A Brief History Of The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (And Why It Matters)S

Pictures of the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 first leaked yesterday, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. People loved the aggressive intakes, the menacing spoilers, and the "I'm gonna get ya" face. Readers were also surprised that the Z06 was such a drastic step from the base Corvette. But if you know history, you shouldn't be.

Here's what we think we know about the new Corvette Z06 already: it's going to have at least 600 horsepower, it's going to have at least 600 pound-feet of torque, it's going to look crazy, and it's going to go like stink. Other theories abound, too, such as the notion that it may have the first-ever dual-clutch transmission on a Corvette.

A Brief History Of The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (And Why It Matters)S

Like many theories, the Corvette-DCT-theory focuses on one single picture. Specifically, it's the shot of the interior above. Though it may seem a bit like it's a second-gunman-grassy-knoll theory, it focuses on two seemingly minor details. The first is that there seems to be a big "P" sitting at the bottom of the tach, indicating the car's transmission is in Park. Traditional manual transmissions don't have a "Park." Plus, there are the paddles behind the steering wheel with plus and minus symbols on them, instead of the "REV MATCH" now found on the Corvette Stingray.

And then there's the shifter itself, which appears to have a traditional manual tree-pattern on the knob. Or it could just be a traditional manual, with an electronic parking brake on and that's all. Like I said, it's all very appealing to conspiracy theorists.

I'm not going to get into it much more than that, mostly because we'll find out for sure tomorrow when it officially debuts (or before, if even more information leaks out). But a DCT on the Z06 absolutely makes sense, if you look at where it's coming from.

The C2

A Brief History Of The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (And Why It Matters)S

The original Z06 was offered by Corvette maestro Zora Arkus-Duntov as a competition package on the second-generation Corvette. It came with stiffer suspension, beefier brakes, and a big gas tank so that the car could go further in between pit stops. With a price tag of almost $2000 in 1963, or more than $13,000 in today's money, it was an understandably rare option. Estimates vary, but most agree that from 1963-1965 only around 200 Corvette Z06s came off the line.

As expected, it was a big contender against the Shelby Cobra in SCCA racing at the time.

After the brief fleeting glimpse that was the Z06 moniker, the trim level disappeared for more than 30 years. There would be other high-output models like the fourth-generation ZR-1, but none that matched the Z06 either in name or intent.

The C5

A Brief History Of The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (And Why It Matters)S

The Z06 name finally returned in 2001, for the fifth generation Corvette. Instead of the base model's 350 horse LS1 engine, it came with a 385 horsepower LS6 motor. Instead of having a removable targa roof, it's ceiling was fixed in place for extra rigidity and handling performance. Bigger brakes were fitted, too, along with a titanium exhaust system. In 2004, a carbon fiber hood was bolted on for added lightness. While it wasn't a Corvette meant for the track like the original Z06 was, it was certainly track-able.

The C6

A Brief History Of The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (And Why It Matters)S

The sixth-generation Corvette Z06 was a further evolution of the C5, and as such was even more track-oriented. It got a big 7.0-liter V8 upfront, good 505 horsepower. Among the race-purpose goodies offered there was a dry-sump oil system, meant for high loads under cornering, even stiffer suspension, and extra transmission cooling. In later model years, extra carbon-based options became available, like carbon brakes that are intended to be completely fade-free. They were expensive options that really only made sense if you were going to hurl some serious abuse at your Corvette, like the original Z06. A mid-life crisis car, the C6 Z06 was not.

The C7

A Brief History Of The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (And Why It Matters)S

From the looks of it, the seventh-generation Z06 is no longer part of a slow drift towards the purpose of the original. It's a sharp turn that throws you violently into your seat. Those scoops, vents, wings, and spoilers don't look like they're just for show. They look like they for nothing but serious track work. They look like they're for Corvette owners that mean business.

With the the new Corvette Z06, it doesn't look like the 'Vette is "America's Sports Car" anymore, whatever that means. It looks like it's America's track car.

And if every other country is going to get one, then why not us?

Photo credits: Schenn Photography, Grant.C, Jean-Pierre