In 1953 legionary engineer Zora Duntov joins GM, and goes to work on pushing for greater power for the Corvette. At the same time Duntov was always working GM to continue development of parts for Corvettes that would benefit the racing community of Corvette owners. This later launched the name “Z06″ which stood for higher performance equipment package.
In 1963 the first Z06 Corvette package offered 36.5 gallon gas tanks, vacuum brake booster, dual master cylinder, a 20 percent larger diameter front sway bar, sintered metallic brake linings within power assisted Al-Fin drums that were cooled by front air scoops along with vented backing plates to help keep the brakes operating cooler. The Z06 package also included shocks and springs that were just about twice as stiff as the standard Corvette had.
The nick name these Z06 Corvettes were give was “Big Tanks” because as previously mentioned these had a 36.5 gallon gas tanks, compared to the standard tanks that were only 20 gallon. In the beginning this package was only available to the coupes because the large gas tank wouldn’t fit in the convertibles.
At the time the only Z06 Corvette engine option was a L84 360 horsepower 327 cubic inch displacement engine that had a Rochester fuel injection system on it. Seeing that the Sports Car Club of America production classes required factory exhaust manifolds, the engine was rated at 360 horse power from GM.
During this time, a standard base Corvette coupe would run you around $4,252, if you wanted the Z06 package you would pay and additional $1,818.45. Some time later GM removed the larger 36.5 gallon tank from the Z06 package and lowered the package price. Although the larger 36.5 gallon tank would still be available as a stand alone upgrade if you wanted it. The use of this tank was mainly for longer races. Leaving the general racer and public happy with the standard fuel tank. At this time also because the standard Z06 performance package now didn’t have the larger gas tank, GM started producing Z06 as a convertible option also. There were 199 of these Z06s that were made of which only 63 had the 36.5 gallon gas tank and 124 of those weren’t ordered with a radio. Showing that many of these Z06′s were used as recreational sports cars.
In October of 1962 during the LA Times Three Hour Invitational the Z06 Corvette performed incredibly. At the end the winner of the race was won by Mickey Thompson’s Corvette that had been driven by Doug Hooper. Not to long after this after Ford broke the ban that had been on racing, GM launched a 427 cubic inch displacement engine that had the nick name “mystery motor”. This big block V8 was revealed at the January 1963 Daytona 500 stock car race. Behind the scene Duntov had been working on the new Stingray prototype that would be called by the racing community “Grand Sport”. The whole idea behind the Grand Sport was that these cars would be the Corvette that would be seen racing against the worlds top prototypes, while the Z06 would stick around and race against other production cars. Then after the Z06, the Corvette picked up the racing designation “ZR-1″ which stood for “Zora’s Racers”.
It wasn’t till the year 2000 that GM brought back the Z06 name into one of three packages offered for the Corvette. These models were released as 2001′s with a LS6 motor pushing out 385 horsepower, this was a increase of 35 horsepower from what the base Corvettes came with their 350 horsepower LS1 engine. Then in 2002 the Z06 was motor was modified by removing two of the precatalytic converters in the exhaust system, hi-lift camshafts had been installed, lighter valve gear, and improved induction system. After all of this in 2006 GM releases an even more power Z06 which had a 7.0liter 427 cubic inch displacement engine putting out 505 horsepower.