Rich McBride, a skilled engine builder at the General Motors Performance Build Center, is one of a team of technicians who             will supervise customers in the assembly of their own engines.
 Rich McBride, a skilled engine builder at the General Motors Performance Build Center, is one of a team of technicians who             will supervise customers in the assembly of their own engines.
 2011 Corvette Z06
 2011 Corvette Z06 - 2
 2011 Corvette Z06 - 3
 2011 Corvette Z06 - 4
 2011 Corvette Z06 - 5
 2011 Corvette Z06 - 6
 2011 Corvette Z06 - 7

This is taking vehicle personalization to a whole new level. Buyers with a 2011 Corvette Z06 or ZR1 in their frame can take Chevrolet up on an option to hand-make the very engine they will soon be revving.

"We know the experiential elements are important to owners," said David Caldwell, Corvette's communication's manager. "They are passionate and feel that the things they do with their car are as important as the car itself."

This program is possible because of the assembly processes used at General Motors' 100,000-square-foot Performance Build Center (PBC) in Wixom, Michigan, where technicians create the Z06's LS7 7.0-liter engine, the ZR1's 6.2-liter supercharged LS9 engine and a variation of the Corvette Grand Sport's LS3 6.2-liter engine. GM built this facility to highlight low-volume, high-quality manufacturing standards for specialized powerplants. It was also designed as a showcase for guests, VIPs and other visitors. "It's not an institutional manufacturing facility, but one that caters to hand craftsmanship and inspiration," said Caldwell.

Chevrolet is now advertising the Corvette Engine Build Experience as "the world's most hands-on supercar program." Enthusiasts can help assemble their cars' LS7 or LS9 engines (for their respective model), with the supervision and support of skilled technicians. Then a bespoke nameplate is affixed. It typically takes three hours for the experts; it's projected it will take about twice as long for customers, which Corvette will document with photos. Following completion, it is shipped to the assembly plant for installation. Like all engines assembled at the PBC, these are also covered by Chevrolet's five-year/100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty.

"This is a dream program for a Corvette customer," said Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman of global product operations. "I would have jumped at the chance to build the 427 in my '67 'Vette. And that didn't have half of what goes into one of these modern precision engines. Today's LS7 and LS9 engines are pinnacle achievements in engineering, and to personally involve our customers in their final creation shows the depth of Chevrolet's commitment to make lasting connections with the customer."

Here's how it works. Go to a local dealer, who will submit the order to Chevrolet. Customers must pay $5,800 for the privilege of making their own engine, plus the cost of transport to Detroit. A special concierge gets in contact to help coordinate arrangements, schedule the engine build, coordinate activities at the Performance Build Center, assist with booking local lodging and meals, and arrange local transportation. GM should provide the wrenches.

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Sue Mead loves cars and trucks and the places they take her. She's been covering the automotive industry since 1988, when she started at Four Wheeler magazine. Sue's work has taken her to 68 countries, and she has driven enough off-road miles to have lapped the globe in the dirt.

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