Saturday, November 24, 2007


Let's say you're Corvette's marketing manager, and you face two challenges: Increase profits, and keep General Motors' baby in the limelight at a critical time. Hype has leveled off for the two-year-old Z06, and the car that GM officials acknowledge but won't talk about--known thus far as Blue Devil and SS but apparently set to carry ZR-1 badging--is a year away from the street. True, the ZR-1 did appear at Laguna Seca recently (This Week, AW, Oct. 29) and will debut at January's Detroit auto show, but there's more to milk out of Chevy's top dog. Oh, and if you can snag a celebrity endorser to remind the masses that Corvette is indeed a world-class sports car befitting potential Ferrari and Porsche drivers, that would be great, too. Sound good?

It did to Gary Claudio, the real Corvette consigliere assigned these tasks in February 2006. Claudio first envisioned factory performance parts rather than the $225,000 C6RS supercar unveiled at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas. But that notion was short-lived.

"It was a natural progression from offering fenders, hood and quarter-panels to a whole car," Claudio says.

A whole helluva lot of car, enough to make the wait for the ZR-1 bearable, if not an afterthought, at least for those with serious clout at the bank: 8.2-liter V8, 600 hp, 600 lb-ft of torque, custom carbon-fiber body panels and race-proven know-how. Pratt & Miller Engineering in New Hudson, Michigan, supplied that last part, and that's a big piece of the price tag: A regular production car might go cheaper, but then you wouldn't be buying a car from the builders of five-time Le Mans-winning GT1 machines.

Founded by former racer Gary Pratt and businessman Jim Miller in 1989, P&M runs the factory Corvette Racing team in the American Le Mans Series, as well as GM's various other road-racing programs. With help from the General, it designed and developed every factory Corvette C5.R and C6.R racer since the team began testing in 1997 (hence the C6RS nomenclature). When Chevy boasts about the stock Z06's race-bred origin, it does so thanks in large part to the 100 employees at P&M's 92,000-square-foot Michigan facility plus another 20 working at the company's North Carolina subsidiary. Yet P&M has never offered serious performance upgrades for Corvette road cars.

"Seven years ago, I started fielding calls for aftermarket parts almost weekly," says P&M's Mike Atkins, C6RS project manager. "We didn't want to pursue it because that's not what we did, and we didn't want to infringe on GM."

That changed when Claudio and Corvette chief engineer Tom Wallace signed off on the C6RS, and the project moved far faster than any factory program, thanks to on-site design and modeling capabilities needed for achieving the quick turnaround mandatory in professional racing. While GM toils away on its own mega-Corvette for yet another year, P&M's final product rolled out of the garage in just six months.

Not that "rolled out" begins to cover it. A drive in the C6RS development car (not the one pictured here) reveals significantly increased if still somewhat unrefined performance that is now deeeep into exotic territory. With 600 hp at 5800 rpm and a chassis-twisting 600 lb-ft of torque at 4600, the speedometer snaps well past 60 mph before your brain processes the information from your eyes. The legal ramifications increase exponentially every second thereafter that you fail to register what's happening. Expect 0 to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds (possibly less, if you can put the power down--slicks, anyone?) and a 202-mph top speed. The stock Z06 inspires dreams of running down Porsche 911 Turbos and Ferrari F430s; the C6RS should run over Lamborghini Gallardos in pursuit of their Murciélago big brothers. You get the picture.

Top-end bang is certainly on tap, but the torque--130 lb-ft more than a Z06's--comes through immediately from a throttle as responsive as you would ever desire when connected to this engine. At 3000 rpm, the V8 makes 540 lb-ft, and the number never drops below 500 all the way to 6000 rpm, just 200 revolutions short of redline. To put it in context, consider that the C6RS boasts as much horsepower and an extra 30 lb-ft of torque compared with the latest Dodge Viper ("A Bigger Bang," AW, Sept. 10) while weighing 284 pounds less. In Corvette terms, it outweighs the Z06 by a measly four pounds; the carbon-fiber bodywork and the lighter wheels and clutch offset the heavier engine and additional insulation added to fend off heat and unwanted road (not engine) noise. If you've heard the C6.R race car's signature V8 at full bore, you need to hear this sound, which is akin to what a Z06 might project if a person with healthy ears were to drive it while wearing cranked-up hearing aids.

