I used to read a good book before going to sleep, or would watch a little late-night TV — but now, I can’t close my eyes without searching for cars online for at least an hour. This unhealthy habit has lead to some pretty questionable purchases documented here on Oversteer, but this one might be my best buy yet. The cheapest Chevy Corvette Z06 in the U.S. came with several issues — but I think it also came with great potential.
The Z06 option was first offered in 1963 as a racing package, which included upgraded brakes and suspension — as well as a giant 36.5-gallon fuel tank for endurance races. These rare Corvettes were only offered for one year, and they regularly fetch over $500,000 at today’s fancy collector car auctions. Chevy decided to bring back the Z06 in 2001 with the C5 Corvette, using the more rigid coupe body as a platform for various performance upgrades, including a special LS6 V8, which (starting in 2002) produced 405 horsepower. This Z06 was the first factory Corvette ever to be a real supercar performance contender.
I experienced the C5 Z06 firsthand when they were new, as my father surprised me with a trip to a high-performance driving school for my 18th birthday. Back in 2004, I spent three days behind the wheel of the base C5 and Z06 learning the basic concepts of road racing, heel-toe downshifting and controlling oversteer — all of which, as shown in my recent track-day videos, I have totally forgotten. One thing that didn’t fade with time after that experience was my love for the C5 Corvette.
So when I saw that this poor, neglected 2002 Z06 with 104,000 miles was offered wholesale for only $11,300 by a dealership in Arkansas, I couldn’t help myself. Not only was it the cheapest clean-title, running Z06 offered for sale in the U.S. at the time, but surprisingly, the Carfax reported this Corvette to have a spotless, 1-owner history. This made me feel a little better about purchasing this car sight unseen and having it shipped home — but, of course, it arrived with plenty of issues.
It seems this one owner was a very large person, as the driver’s seat bottom foam is squashed and totally collapsed, and the seat adjustment motor is totally inoperative. This makes driving my new Z06 very uncomfortable, as my left buttock sits about two inches lower than the right, contorting my back into a painful position. It also seems this original owner didn’t care to make any kind of repairs, as the ABS and traction control system doesn’t work, the windshield is cracked and the climate control is inoperable. There are also plenty of other little items to work out, like the nonfunctional head-up display, and the usual bits of broken interior trim.
Thankfully, the drivetrain is still strong, and it doesn’t appear to have any leaks or other issues. My plan is to sort the car out back to stock — and do my best to leave it alone. Given current values, this means I might actually be able to own a car for a short period without losing money for a change — and I have a few challenges in mind.
When I completed the Corvette engine swap on my 1999 Porsche 911, the final cost of this ridiculous project could have easily afforded a nice C5 Z06 Corvette — which would probably perform better than the Frankenstein Porsche I had just created. With quarter-mile and track-day tests looming for my Porsche, I figured having direct, relevant competition with an actual Corvette would make things more interesting.
Really, though, it doesn’t take much of an excuse to convince myself to buy another car, and I really look forward to documenting the ownership experience of this Corvette after I sort it out — starting with swapping the horrible driver’s seat for something that’s not trying to give me scoliosis. 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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