Introducing Project Unicorn: 2001 Speedway White Corvette Z06

It started in late 2002.
In a very transitional period of my life, I moved from Texas to North Carolina to live with family before I joined the Navy. Temporary employment was necessary so in an effort to make decent money I decided that car sales was something I needed to do. A local Chevrolet and Cadillac dealership outside of Charlotte is where I ended up.
As the junior salesperson my duties were limited to the shuffling off Cavaliers and the occasional Sierra 1500 pickup.  But always on the sales floor was a Corvette Z06.
Sometimes they would be let me sit in it to enjoy the plastic-like Tupperware interior. That bit never bothered me though, and I’ve always wanted a C5 Z06. That day has come as I finally have one to call my own.

When I received news that I would be continuing my Naval career in San Diego, I started on a search for a Z06. BRZO, Craigslist, Auto Trader. I searched through it all for just under a month until a found the right car for me. I extended my search beyond Southern California and found a wonderful example in my hometown of Dallas, Texas. A search on a Corvette Forum resulted in a clean example that found me jumping on a plane to see it in the metal.

2001 was the resurgence of a 1963 option package on the “split-window” Corvettes of the second generation. When the FRC version of the Corvette was discontinued, GM utilized the “bargain” Corvette platform to create the lightest and most track focused Corvette since the 1960’s. The C5 Z06 was quite the track animal for it’s day. With lighter weight, increased power of the LS1 creating the LS6 designation, and utilizing exotic materials such as titanium in the exhaust, the C5 Z06 shared this with only the McLaren F1 as a factory car fitted with this feature. All the performance increases meant a sub 8-minute Nürburgring lap time. Quite the feat for early 2000’s GM technology.

Upon my arrival into Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, I was anxious to see the Z06. Several hours later and after a painful visit to the Texas DMV, I first laid eyes on the Corvette I was to here buy. Of all of the colors of cars that I have owned, white seems to be a common theme. I wanted an Electron Blue 2002-04 Z06 but the rarity of the Z06 before me swayed my opinion. Speedway White was only available in 2001, of the 356 manufactured 137 were available with the modified red interior. I know, it sounds like I’m some option fanatic looking for an investment in 30 years. At the end of the day it’s a C5 Corvette and I’m going to drive this car and drive it hard! At least, however, at any event that I attend the chances that I’m the only one with this type of Corvette are high.

The garage of the previous owner of the Corvette was nothing short of astounding. 2240 square-feet was just the garage at this residence. I was blown away and after living in Southern California for 15 years, knowing how far your money can go in Texas, it was still astounding to see.
Initial walk arounds were done and I finally got a chance to slip behind the wheel and feel the snugness of the Cipher racing seats. Key in the ignition and the familiar GM “dong, dong, dong” was ever present. Then the sound of the big cammed LS6 roared to life. Aggressive is an understatement. After a few moments it was time to finally pilot this nearly 18 year old Corvette to see what it can do.

First impressions were mixed.
I hadn’t driven a big cam car in quite some time so it took some adjustment. Once I learned how it should be driven things got a lot easier. This Z06 was free of the normal squeaks and rattles of this era of General Motors products. Well kept and very tight, it was clear that this car had been properly maintained. After a few medium power runs and rows through the tight transaxle transmission it was time for a full power run. The Z06 pulls incredibly hard, especially in the last 1500 rpm to redline. A screaming LS engine is a lovely thing, some say it’s a lazy engine but that is based on perspective. They are a workhorse, always able to make incredible power and this LS6 is an absolute champ.
I had to buy this Z06!

Within 5 minutes of driving away from the previous owners residence a familiar site came up in my rear view. The flashing lights of Rockwall Texas’ finest. Popular to contrary belief I was not driving in an exuberant manner as some may think. The first thing spoken when the officer approached my window, “so… two years, huh?” The Z06 hadn’t been registered in two years, a shuffle of paperwork ensued and a checking of my drivers license and I was on my way. An interesting experience in my first few moments of Corvette ownership.
All seemed well with the Z06. I drove it for about 250 miles around North Texas before deciding to continue with the drive back to Southern California. The night before though, something interesting happened. The Z06 would get loose on acceleration and in a way I hadn’t felt before. At that point I learned that 2001 Z06’s do not come with TPMS and the left rear tire was low on air. I inspected the tire and I could see no nails or screws. I filled the tire with air and proceed to my parents house. I figured I would keep an eye on things during the drive starting the next morning.

I left at 5:00am. Bright and early, as I had 1,350 miles to cover in two days. The left rear tire was 5 lbs low on air, so I figured at some point soon I’d have a local Discount Tire check the Nitto NT01 during my drive. I made it 16.1 miles away before tragedy set in. I’ve not had a proper blow out at speed in quite some time and at 85 mph Corvettes get very “interesting” when a tire lets go. After sliding left the tire sucked in towards the center of the car and grabbed against some suspension components and locked up. The cabin filled with tire smoke and I manage to wrestle the Z06 off the side of the road.
Things were not looking up for the drive at this point. On the side of the road I awaited the arrival of AAA and found a local Discount Tire which has the specific size NT01 in stock. I had the car placed on a flatbed and arrived before the shop opened to get my precious Corvette taken care of.

