Over the years, Arthur Nastre has owned 11 Corvettes—every generation, save for the first. “I’ve lived and breathed Corvettes since I was a kid,” says the 63-year-old Long Islander, who remembers seeing a brand-new ’53 at a Chevrolet dealer when his father was getting his Bel Air serviced. “I fell in love with it. From that day on, I had the fever,” he says. Usually, he only keeps his Corvettes three or four years before buying a different one, but he’s owned his 2002 Z06 since new. “It’s the longest I’ve ever owned a Corvette,” he adds, “and I have no plans to sell it.”
Interestingly, he never even intended to buy a C5 Z06. Nastre had actually ordered a red ’03 coupe, but then his wife pointed out that there are way too many red Corvettes on the road. She suggested he buy the yellow coupe they had seen at another dealership. Nastre hadn’t considered the car because it was a Z06, and he knew it cost much more than a standard C6. What he didn’t know until he returned to give the Z06 a second look was that the car was the last ’02 Corvette on the lot and the dealer was willing to offer a discount. The dealer took $4,000 off the sticker price, which made it just a few grand more than the ’03 coupe he had ordered. The option of 0-percent financing sealed the deal; Nastre cancelled his original order and bought the Z06. “I was in the right place at the right time,” he says of the purchase.
His relationship with the car got off to a little bit of a rocky start, however. When attempting to drive away from the dealership, Nastre kept stalling the engine. He couldn’t figure out what the problem was until a service technician came over and offered some guidance: Perhaps he should take the gearbox out of third and put it in first when starting from a standstill. That did the trick, and Nastre was soon on his way. “All the way home,” he says, “I had a smile on my face.”
He had a lot to smile about. First, the car is wicked fast. Compared to his previous Corvette, a ’98 coupe, it has an extra 60 horses under the hood. Using time-honored hot-rodding tricks—high-flow cylinder heads, a high-performance camshaft and a lightweight valvetrain—Chevrolet made this 5.7-liter small-block V8 rev higher and breathe deeper than the standard LS1. Initially, the LS6’s output was 385 horsepower, but for 2002 it was raised to a lofty 405.
In addition, the Z06’s engine has fewer pounds to propel than the one in Nastre’s ’98. A trick titanium exhaust system alone cut 19 pounds, while a fixed roof, thinner glass and lightweight wheels shed more. All told, the Z06 weighs roughly 100 pounds less than a comparable C5 coupe. This, combined with some wide 295/45ZR18 rear rubber and all that power make for a drag-strip machine.
The automotive Web site Edmunds.com recently tested a 2002 Z06. Wanting to show its readers what a great bargain the model is, the site bought an example with 40,000 miles for $20,000 and added the Corvette to its long-term test fleet. Despite a cooked set of Goodyears, the car blasted from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and ran the quarter mile in just 12.5 seconds at 116 mph. These are quick times, essentially identical to those posted by a 2010 Grand Sport coupe Edmunds had on hand for the test. No wonder Nastre was so blown away by the acceleration of his Z06.
But Nastre also finds the car surprisingly refined. For example, it is much easier to get into and out of than a C4, which has ultra-wide door sills. Though he mostly drives the Z06 on the weekends and on road trips—it currently has just 10,500 miles on the odometer—it’s not because the car is not comfortable enough for his daily commute. His says the ride quality is fine, especially given its track-tuned suspension. Compared to his ’98, the Z06 has stiffer springs, thicker anti-roll bars and more aggressively valved shock absorbers.