Tech Tips: Chevrolet C5 Corvette Z06

By Ed Higginbotham
Oct 25, 2019 | Chevrolet, Corvette | Posted in Buyer's Guides | From the April 2016 issue | Never miss an article

[Editor's Note: These Tech Tips first appeared in our April 2016 issue. Some information may be different. And for more C5 Z06 information, check out our project car.]

Danny Popp
Corvette tech at McCluskey Chevrolet, 4-time SCCA Solo national champion, 3-time SCCA Pro Solo champion, and 5-time NASA Nationals champion
 (513) 761-1111

Which Car Should I Get?

The Z06 is the thoroughbred of the whole platform. It also comes with the most power. The LS6 is a very durable track engine. The only slight negative to the C5 Z06 is that the M12 transmission is a better autocross transmission than a track transmission due to the gearing. Rev limiter in second gear is 70 mph, which is perfect for autocross. It’s a very slight negative.

A Z06 is a Z06. Ideally you’d have a 2002-’04 due to the horsepower advantage.

What Should I Do Before Going on Track?

The cars are pretty durable as they are, and what to do really depends on driver ability. If you’re a novice driver, the only thing to do is make sure it has good brake fluid and synthetics throughout. The engine and differential came with synthetics, but the transmission did not. The brake fluid would have been fine when the car was brand new, but now that the cars are a little older, it should be changed as a maintenance item.

If you’re a more seasoned driver, install some more aggressive brake pads. These cars brake well, but they put a lot of heat into the brakes. Putting good brake pads on these cars is paramount.

Putting a big-brake setup on the car is actually a good idea. It’s not that the car won’t stop well from the factory, but after installing a big-brake kit, the cost of the consumables actually goes down. After my teammate bought a set of StopTechs, he ran three years on the same rotors.

For wheels, we run the rear C5 Z06 wheels all the way around the car. That way, you can rotate tires. You can run a 295-315mm tire on that. I’m one of those people who never limits front grip; you just make the ass end follow. Additionally, those wheels are cheap, light, and will clear most bigbrake setups.

What Is Likely to Break?

Actually, these cars are very durable. You definitely want an engine oil cooler, and a transmission and differential cooler wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

This just helps the car run continuous laps without getting hot. Also, get some brake ducts on the front.

What’s the Life Span of Consumables?

Brakes and tires will be the big consumables. It’s definitely not a Miata. However, your lap times will be 10 to 15 seconds faster. There are so many variables with regard to how long the tires last. If you’re running a hard compound tire on asphalt, they’ll last a long time.

Is There Anything Else I Need to Know?

The C5 Z06 will be a killer car no matter what happens. The early C6 Z06 makes a lot of horsepower, but it’s not as reliable as a C5 Z06. I don’t think we’ll go to the track in the next decade and realize that there are no C5 Z06s there.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Txsilverbalt New Reader
8/4/17 3:23 p.m.

hearing how reliable these cars are makes this high mile zo6 all the more tempting...

dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/4/17 4:21 p.m.

In my opinion the C5 z06 is the best looking corvette to date. I like it way better then the C6's. The C7 is growing on my but there is something about pop up headlights and the proportions of the C5 Z06 that are just right to me.

Wheelie New Reader
8/6/17 2:41 p.m.

Just throwing out my corvette reliability for anyone thinking about a c5, my 99 (not a z) has 120k+ miles and is my daily driver/occasional track you, has required no major maintenance in the last 1.5 years I've owned/dailied it. Great cars

HapDL New Reader
8/6/17 5:30 p.m.

I dunno man, for an inexperienced driver all that focus on front end grip could get real expensive when they're trying to find out how to make the ass end follow. Understeer is a lot safer for new guys who likely aren't going to be great at catching a car that's loose from too much front grip. If it's in a parking lot then whatever, but a track could be a spot were very hard expensive lessons are learned with a loose car.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ HalfDork
8/7/17 8:33 p.m.

Yeah but the interiors are cheap

yupididit GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
11/25/17 7:10 p.m.
dean1484 said:

In my opinion the C5 z06 is the best looking corvette to date. I like it way better then the C6's. The C7 is growing on my but there is something about pop up headlights and the proportions of the C5 Z06 that are just right to me.

 It's like the fd rx7 twin brother from America

jfryjfry HalfDork
11/26/17 12:47 a.m.

Which tranny and diff fluid/oil would be rexommend?  Is it the same for the c6z06?

greendot New Reader
12/1/17 3:47 p.m.

I have an '02 Z with 253k on it (original engine, never been apart). DD and autocrossed from new. The weak link in these is the valve springs. Do periodic changes and you'll be fine. 

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