At this point the decision was made to ship the car. Perhaps a long drive on competition tires was not a great idea but I didn’t know the full cause as to why the tire was losing air. I arranged my flight as well as an enclosed trailer to get my new Z06 home. It has been a very interesting start to my first foray into Corvette ownership but most just call this “modified car problems”. Nonetheless, I love this car and I anxiously awaited the arrival of the trailer with my new toy.
[Images: Copyright 2018 Hooniverse/Jason Connor]

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20 responses to “Introducing Project Unicorn: 2001 Speedway White Corvette Z06”

  1. Zentropy Avatar

    Your comment “see it in the metal” made me laugh.
    I’ve admittedly never been a fan of the Corvette, but its performance is undeniable. Regardless, it’s fun to read about your enthusiastic search for your dream car. I hope you enjoy it!!
    (Of note, I do really like the Stormtrooper color scheme!)

    1. Jason Connor Avatar

      I’m glad you had enjoyment out of reading the article. I’m all about attainable dream cars and this was just it for me. I hadn’t really thought of the Stormtrooper scheme until now, my Star Wars nerdom is now going to show.

        1. Jason Connor Avatar

          TK479, why aren’t you at your post!

  2. 0A5599 Avatar

    Neat toy!
    If the car hadn’t been registered for a couple of years, and the tire mysteriously blew up, it may be on
    dry rotted rubber. Check the date codes on the other tires.

    1. Jason Connor Avatar

      The end of 2015, the date code was the first thing I looked up. It ended up being a bad valve stem that let go on the second time I had a flat on the same wheel. I’ve since had all of the stems replaced and the car is running like a champ!

  3. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    What is your plan to get a car with a big cam emission certified in CA? CA is VERY tight on ANY and ALL mods….

    1. Jason Connor Avatar

      Active Military, it’s registered in Texas.

      1. Harry Callahan Avatar
        Harry Callahan

        Ah….that is the BEST plan. No way that car is gonna get CA plates with that engine.

  4. mdharrell Avatar

    My father-in-law is pretty happy with his C5 Z06. He’s never let me near it.

    1. Jason Connor Avatar

      Such a shame!

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        No, I can’t fault his decision. He has seen my cars.

        1. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

          What part of primitive CVT and friction drive on one wheel makes his confidence in your cars waver?

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            I’ve decided not to ask.

  5. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    the C5 Z06 is total attainable-supercar status, and it doesn’t seem to be appreciating out of reach. have you driven a standard C5 or standard C6 for comparison? pretty sure my next sports car will be one of those three, but choosing which would be a tough balance between performance, the hatchback’s looks/versatility, and price.
    also, blue lights flashing from a Tahoe grille is a familiar sight for anyone who’s lived in Texas. in the 3.5 years I lived in Waco, I got pulled over 8 times. in my other 10 years of driving, I’ve been pulled over once.

    1. Jason Connor Avatar

      I’ve driven several variants of the C5, Coupe Auto, Coupe Manual, FRC Manual and the Z06. I’ve always preferred the Z06. I’ve driven various C6’s as well, LS2 Manual, LS3 Manual, LS3 Auto, Grand Sport, various Z06’s and the ZR1. In many ways but not all, the C6 even the base LS2 manual is better than the C5 Z06 but they just aren’t special to me. I am troubled by owning a base Corvette, I just couldn’t do it. The only way I’d jump to C6 ownership is get a Grand Sport or Z06. For the money the price premium over a C5 Z06 for those didn’t make sense to me. All of this information matched up that I have a special feeling for the C5 Z06 made it my choice. Overall I think both (C5/C6) have aged gracefully and something that the C7 will not be able to do.
      I don’t know what it is about Texas, I think they just don’t have much going on and it’s a part of the normal enthusiast driving in that state. If you keep your proverbial nose clean it’s not a problem, just an irritation.

      1. wunno sev Avatar
        wunno sev

        kinda see where you’re coming from on base model Corvettes, but I’d rock a C6 Z51 for sure. by the C6 most aspects of the car were at the very least competent right out of the box, and the Z51 probably provides all the performance I need.

        1. Jason Connor Avatar

          The Z51’s are pretty stout, I’d recommend an LS3 if going that route.

  6. HuntRhymesWith Avatar

    Imagine black square paneling on the front and rockers, a big flag and “UNITED STATES” on the quarter panels. This thing could be space shuttle spec.

    1. Jason Connor Avatar

      Holy crap, that would be kind of awesome!

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