If Chevrolet Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter didn’t already prove he deserved our 2014 Man of the Year award for his work on the new Stingray, he’s now completely outdone himself. Following the introduction of the stunning 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at the Detroit auto show in January, we will now be treated to a Z06 convertible at the 2014 New York auto show.
Chevrolet says that this is the first factory-built Corvette Z06 convertible built since 1963, when just one of 199 Z06-equipped Corvettes rolled off the line as a drop-top. Although the 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible had a 505-hp, 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 engine from that year’s Z06, the 427 did not share the Z06’s aluminum frame. Because of rigidity issues, the 427 came instead with a steel frame and thus didn’t share the Z06 name.
“Until recently it was not possible to create a lightweight, open-roof structure strong enough to cope with the braking, cornering, and acceleration of Corvette’s top performance models,” Juechter said in a statement. “The frame for the Z06 convertible leverages advancements in computer-aided engineering, metallurgy, and manufacturing techniques – many of which were not available just five years ago.”
Over 186,000 hours of computer modeling computation went into engineering the new chassis, which boasts five custom aluminum segments. The demands for the chassis are enormous, seeing as it needs to support the power of the Z06’s 625-hp supercharged V-8, as well as higher cornering forces.
“That would not have been possible without improvements in computer-aided engineering software,” explained Corvette engineering group manager Ed Moss in a statement, “which allowed us to model more than 17,000 frame iterations, with each iteration improving strength and stiffness, while reducing mass.”
The final structure is even 20 percent stiffer than the old hardtop Z06. The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible requires no additional structural bracing, and thus adds almost no weight compared the standard 2015 Z06. It also offers the same powertrain, carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires as the hardtop. All three trim levels of the Z06—including the base, the carbon-fiber aero package, and Z07 package—are also offered with the Z06 convertible. As on the hardtop, buyers pick between a seven-speed manual transmission and an eight-speed automatic.
Z06 convertible buyers will enjoy the new model’s thick fabric top which can be lowered remotely using the car’s key fob. The top will change position at speeds up to 30 mph, and features sound-deadening panels and a solid glass rear window.
Last year Juechter told us just how hard it was to get the 2014 Chevrolet Stingray just right, in part because of the culture at GM. “The corporation is structured around mainstream vehicles, and the Corvette is idiosyncratic, which makes some people uncomfortable,” he told us. Judging by what we’ve seen so far, anyone who drives the new 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible with the top down on a sunny track day will likely change their tune.