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Chevrolet Corvette (2003)

Chevrolet Corvette

A major change from its predecessor the C4, the C5 featured a hydroformed box frame, a design that offered an improved structural platform, especially for a convertible body style. The transmission was relocated to the rear of the car to form an integrated, rear-mounted transaxle assembly, connected to the all-new LS1 engine via a torque tube - an engine/transmission arrangement enabling a 50-50 (percentage, front-rear) weight distribution for improved handling. The LS1 engine initially produced 345 hp (257 kW), subsequently increased in 2001 to 350 hp (261 kW). The 4L60-E automatic transmission carried over from previous models, but the manual was replaced by a Borg-Warner T-56 6-speed capable of a 175 mph (282 km/h) top speed. Relative to the C4, the new platform and structural design substantially reduced squeaks and rattles.

In the inaugural model year (1997), only the fastback coupé was offered, with the convertible - the first to offer a trunk since 1962 - following in 1998. 1998 also saw the C5 convertible pacing the Indianapolis 500, and a replica pace car edition was sold and the 1998 Corvette was named "Motor Trend Car of The Year"; C5 Corvettes subsequently paced the 2002 and 2004 Indianapolis 500 races, but no replica pace car versions were offered during those model years. In 1999, a third body style, the hardtop (also referred to as the "fixed-roof coupé" or "FRC"), was added to the lineup. This body style, as its name suggests, featured a fixed top (no removable targa top panel as with the fastback coupé) with a roofline shape and trunk space similar to that of the convertible. as well as a distinct notchback-style rear window.

Chevrolet Corvette (2003)

2003 Chevrolet Corvette

Aside from cosmetic differences (new wheel styles, paint colors, pace car/commemorative editions in 1998, 2003, and 2004, etc.), horsepower boosts, and new offerings for optional equipment, there were few fundamental changes from one model year to the next within the production run of the C5. One of the more popular "high-tech" options introduced to the Corvette line was a head-up display or HUD, while another innovation was the Active Handling System (first available as an option in 1998, then standard on all models in 2001). The C5 was also the first Corvette to incorporate a drive-by-wire throttle; and variable-effort steering, whereby the assist level of the power steering is varied according to vehicle speed (more at lower speeds, less at higher speeds). Also notable, though rarely discussed, the C5 generation was the first model to adopt the parallel or 'tandem' windshield wiper configuration, abandoning the opposed configuration that was used on every previous Corvette model since the first in 1953.

In contrast to the reputation of high-performance vehicles for poor fuel economy, the C5 achieves comparatively high EPA ratings of 18/25 mpg (city/highway) with the automatic transmission and 19/28 with the manual transmission, allowing it to avoid the "gas guzzler" tax that is levied against most other vehicles in the Corvette's class. A number of factors are responsible for this: the relatively light weight of the C5 (a curb weight under 3,300 lb (1,500 kg); Chevrolet went so far as to omit the spare tire as a weight-saving measure, relying upon run-flat tires instead); the C5's low drag coefficient; and the vehicle's tendency to upshift into the higher gears as soon as possible. The manual transmission's Computer-Aided Gear Shifting results in an obligatory shift from 1st gear directly into 4th gear under certain driving conditions; the system can be deactivated through the use of an aftermarket device.

Suspension choices for the base model C5 were limited to the standard suspension (RPO FE1), with options for either the autocross-inspired FE3 Sport Suspension (included with the Z51 Performance & Handling Package and standard on the 1999-2000 FRC); or the F45 Selective Ride Control Suspension, which permitted "on-the-fly" driver selection of different ride characteristics (sport or touring). Late in the production run (starting with the 2003 model year), the F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension replaced the F45 as the third suspension choice. The racing-inspired FE4 suspension used for the Z06 is stiffer again than any offered on the base model C5, and is unique to that model with no optional suspensions offered. The C5's suspension consisted of independent unequal-length double wishbones with transverse fiberglass mono-leaf springs and optional magnetorheological dampers.

The C5 is capable of matching or besting the 0-60 mph acceleration times of some of the world's premier sports cars, including the Aston Martin DB7 Vantage, and the Ferrari 355. A composite of published performance numbers for the base-model coupé and convertible gives a 0-60 mph time of around 4.5 seconds, and a standing quarter-mile time of around 13.3 seconds at 108 mph (both times for a vehicle equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission).

