Cooling our Corvette’s interior with DEI’s custom thermal barrier insulation kit | Project C5 Corvette Z06

Update by J.G. Pasterjak to the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 project car
May 27, 2021

While we were swapping an LS3 into our C5 Corvette Z06, we took the opportunity to make a few other changes, including removing the carpeting from the interior.

SCCA Classic American Muscle autocross rules don’t require floor and console carpeting, while having one less flammable thing inside the car when on track is probably a good thing.

But that carpet also serves as a thermal barrier between the notoriously hot center console of the C5 and C6 Corvette and your leg. The exhaust runs through a tunnel in the floor of the car, right down the center, just inches from the driver’s right leg.

And with our 3-inch exhaust pipes, the air gap between the side of the tunnel and the hot pipe was reduced further, leaving us wondering, “Why does our Corvette smell like cheap steak now?” during out first track session. Well, it turns out that was actually thigh meat–our thigh.

After removing the carpet, we saw surface temperatures topping 200 degrees Fahrenheit–and that was after a cool-down lap as we didn’t feel it was prudent to use our infra-red thermometer on track. That’s hot, and it’s not even summer yet. Things will only get more uncomfortable in there.

[See how we used Swain Tech coatings to cool our exhaust headers.]

Luckily Design Engineering, Inc. offers an easy-to-use solution in the form of heat shield kits for the C5 and C6 Corvettes. Full and partial kits are offered, with the full package retailing for about $200.

The full package includes five pre-cut, adhesive-backed pieces of thermal barrier that completely cover the tunnel.

To install the insulation kit, you’ll need to unbolt the center section of your exhaust. Then remove the approximately 28,000 6mm bolts holding the tunnel cover plate into the car.

DEI says that the material can be installed without removing the tunnel plate, and they’re not wrong, but doing so could make the next removal of the tunnel plate a bit more complex as some of the captive washers may be covered. Just suck it up and pull the plate so you can at least clean it properly.

You’ll want a clean and grease-free surface for mounting the shields. We used CRC Brakleen, naturally.

Finally, peel the backing off the adhesive material and apply it to the surface, making a final pass with the included roller. The adhesive is EXTREMELY aggressive–you’re only going to get one shot at it, as when it hits a surface it sticks–so work slowly and remove the backing as you work the piece into place.

Stock cars will have the easiest time with installation–we found it a bit awkward to work around our long-tube headers–but we managed to cleanly get all of the material into place despite the snug fit.

Most impressive is the effectiveness as we knocked down those tunnel temps by as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Dang.

Obviously, this is a great mod for a gutted track car, but we see it helping a street Corvette as well. Even with carpet in place, that center tunnel gets hot.

Install took us about two hours, much of which was spent cleaning the residue of a too-full oil sump to ensure clean install surfaces.

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