Supercharged Corvette on way

By Mark Hinchliffe, couriermail.com.au
January 11, 2008 11:00pm


CORVETTE'S new 320km/h supercar could be making its way to Australia if one Queensland company has its way.


Performax International general manager Nick Vandenberg said they would be keen to import and convert the much-hyped supercharged Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 due for production next year.

"We convert a model if there is interest and I'm sure there would be interest in this one," he said.

The Gympie company, formerly Corvette Queensland, currently converts Corvettes to right-hand-drive, along with the Hummer H2 and several American pick-ups.

The 'Vette supercar has been rumoured to be called Blue Devil, SS, Stingray or Z07, following on from the 377kW V8 Corvette Z06 that Performax currently converts and sells for $230,000.

But, the supercharged ZR1 will have more power, more torque, lower weight, a higher first gear for faster sprints, a close-ratio gearbox and bigger cooling vents, tyres and brakes.

And while the Z06 used red as a highlight colour, the ZR1 uses blue, giving rise to the tipped Blue Devil moniker.

"In 2007, we did about 15-20 Corvettes. Based on that I don't see why we wouldn't do it," Vandenberg said.

"The only concern I would have is that it meets noise test and emissions criteria for Australia."

In a preview for next week's Detroit auto show, GM showed a production-ready 2009 Corvette ZR1, driven on stage by GM vice chairman Bob Lutz.

"What's so terrific about this car is that it is very docile and easy to drive, but then when you step into it, the power just never stops," Lutz said.

While final specifications are yet to be released, it is rumoured the 'Vette will pump out about 460kW-480kW of power and about 800Nm of torque from its new LS9 6.2-litre supercharged and intercooled V8 engine.

The previous model was quicker than an Enzo Ferrari at 3.7 seconds from 0-100km/h. This one should put the 'Vette well into the supercar category.

GM's LS9 engine shares key dimensions and some features with the current Z06's LS7, but employs a fifth-generation low-profile Eaton supercharger with four veins instead of three.

No point in having a supercharger unless the world knows about it, so a Lexan window has been installed in the centre of the carbon fibre bonnet so you can see the blue-tipped supercharger underneath.

To keep the supercharger and intercooler supplied with air, the ZR1 has a huge front spoiler and side vents similar to those used on the C6R race-car.

Apart from the supercharger providing extra power and torque, the ZR1 is suspected to sprint faster to 100km/h because of the taller first gear.

From there, the Tremec six-speed that is used in many high-performance vehicles has closer gear ratios so, while the Z06 hit top speed in fifth gear, the ZR1 will reach its estimated top speed of more than 320km/h in sixth.

That top speed also required the replacement of the US 200mph speedo with a 220mph unit.

There are few other changes inside.

However, the exterior gets a carbon fibre bonnet, roof and pillars to reduce weight.

Weight is further reduced by the use of carbon-ceramic brake discs, replacing the metal discs of the Z06.

GM claims ride will be more compliant than the Z06 with Magnetic Ride Control, which has immediate damper response, allowing the use of softer springs.

Tyre size has been increased with 19-inch rims in front and 20-inch rims in the rear sporting 335/25Z/20 Michelin PS2s.

Performax International has been importing and converting American cars for almost 20 years, producing about 200 vehicles a year for Australian roads and employing more than 40 people.

However, it could face competition from GM Holden which has begun importing American vehicles.

Last year it launched the baby Hummer H3, built in right-hand-drive in South Africa, while Performax imports and converts the larger H2 which is not built in right-hand-drive.

H3 is imported under GM Performance Brands along with Saab and Cadillac, with the launch later this year of the Cadillac CTS.

Previous GM Holden boss Denny Mooney often talked of also bringing in the Corvette.

However, GM Holden national media relations manager John Lindsay has said he had "no further update" on importing the Corvette.

CORVETTES

A CORVETTE is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft, according to Wikepedia.

Or, it's an iconic American muscle car envied the world over for its brutish power and performance.

The first Corvettes were made in 1953, but it was not until the second-generation and the Stingray version that the model started to gain appreciation in the automotive world.

The third generation in 1968 introduced the most popular Corvette look with its E-Type long nose and contoured guards; one which was scooped when Hot Wheels released a model before the car was actually unveiled.

In the 1980s, the Corvette became more angular and wedged shaped, losing much of its soul, but since 1997, they have returned to the '60s-'70s, albeit a less revolutionary design.

'Vettes, as they are known, have become icons of Americana and are frequently used in movies such as the cheesey Corvette Summer.