While the C5 may have been initially criticized for using inexpensive materials and older technology (e.g., composites in body panels and floor boards; an OHV engine; and leaf springs), ostensibly as cost-cutting measures, these components are actually very strong for their relatively light weight (low mass), or have proven reliability. The C5's modular body panels make excellent use of a lightweight composite material known in the automotive industry as SMC or sheet molded composite, a type of fiberglass that is blended and bonded with plastics. SMC provides better protection against direct blows because it is very stiff and will not dent. The floor boards on the C5 are a composite sandwich of SMC with balsa wood in the middle. Balsa wood was chosen for its extreme stiffness, light weight and excellent sound deadening qualities. The all aluminum LS1 overhead valve engine is much lighter than its cast iron predecessor, the LT1 and provides for a much lower hoodline when compared to an overhead cam design of relative displacement. The composite leaf springs are much lighter and sit much lower than typical coil springs and help provide the C5 with its excellent ride characteristics and distinctive ride height.


A successor to the ZR-1 made its debut in 2001 as the Z06, giving a nod to the high-performance Z06 version of the C2 Corvette of the 1960s. Instead of a heavy, double-overhead cam engine like in the ZR-1, the Z06 used a high-output, tuned version of the standard LS1 Corvette engine (designated LS6), which initially produced 385 hp (287 kW). Although its total horsepower output was less than that of the last ZR-1, the Z06 was much lighter, and could out-perform the ZR-1 in every category except top speed. It also cost substantially less money than the ZR-1. The Z06 curb weight totaled 3,118lbs.

Chevrolet engineered several modifications for the Z06 to best use the increased power. Starting with the most structurally rigid body style, the hardtop or FRC, new components included: uprated FE4 suspension, larger wheels and tires, revised gearing ratios, and functional brake cooling ducts. The Z06 is 38 pounds lighter than a standard C5 hardtop thanks to weight-saving measures such as a titanium exhaust, thinner glass, lighter wheel, non-EMT tires, reduced sound proofing, fixed rear radio aerial, and a lighter battery. Starting with the 2002 model year, the LS6 engine output was increased to 405 hp (302 kW) due to a larger CFM air intake, stiffer valve springs, lighter sodium filled valves and more aggressive camshaft lift and timing.

The 2004 Z16 Commemorative Edition was equipped with a carbon fiber hood, saving an additional 10 pounds of weight. Other unique characteristics of the Z16 (Commemorative Edition Z06) are the polished aluminum wheels, special paint color and striping, and commemorative-edition badging and wheel center caps. The Z16 also received shock damping tuning for improved handling. The Z16 option accounted for the majority of Z06 Corvettes in 2004, totaling 2025 units, with 325 units shipped overseas.

Factory stock performance figures for the 405 hp (302 kW) version of the Z06 include an acceleration time from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and 12.4 seconds in the quarter mile.

Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica

In 1998, the newly introduced convertible version of the C5 was chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500 race, and a Pace Car Replica (RPO Z4Z) was offered to the public. Aside from lacking the equipment necessary for actual pace car duties (light bar, special racing harnesses, etc.), there was little difference between the Pace Car Replica C5 and the vehicle that actually saw duty during the race. The Pace Car Replica package consisted of a special paint color ("Radar Blue"), unique interior colors (black and yellow), painted yellow wheels, and special pace car decals. The Pace Car Replica package also included other optional equipment: the newly introduced Active Handling System (RPO JL4); an electronically tuned AM/FM radio with CD player and a Bose speaker system; an electronic dual-zone heating & air conditioning system; and leather adjustable sport bucket seats. While regarded by many as the most garish Corvette appearance package offered to date, the 1998 Pace Car Replicas nevertheless enjoy a strong and loyal following of owners and collectors.

50th Anniversary Edition

A 50th Anniversary Edition (RPO Z25) was offered during the 2003 model year to commemorate a half-century of Corvette production. Available in convertible and coupe models (but not with the Z06), the 50th Anniversary Edition came with a special shade of red paint ("Anniversary Red Metallic") and shale two-tone leather interior; Anniversary Edition convertibles were adorned with a shale-colored soft top as well. A new option for Corvette in 2003, the F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension was standard on the 1SC-equipped Anniversary Edition vehicles. Special ("Warm Nickel Metallic") painted aluminum wheels, embroidered upholstery trim, and badges completed the Anniversary Edition package. Also included were all of the convenience options offered on the upscale Corvette models.

