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Whatís the new C6 Corvette have over the last C5 model?
-Side impact air bags
ďA Corvette is not about transportation, itís about inspiring and fulfilling dreamsĒ
The new Corvette was decided to boast a performance level of the current Z06 model. Chevrolet wanted the base model to be as powerful as their current 400 hp top of the line Z06. Along with this added horsepower, they wanted speed. Comfortable top speed in the 180 mph range. The easiest way to accomplish this was through reducing drag. But there were some problems. The new back tires were wider and the front has an open grill. That kills your drag coefficient in the wind tunnel testing. Also, the decision was made to go with integrated headlamps that were so small; they werenít even available for the team to use in the design. They had to be made new. The functional rear spoiler integrates the third brake light and there is a diffuser that directs air past the exhaust tips. The car was shortened by 5Ē increasing the chances of drag-induced turbulence at the end of the car. But not everything was negative. The car was narrower and had lower ground clearance. The engineers not only tested this design extensively (almost 500 hours in the wind tunnel), they tested several models to come out with the current rendition.
Weight also needed to be shed to gain additional performance. Using more aluminum in the body structure was the biggest move GM made to reduce weight. The car had new aluminum parts to brace the main frame to improve crash worthiness. Also, the side impact beams were changed to aluminum instead of steel. The latching mechanism in doors was changed to an electronic version, which sheds weight, but also was new innovative technology. I thought they just added the new latches because they were real cool. The body panels were also changed to a different type of material. Fenders are made from different material than the bumpers and thatís different from the hood. GM looked at 5 different types of plastic composites. The main panels are made out of a polyester sheet-molding compound that is reinforced with fiberglass. The 15% smaller new hood is 35% lighter, but 40% stiffer. The neat thing about all this technical analysis is that they made the car lighter, shorter, but stiffer.
Let me tell you about the glass. The rear glass is pre-curved, as you know. But the area behind the mirror is flatter. This eliminates distortion from hot and cold days. The side mirrors also were redesigned to reduce wind noise. They look pretty much the same, but the team spent long hours in the wind tunnel just tweaking the side mirrors. The other neat feature with the glass is the roof panel. The removable roof panel is polycarbonate, thermoset for the painted tops or transparent. Itís the same tooling to make the panels, just different materials.
Thereís more to making the corvette fast and fun. That part is the engine. Iíll explain some neat things the team did on this new LS2 engine in my next article.
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