Code Breaker

The new-for-2011 Z07 option package makes the Z06 handle and brake like a ZR1.

September 14, 2010

Also from Issue 61

  • The 1964 coupe
  • Best Corvette Buys for $8K
  • GM’s Performance Build Center
  • 1968 Big-block Coupe
  • 1966 Coupe
  • American Le Mans Series Report
  • How-To: Tie-rod Ends
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I landed in MKE where a 2011 Z06 was waiting for me. Equipped with the Z07 and CFZ packages, as well as the full 3ZL treatment and nav, this Inferno Orange C6 was ready to roll. So I got on the I-43 and headed north.

Average, reasonably well-adjusted consumers don’t know the alphanumeric codes for the options in their vehicles. Sure, they know that they’ve got the entertainment package, leather seats and V8 engine, but they don’t know the carmaker’s internal designations for these things. And they really don’t care. Not so with hardcore Corvette lovers, for whom breaking the codes is practically a rite of passage. Well, Chevrolet has two new ones for you to memorize: Z07 and CFZ, which we’ll get to in a minute. As for MKE, it stands for Milwaukee Mitchell Airport, don’t cha know?

Since the early 1960s, many of the option codes, particularly those designating high-performance hardware, have taken on a life all their own. A precious few have gone far beyond that, achieving a mystical status normally reserved for religious icons like the Holy Grail or that old Playboy magazine you dug out of your neighbor’s garbage when you were 10 years old.

The mere mention of certain codes to the cognoscenti can profoundly affect their physiological functions. Many moons ago, I told a devoted Corvette collector that I had just added an L88 to my stable—and for the first and only time, I saw his greasy old toupee spontaneously rise several inches off his gleaming, bald dome and hang in mid-air for a few seconds before unceremoniously plopping back down.

The impact of now-legendary alphanumeric codes has not been lost on our friends at Chevrolet. As you’ve likely noticed, they have revived some of the more memorable ones in recent years, including of course Z06—though in this case it refers to the model, as opposed to the option group. While the Z06 designation may not have enough force to levitate a man’s toupee, it definitely will cause the hair on his neck to stand at attention. Introduced late in 1962 for the ’63 model year, Z06 denoted the Special Performance Equipment option package, which was designed to turn an otherwise ordinary Corvette into a competitive road racer. It included stiffer springs front and rear, a larger diameter front anti-roll bar and a unique, power-assisted heavy-duty drum-brake setup. All 199 1963 Z06s built came with a high-compression, solid-lifter, Rochester fuel-injected V8, and about five dozen were fitted with a 36-gallon fiberglass fuel tank.

Thankfully, the fiberglass fuel tank, drum brakes, mechanical fuel injection and just about every other component utilized in 1963 are distant memories at this point, but the spirit of the original Z06 permeates every inch of today’s Corvette bearing that magical name. Like its forbear, it is a true dual-purpose car, one equally at home on the street or on a racetrack. Some customers, however, want a Corvette that is even better on the street and even faster on the track.

Up until now, the only way they could satisfy this urge without turning to the aftermarket was to pony up six large and buy the supercharged ZR1. Today they have another option—option-code Z07 to be exact, the Ultimate Performance package. When GM offered to let me drive a fresh-off-the-assembly-line Z06 fitted with it, I was on it like a tramp on a kipper.

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