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Video | 5 Things I Love About My Cheap Corvette Z06 (and 5 Things I Hate)

I’m really starting to see the appeal of Corvette ownership, as sorting out all the issues with my cheap 2002 Z06 didn’t cost much. It was nice to not spend double the purchase price in repairs for a change — as I only needed to put $1,200 into The Car Wizard’s pocket to have an almost fully sorted daily-driver Z06 that’s ready for a track weekend. I really don’t understand all the hate around the C5, as there’s a lot to like.

Personally, I favor the styling of this Corvette over the generations that followed. While the shape is a little on the blobby side, it still has pop-up headlights — and like previous generations, it’s unmistakable for anything but a Corvette. Later Corvette models seemed to give up on finding a unique design theme, and they were styled more like Italian exotics. Sure, they look cool — but they don’t look like a Corvette. These cars used to be unmistakable for anything else — and, in my opinion, the C5 was the last generation to pull that off.

While the previous generations of Corvettes had this unique soul to them, they’re much more primitive. The C5 was intended to be a supercar contender right out of the box, and it was the first Corvette to have a rear-mounted transmission for better weight distribution — and the 405-horsepower Z06 managed a 4-second-flat 0-to-60 time. The Z06 could also hold a full 1.0 g in the corners, making it a formidable track-day weapon to this day. Of course, with my horrible driving skills, I’ll never see the true limits of my Z06 — but I’m sure this car will make even me look good. I’ve even found the now-working traction control and active handling package not to be a nuisance — a surprise, considering most of these early systems ruin the fun well before the car is in any danger of losing control.

The ease of repairs is also a welcome benefit. The biggest expense was sourcing a set of used seats for $700, as my originals were pancaked and ruined by a very large previous occupant. The Car Wizard was able to repair the ABS by simply re-soldering the computer, and popping in a new blower motor to revive my climate control was an easy job as well. With a fresh service and brake bleed, The Wizard gave the car a clean bill of health — and a very light bill of only $525. I could now fully experience what a Z06 is supposed to feel like, and I’m shocked at the comfort level of this car designed to dominate on the track.

Everybody complains about the interior looking cheap on these — and while it certainly does, I don’t understand why the Corvette gets singled out. Perhaps it’s because it was more expensive than a Ford Mustang and other sports cars of the era — but it’s just as plastic-fantastic as nearly every other domestic and Asian import from the 1990s. The interior of my car is still presentable — but the biggest letdown for me after buying this car sight-unseen was the paint job. In the photos, the paint looked fantastic — but it was evident on arrival the entire car had been resprayed. While the repainter did use a good-quality paint with a deep shine, they didn’t even bother removing the adhesive-mounted Z06 fender badges or the cheap rubber window trim. This would have taken an extra hour to do, at most, so I’m flabbergasted that someone would cut easy corners on this Z06. I guess they were betting on some fool buying it sight-unseen…

I still need to replace the broken windshield, remove the weathered window tinting and track down a key fob to keep the alarm system from freaking out. One of the coolest features of the Z06, the head-up display, is also not working. The Wizard would have to tear the dashboard apart to investigate — but I declined the repair, as I was too anxious to get the car back. I justified the purchase of this car by planning to pit it against my LS-swapped Porsche 911 at the drag strip, as well as a track day — and I think this Z06 will be a worthy contender.

Unfortunately, my friends don’t seem to be liking the Z06 as much as me, and they can’t get past the midlife crisis image of the C5. Perhaps I should embrace the image, invest in some gold chains and unbutton my shirt a little more — because I really like this car. Find a used Chevrolet Corvette for sale

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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  1. I get that without views, the NSX needed to go, but it would be interesting to learn your thoughts on differences between  the C5 ZO6 and the NSX.

  2. I say skip the drag strip and take the Vette and LS-911 to a proper track day.  Lap times on a road course will be far more interesting than just burnin’ rubber in a straight line.

  3. Tyler’s the kind of guy who will grab extra pre-printed Priority Mail cartons from the Post Office and use them as luggage.

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