ever, quickly resonated with enthusiasts around the globe. Never before had GM produced a vehicle with such performance potential. The car’s 7.0-liter powerplant was a beast of an engine, producing 505 horsepower in stock form. Known as the LS7, the small-block was naturally-aspirated and swiped through the tachometer with surprising ease. The 427 cubic-inch mill used the technology of the day to not only top the horsepower chart but also provide seat-flattening torque when warranted. Race-proven techniques such as the use of titanium, carbon fiber and dry-sump oiling were sent out on the street thanks to the Z-car’s availability to the masses. When the car was finally introduced to the media, there was no doubt that Chevrolet was going after the performance market and designated the 2006 Corvette Z06 as the tip of the spear.
Making sure that the car was capable of living up to all the hype was paramount to a handful of enthusiasts within GM and they needed a car that could go out beyond all of the prying eyes of the press and set the standard to which all others would be judged. This car carried the burden of establishing the C6 Z06’s performance footprint and many of the performance milestones recorded were direct results of the throttle pedal denting the floorboard in this very car.
The car first rolled off the line on February 4, 2005 and carries experimental serial number 1G1YY22Y3650016EX. It went right to work, getting dressed out by the folks at the Milford Proving Grounds with the necessary safety equipment and instrumentation to equip it for the rock star/stuntman lifestyle it was destined to lead. Various heat sensors were wired throughout the car’s interior and underhood areas, to help keep track of the car’s condition during the various stunts it would endure during its time within GM. The lists of such endeavors are many and quite varied in this car’s case.
By June of 2005, the car found itself on Germany’s Autobahn with Tony Rifici behind the wheel and the speedometer pegged at 200 mph and to make it official, Patrick Herrmann averaged 198.6 mph in both directions at Papenberg, Germany shortly thereafter. That same month, the car found itself in the midst of the country’s famed “Green Hell,” on its way to setting a new lap record at the hands of Corvette Racing driver Jan Magnussen. From a standing start, Jan was able to coax an astonishingly fast lap time of 7:42.99.
Corvette Ride and Handling Vehicle Dynamics Engineer, Jim Mero ran some test laps around the track at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, sorting out the final settings of the car’s saleable demeanor. He had this to say about his drive, “One thing I will say about Spa; going up Eau Rouge, it was like driving into the clouds. I never thought I would get a chance to experience it. I am so fortunate.” He goes on to say, “This 2005 Z06 was our primary development car both on United States racetracks as well as the Nürburgring.”
Many spy photos of the car’s endeavors reached their way onto magazine covers and touted the car as the “Blue Devil”. The car then returned stateside, where fellow Corvette Racing driver, Johnny O’Connell introduced the motoring press to both the car’s abilities and Dramamine during a press event at the Virginia International Raceway. When Corvette Chief Engineer, Tom Wallace took the helm and development began on the ZR1, this particular car became Tom’s choice for all the track events and became known as “Tom’s Toy.”
Wearing the pre-production “EX” (experimental) VIN designation meant the car would never officially see daily-driver use on American highways and is sold on a bill of sale and can never be registered for road use. After the car’s usefulness to GM as a test vehicle had passed, it was eventually liquidated and found its way into the private collection at the Mike Yager Garage in Effingham, Illinois.
The car has quite a history and comes with a long list of documentation. Like the luggage carried by many seasoned world travelers, this car also wears meaningful tattoos that document the places it has been. An understated, squiggly line serves to illustrate the laps the car has made around the Spring Mountain facilities. An even more prestigious window marker signifies this car as part of the industry pool of cars (for GM) during its stay at the Nurburgring in Germany.
Beyond all of the lick-and-stick coolness, there’s also the series of wires and sensors that run throughout the car, once serving a specific purpose, but now remaining only to attest to the car’s coolness. Each one gives testament to the extent that GM did in its homework to make Corvette great. The interior has also been forever modified, in the name of safety, thanks to those Sparco racing seats and harness bar. There’s even an hour meter installed in the console, just in case the car’s driver got paid by the lap, or by the hour.
There are so many things that make this car as cool as it is interesting. Many folks will fascinate over the fact this car wears its experimental VIN plate and lived to tell about it. Many times, such a classification is a death sentence, as manufacturers are not comfortable with the idea of “not intended for highway use” cars in the hands of the common citizenry.
Whether it was spared due to the sheer coolness and history of this particular car or snuck out of the grasp of GM in a super-huge cello case, we don’t know. One thing is for sure. Even if it never sets foot back on a paved stretch of DOT-approved highway, it’ll never be called a garage queen. It’s done more in its first few months of existence to ever be painted with that broad brush. Jim Mero said it best. “This car exemplified how robust the Corvette platform is,” he said. “We drove it into the ground for several years and it ran like a champ the entire time. I sure hope it goes to a good home.” So do we.