Going way back to when guys like Dr. Dick Thompson and the very young Roger Penske first campaigned them, the suffix Z06 was all you needed to hear, and to have, when it came to Corvette performance aimed very squarely at the race course. Head for a major collectible-vehicle auction today, encounter an authenticated Z06 from the past, and once the bidding starts, you’ll understand at once how much these track-oriented Corvettes are still venerated by the faithful. It’s been two years since the mid-engine, eighth-generation Corvette screamed into existence, but right now, Chevrolet has rolled out its Z06 variant, loaded with the highest-horsepower normally aspirated engine every installed in any production automobile, anywhere, anytime.
Mounted behind the occupants is the hottest small-block Chevrolet V-8 in the engine’s history, which dates to its debut in late 1954. Displacing 5.5 liters and dubbed the LT6, it’s a hand-assembled knockoff of the racing Corvette engine, sharing its 4.4-inch bore spacings. With double overhead camshafts, a lightweight flat-plane crankshaft, honest dry-sump lubrication and an equally realistic 8,600 RPM redline, the LT6 has been factory tested to a stunning 670 horsepower, with 460-lbs.ft. of torque, linked to an eight-speed, dual-clutch transaxle with launch control and a 5.56:1 final-drive ratio. The numbers add up to some extreme performance capabilities, augmented by massive 345-series tires that widen the Z06’s stance by more than 3.5 inches over a standard C8 Corvette’s. An available Z07 performance group combining Brembo carbon brakes with Michelin Sport Cup tires boosts skidpad performance to a gum-on-the-sidewalk 1.22 g.