P&M considered bumping the Z06's LS7 V8 but needed more displacement to achieve its desired output. Followers of the American Le Mans Series already will have guessed that P&M called on its close associates at Katech, the company that builds GM's racing engines. Using an all-new, 8.2-liter billet-aluminum block with 4.2-inch cylinder bores and 4.5-inch stroke, Katech created what it believes is the world's first all-aluminum, 500-cubic-inch small-block V8. Emphasis on small-block, since GM did aluminum Chevy big-blocks back in the day.

The new engine uses LS7 cylinder heads and intake and exhaust manifolds and runs at the same 11:1 compression ratio. Custom-forged crankshaft, rods and pistons replace original parts, with a cat-back exhaust (sans the Z06's butterfly valve) spitting either burned gasoline or E85.

The car we drove shimmies some at idle (the final version uses less cam, Atkins says), and the ArvinMeritor Dynamic Ride air suspension has a way to go before it matches the world's best for stability over mid-corner bumps, which is also not the stock Z06's strong suit. Flicking through a right-left-right sequence over broken road and potholes, there's negligible body roll but some skittishness and crashing from the suspension.

The Dynamic Ride setup employs three definitive settings, but Atkins says the final version will operate automatically to raise and lower the car based on speed, providing grip and stability in various driving scenarios without having to compromise as would a conventional, fixed suspension. But this is for experienced drivers only: As of now, the factory's traction/stability control system doesn't function on the C6RS, and one ill-considered throttle jab will acquaint you with the nearest wall should your opposite-lock skills be too slow or abrupt.

Unlike GM, P&M will build its supercar from any Corvette platform, be it coupe or convertible, though you'll pay more if you don't supply a Z06, because Katech will need to supply an entire engine from scratch rather than using pieces of your LS7. P&M used Jay Leno's Z06 as a starting point for the first C6RS--there's your celebrity endorser, a natural to flaunt the Corvette brand to Hollywood's aristocrats and heavy hitters.

The factory roof, decklid, doors and mirrors remain, but all of the other body panels are new and were inspired by the race car. Yet the styling avoids the gaudiness often found in modified sports cars that claim racing inspiration. There's no two-story rear wing, no trim tacked on solely for appearance's sake. Call the overall appearance "subtle bad-assed-ness." It certainly grabs attention and is exactly what the Z06 should have looked like in the first place.

"I thought the same thing," Wallace admits, before pointing out that such sculpted bodywork would add substantial cost to the Z06.

While the stock car treads too close in appearance to base C6s, and spy shots indicate that the ZR-1 basically looks like a Z06 with a large hood bulge to accommodate its supercharger, the C6RS incorporates a functioning ram-air hood intake (pure show on the Z06), a mid-hood "waterfall" similar to--but smaller than--the race car's for engine-heat extraction and a front fascia with larger openings. The air outlets directly behind the front wheels are taller and wider, as are the rear brake-cooling scoops. The front fenders feature heat-extracting louvers, as on the C6.R, and both front and rear fenders are flared 0.8 inch on each side to accommodate wider tires (295/30 ZR-18s in front, 345/30 19s out back).

Michelin Pilot Sport rubber rides on forged, one-piece, center-locking, BBS-engineered wheels designed by P&M to recall the C6R rims without being a direct copy. Finished in stunning, liquidlike "black chrome," they rest over Brembo brakes cooled by large carbon-fiber ducts, one each for the rears and two apiece in front. While the Z06 features rear brake ducts, its front clampers must make do with whatever air enters the wheel wells from underneath the car. The two-piece stock brake calipers are subject to flexing when experiencing the high temperatures produced on racetracks, so the monoblock Brembos are designed to resist fade. The front rotors are the same size as the Z06's (14 by 1.3 inches), the rears slightly larger (13.6 by 1.1 versus 13.4 by 1.0). P&M did not go up significantly in rotor size because of wheel/caliper clearance.

Up close, small but well-executed details catch your eye, from the carbon front splitter, the side rocker extensions and the rear aero diffuser to the relocated rear stoplight and the low-mounted LED reverse light that glows cold blue. Another small but cool detail: P&M removed the stock Corvette flag logo badges and machined them down to one-third thickness for a sleeker look. The interior is swathed in hand-stitched leather, with an iPod/cell-phone holder integrated into the center armrest. Lear seats with more hip and shoulder bolstering are a welcome improvement over the factory seats, and recontoured door armrests accommodate resting limbs more comfortably. C6RS buyers also will receive a custom tool kit containing a three-piece, 48-inch, 600-lb-ft torque wrench needed for removing and installing the wheels, torqued down at 550 lb-ft.

