The First-Ever High-Performance Chevrolet Corvette

With the new Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06’s imminent arrival, we can’t help but feel nostalgic. This being the latest high-performance Corvette variant, we wonder how far it has come in its everlasting stint in the automotive world. Were the high-performance Corvettes always as revolutionary as they are now? While the new Z06 boasts a flat-plane crankshaft V8, what did the first high-performance Corvette bring to the table? The name may sound familiar, especially with recent news.

The first-ever high-performance Chevrolet Corvette variant was the Z06

1963 Chevroelt Corvette on the highway in Washington, D.C.
1963 Chevroelt Corvette on the highway in Washington, D.C. | Matt McClain/ The Washington Post

In 1963 Chevrolet released the first-ever Corvette Z06. While at the time, all Corvettes had 327 V8s, horsepower figures ranged from 250 in the base model all the way up to 360, which carried over from the 1962 model year. This output was the most powerful, achieved by using fuel injection. The car could hit 60 mph in a staggering 6 seconds, thanks in part to its lighter chassis and fiberglass body. At 3,362 pounds, the 360-hp 1963 Chevrolet Corvette could outrun a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso by about 2 seconds. 

Chevrolet bored the 327 from the cast-iron 283 V8 block. It used a solid-lifter camshaft and had a high 11.25:1 compression ratio, which it got from domed forged aluminum pistons. The 327 mated to a four-speed manual and sent the power to a positraction rear differential.

What else did the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 have to offer?

1963 Chevrolet Corvette at Goodwood
1963 Chevrolet Corvette at Goodwood | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

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The Z06 from 1963 got several features, including a vacuum brake booster, a second brake master cylinder, power drum brakes, bigger suspension, and a bigger front sway bar. The brakes were enlarged and fitted with internal fans and cooling ducts. 

A rare “Big-Tank” option was also available, which increased the fuel cell capacity to 36.5 gallons for endurance racing. The Big-Tank and Z06 options added up to about half of the Corvette’s base price of 4,000, according to MotorTrend

Chevrolet gave the Z06 the ability to tackle every corner by installing independent rear suspension. It also got pop-up headlights and was the first fully-enclosed Corvette coupe. Car and Driver described driving the 1963 Z06 as an improvement over previous Corvettes in just about every aspect. Chevrolet only made 199 examples of the 1963 Corvette Z06.

What does the C8 Z06 have to offer?

1963 Chevrolet Corvette in La Niguel, California
1963 Chevrolet Corvette in La Niguel, California | Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Besides its mid-mounted flat-plane crankshaft V8, the C8 Corvette Z06 has larger intakes, wide-body panels, and a Z07 performance package, including new aero pieces and carbon fiber wheels. The C8 Z06’s LT6 uses dual overhead camshafts and revs to 8,600 RPM, delivering 625 horsepower to the rear wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. No manual transmission is expected.

All in all, the new C8 Z06 continues the Corvette’s tradition of upping the ante and impressing its fan base. Its mid-engine placement and dual overhead camshafts are undoubtedly the best direction to go in terms of performance but may face backlash from die-hard fans. The new Z06 should perform better than any Corvette ever has, and purists will have to settle for a higher standard.

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