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In 2010, I purchased a Lotus Elise S2 in mint condition to replace my aging 1998 WRX. It had magical handling, feel, grip and looks. Unfortunately, the Rover K-series engine ruined the experience. So I decided to go big - 5.7L V8, 2003 Corvette C5 Z06.

I'm mainly using the C5Z on track days, so I can enjoy it in a safe environment. Driving this car on public roads is tiresome and boring, except on winding country side roads with a heavy right foot.

The C5Z performed well on track days as it came from the factory, but as my confidence increased some limitations became apparent. This blog covers the evolving list of modifications I found necessary to use the C5Z as a dedicated track day car. I hope you have some use of it.

Some C5 Z06 information from the marketing guys

"With a maximum top speed of 177 mph (285 km/h), a curb weight of 3117 lbs (1414 kgs), the Corvette C5 Z06 has a naturally-aspirated V 8 cylinder engine, Petrol motor, with the engine code LS6. This engine produces a maximum power of 411 PS (405 bhp - 302 kW) at 6000 rpm and a maximum torque of 542.0 Nm (399 lb.ft) at 6000 rpm. The power is transmitted to the road by the rear wheel drive (RWD) with a 6 speed Manual gearbox. About chassis details responsible for road holding, handling behaviour and ride comfort, the Corvette C5 has Transverse leaf spring. Double wishbones. Anti-roll bar. front suspension and Transverse leaf spring. Double wishbones. Anti-roll bar. rear suspension. For stopping power, the Corvette C5 Z06 braking system includes Vented Discs at the front and Vented Discs at the rear."

Hydro formed frame rails

Trick suspension setups and big horsepower numbers are meaningless if they don’t have a rock-solid foundation to connect to. GM spent considerable effort in making the fifth-gen Corvette as rigid as possible, and it shows. Grip was high right out of the gate, with basic coupes pulling over .90 g on the skidpad despite being equipped with thoroughly awful run-flat tires.

Utilizing a special process called hydroforming, two 13-foot-long steel tubes were filled with water pressurized to 7000 psi and bent to shape without requiring any heat. The structure proved to be four times stiffer than the C4’s, eliminating much of the shakes, rattles, and chassis flex that plagued that car. Now if only those stock seats held you in just a little bit tighter.


Beginning in 1997, the C5 Corvette’s 6-speed manual and automatic gearboxes were attached to the rear differential at the back of the car. Unlike traditional rear wheel- drive cars that have the driveshaft behind the engine and transmission, the C5’s is located between the engine and transmission. The main benefit of this configuration is so that engineers could design a near-perfect 51/49-weight distribution into the new car. 

Head-up display

"After driving around the past week in a vehicle equipped with a head-up display, I’m now convinced that any time engineers have the chance to incorporate fighter-jet technology into an automobile, they should go for it. First offered as an option in 1998, the C5’s HUD projects speed, RPM, oil pressure, and a number of other vitals up onto the windscreen right in front of the driver. Controls for information, brightness, and height adjustment are located on the dash, allowing for easy on-the-fly adjustment.

What could have been an opportunity for GM to market a cheap, gimmicky device, actually turned out to be a very useful piece of tech, one that’s quickly becoming a favorite feature of mine. It must be loved among other owners, too, as the HUD has found its way into the subsequent C6 and C7 generation cars"

Sandwich floor

The floors of C5 (1997-2004) and C6 (2005-2013) Corvettes feature a sandwich of materials, including lightweight, renewable balsa wood

Above information courtesy of Hagerty Media and GM