A slightly modified 50th Anniversary Edition Corvette was chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500 race in May 2002; then the production vehicle became a centerpiece of the subsequent 50th Anniversary Celebration, sponsored by Chevrolet. Festivities included gatherings in Nashville, Bowling Green, and St. Louis. Thousands of Corvettes and their owners arrived from all over the country to participate in the events marking the vehicle's 50th year of production.

Chevrolet Corvette Moray concept (2003)

It is a version of Corvette coupe designed by Giorgetto and Fabrizio Giugiaro of Italdesign, commemorating 50 years of the Chevrolet Corvette. It included 6.0 litre V8 engine, door window half dome, gull wing door hinged to the rear pillar.

The vehicle was unveiled in 2003 Geneva Motor Show.

24 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition

During the 2004 model year, a 24 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition package (RPO's Z15 & Z16) were offered as an option for all three C5 models (fastback coupé, convertible, Z06) in celebration of the C5-R "1-2" in-class finishes at Le Mans. The package consisted of a special paint color ("Le Mans Blue Metallic"); shale two-tone leather interior (coupés and convertibles only); and wide, silver-and-red stripes optionally applied down the center of the car (Z06 only). Commemorative Edition convertibles received a shale-colored soft top, and the Z06 version (dubbed the "Z16" after its RPO for the Le Mans Commemorative Edition) received a carbon fiber hood as a further weight-reduction measure. Special commemorative badging, headrest embroidery, and brightly polished wheel rims (a first on the Z06) with unique centercaps completed the package.

There were 2,025 Commemorative Edition (RPO Z16) Z06's built in 2004. The VIN's where sequenced number at the Bowling Green, KY plant ranging from the first 100013, to the last 132518.


Unlike earlier generations of the Corvette that produced rare vehicles based primarily on engine options (e.g., the L88), there was no real possibility that any such rarities could occur with the C5. The base-model C5 had only one engine choice: the LS1; and similarly for the Z06, there was only the LS6. However, putting limited editions such as the 1998 Indy Pace Car aside, there were a number of exterior color offerings that were produced in relative few numbers. In some cases, the rarity of the color is confined to specific body styles.

Excluding the purposely-unique award vehicle from model year 2000, produced in Platinum Purple Metallic, arguably the rarest of all C5 colors intended for production is 1998's Aztec Gold Metallic (RPO 58U), with a total of 15 units produced (12 coupés and 3 convertibles). While there was technically one fewer vehicle produced during the 1998 model year in Navy Blue (RPO 28U; the 1998 vehicles were produced as a test run of the paint color, which was slated for introduction during the 1999 model year), Aztec Gold Metallic was never offered again (although a special, one-off vehicle was produced in 2003 - bringing the grand total for the color to 16 factory-produced units), whereas Navy Blue was offered through the end of model year 2001, with vehicles subsequently produced in sufficient quantities during those model years to make the color relatively commonplace on the C5.

The next rarest C5 color is Fairway Green [Metallic] (RPO 87U), offered only during the 1997 and 1998 model years, with 344 total units produced; this narrowly edges out the 1998-only Majestic Amethyst Metallic (RPO 95U), with 361 total units produced. However, based on body styles, Majestic Amethyst Metallic is more rare on the coupé (215 vs. 284 units), and Fairway Green [Metallic] is more rare on the convertible (60 vs. 146 units) - and obviously, a convertible in either color is more rare than a coupé in either color.

Overall, the rarest FRC color is Nassau Blue Metallic/Bright Blue (RPO 23U); available on that body style only during the 1999 and 2000 model years, a total of 391 units were produced in that color. However, the rarest Z06 color is 2001's Speedway White (RPO 40U), with only 352 total units produced; while white was available on the FRC during the preceding model years (a total of 626 units produced in 1999 and 2000), 2001 was the only model year in which white was offered on a C5 Z06.

Chevrolet Corvette (2003)

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