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2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

And here’s car #5! 2007-2008 iirc; a 2004 Corvette Z06. 

Growing up a chevy v8 head, this was *the* halo car I had my sights set on. 405hp, 7:xx on the nurburgring (it can handle too!). As a bonus, I’ve nailed 30+mpg consistently on long high way drives – when I took it to Thunderhill Raceway (my first track day!), I did 8mpg on the track; then did 32mpg on the way home. This was also a turning point in my car habit – I had been working steadily here, all my crazy credit card debt from college was paid off, and my FICO was steadily improving. This car was my first borderline “impulse” buy when I realized how easy dealers would finance people with decent credit – I took off early from my job at SugarCRM to go pick up this car and surprise Katherine with it as we were supposed to go down to LA that night. I would also have to say this was my first taste of a “nice” car – driving it home the first drive after picking it up from the dealer in Livermore, I felt so self conscious, like everybody was staring and that I didn’t “deserve” to be in this car; that I was just faking and posing. It was a little uncomfortable, but the Z06 was such a halo car for me that it didn’t matter. 

Still, this car was doomed, and I have the MR2 Spyder to thank for that. I bought this car, and still had the MR2 before I sold it to a friend. When I hopped back in the MR2 to move it and get it prepped for sale, something weird happened. I felt lower to the ground, I felt the road texture, and the car darted left and right telepathically. “Strange, this car is still amazingly fun” I thought, before selling it off to a friend. 

But it planted a seed in me that kept growing the longer I drove the Z06. The Z06 weight-shifted left and right, compressing its shocks and pushing the tire into the ground before turning, like a juking football player kicking up dirt with each direction change – ultimately there was a delay in steering input -> response due to this. I felt insulated from the road. It was fast as hell, no doubt; but going 60mph in it felt like doing 30mph, whereas doing 30mph in the MR2 felt like going 60mph. 

At this point, I met a fellow Cal Alumni Joon Lee, who was gracious and generous and let me drive his 1991 NSX. I got in the NSX, feeling like the car was no big deal. It was low to the ground, the steering was *heavy* as it had no power assist; and driving it around town felt a bit like driving a honda prelude. No big deal. 

But Joon took me up on some really nice twisty roads in Livermore. The steering I thought was “heavy” was suddenly squirming and wiggling in my hands, with its weight constantly changing from heavy to light to heavy again as we went through S-curves and the lateral load on the tires came and went. The low beltline and short hood let me see the texture of the road flying up to my feet, practically tickling my toes as it went by. The NSX was never harsh – but I felt every minute detail of the road through my hands and butt. A normal, “what’s the big deal” car turned into the most religiously exhilirating drive I’ve had in my life with little fanfare. 

I was floored. It would take me a long time to process everything that had happened with that drive (and as a result I would go through an S2000 and a Lotus Elise trying to chase that feeling, before finally biting the bullet and going through 3 NSX’es in my life later on). 

But I knew this Z06 was doomed, when I got back in after the drive. The steering wheel felt like a huge wheel from a yacht. It had no resistance as I turned the wheel, and the first turn I took in the Z06 after the NSX, made me feel like the car was going to fly off the turn because I could’ve sworn the front wheels were floating off the ground. The seats were comfortable to a fault – after feeling comfortable *and* supportive seats in the NSX, the seats of the C5Z felt like la-z-boys. 

In retrospect, this was pretty unfair to the Z06 because I didn’t fully appreciate the amazing LS6 motor in this car. I had a few LS3 and LT1-DFI cars after this, and out of them all I felt the LS6 was the most rev-happy and responsive, despite it being the least powerful. The day I was selling the Z06, I was cruising on the freeway at 70mph – I put it into 3rd, floored it, and felt pinned to the seat; when I let off the gas at 100mph, it was still pulling so hard that I saw Kat visibly pop 4-5 inches out of her seat (it was pressing us in *that* hard). This car did 70-100mph faster than most cars did 0-60mph. That motor is no joke, even by today’s standards! This was also the first car I took to the racetrack (a road course – I’ve done dragstrips before since the first z28 but my first track-day experience was in this car). 

Now with Corvettes getting so large, visually screaming for attention (flares, holes and vents, badging, wings), I’m really appreciating the clean and subtle grace of the C5Z. Hmm…