Fifth Generation Chevrolet Corvette
Production of the C5 Corvette began in 1997 and ended with the 2004 model year. Chevrolet used cars like the Nissan 300ZX and Mazda RX-7 as benchmarks for quality and styling due to criticisms the C4 Corvette received when compared to Japanese rivals. The C5 had a top speed of 181 mph (291 km/h) and was judged by the automotive press as improved in nearly every area over the previous Corvette design, thanks to the car’s much increased structural rigidity and much more curvaceous design.
Also introduced with the C5 was GM’s new LS1 small block. This third-generation small block V8 was completely redesigned. Now all-aluminum, it featured a distributor-less ignition and a new cylinder firing order. It was initially rated at 345 bhp (257 kW) and 350 lb·ft (470 N·m), but was increased to 350 bhp (260 kW) in the 2001 edition. The new engine, combined with the new body and its low 0.29 drag coefficient, was able to achieve up to 28 mpg on the highway.
For its first year, the C5 was available only as a coupe, although the new platform was designed from the ground up to be a convertible, which returned in 1998, followed by the fixed-roof coupe (FRC) in 1999. One concept for the FRC was for it to be a stripped-down model with a possible V6 engine (nicknamed in-house as the “Billy Bob”). By 2000, FRC plans laid the groundwork for the return in 2001 of the Z06, an RPO option not seen since Zora’s 1963 race-ready Corvette.
The Z06 Corvette model replaced the FRC model as the highest performance C5 Corvette. Instead of a heavier double-overhead cam engine like the ZR-1 of the C4 Corvette, the Z06 used an LS6, a 385 bhp (287 kW) derivative of the standard LS1 engine. Using the much more rigid fixed roof design allowed the Z06 unprecedented handling thanks to upgraded brakes and less body flex. Those characteristics, along with the use of materials such as a titanium exhaust system and a carbon fiber hood in the 2004 model year, led to further weight savings and performance gains for the C5 Z06. The LS6 was later upgraded to 405 bhp (302 kW)for 2002–2004. Although the Z06’s rated power output equal to that of the C4 ZR-1, the improved rigidity, suspension, brakes, and reduced weight of the C5 produced a car quicker than C4 ZR-1.