The finished article shown at SEMA does not necessarily indicate precisely what customers will get when P&M begins offering the car in April. Leno requested that his car run on E85 (note the conspicuous green "S" on the badging), but Katech is not yet sure whether it will certify the car on the ethanol blend, though it plans to make all engines 50-state-legal on gasoline.

Although this C6RS uses the Z06's standard Tremec T56 six-speed manual gearbox with some internal improvements to provide better shift action, a sequential-shift mechanism that would feature both steering-wheel paddles and a shift lever mounted on the center console is under development. In a unique twist, the uprated clutch will remain pedal-activated rather than computer-controlled. We can thank Leno for that.

"I will never, ever get a [fully automated] paddle shift," he says. A man after our own hearts.

P&M has not determined how many cars it will build, or for how long, and it does not plan to offer its parts separately; it's a turnkey deal. But if you think the C6RS might infringe on "the car no one will talk about," Claudio expects it will appeal to those who otherwise might not consider a Corvette, and they will have to buy a car from GM first, thereby boosting profit as mandated. And it won't hurt when Leno slots it into his NBC parking space for other big players to see.

Wallace agrees. GM "has an excellent relationship with Pratt & Miller; this project is not in conflict with us whatsoever, and it helps Corvette's image," he says.

As for Leno, he admits that he might be used as a marketing tool but insists that his involvement is not contrived and his endorsement is not for sale.

"I have a lot of cars, but probably the Corvettes have the most mileage out of any of them," he says. "I think the whole key to Corvette is it's a car that every person can say, 'When I get a little more money, I want to get one of those.' It's a car everybody can aspire to. So when you're kind of well known and you drive a Corvette, people give you a thumbs up."
Posted Nov 5th 2007 3:26PM by Damon Lavrinc
Filed under: Aftermarket, Tuners, Sports/GTs, Supercars, Chevrolet

Time to call in that favor from Santa. Pratt & Miller Engineering will begin taking orders for its Corvette C6RS this December, confirming rumors of a production version after its official debut last week at SEMA. Deliveries of the 600-hp, 600 ft-lbs. monster 'Vette will begin in April next year, as long as you can provide a donor car (C6 coupe, convertible or Z06) and the $185,000 necessary to complete the build.

In addition to the Katech-modified 8.2-liter V8, copious quantities of carbon fiber replace many of the standard components, while 18x11-inch wheels up front and 19x13.6-inch BBS wheels out back cling to the corners of the C6RS, which is a full 1.6-inch wider than a standard Z06.

All the details are available in Pratt & Miller's press release after the jump.

[Source: Pratt & Miller via Winding Road]

Gallery: SEMA 2007: Jay Leno's E85-powered C6RS Corvette

Pratt & Miller Engineering Introduces Corvette C6RS Supercar for the Street
Championship-Winning Race Team Develops the Ultimate Performance Corvette for the Highway

NEW HUDSON, Mich., Oct. 30, 2007 - Pratt & Miller Engineering has designed and developed a new limited edition Corvette C6RS that provides an exceptional level of performance and refinement for enthusiasts. Inspired by the Le Mans-winning Corvette C6.R race cars, the new Pratt & Miller Corvette C6RS supercar combines advanced racing technology with everyday driveability. The first production Corvette C6RS will be available in April 2008.

Powered by a Katech Performance 8.2-liter (500ci) all-aluminum small-block V-8 engine that produces 600 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. torque, the Pratt & Miller Corvette C6RS employs a purpose-built carbon fiber body to reduce weight and improve aerodynamic efficiency. A computer-controlled adjustable suspension system, center-nut forged aluminum BBS wheels with Michelin tires, and massive Brembo monoblock disc brakes enhance vehicle dynamics. A two-tone leather interior and a comprehensive sound control system produce a quiet, comfortable environment for driver and passenger.

"Our goal was to create a Corvette supercar that delivers an extremely high level of performance with extraordinary comfort and reliability," said Gary Pratt, co-owner of Pratt & Miller Engineering. "The Corvette C6RS was inspired by our Corvette race program, but it's not a race car for the street. You can take the Corvette C6RS on a 300-mile road trip, or drive it to a track day and run fast laps."

Conceived, designed, developed and constructed by the championship-winning Pratt & Miller team, the Corvette C6RS bristles with sophisticated materials and race-inspired technology. The aggressively styled lightweight body, made entirely of carbon fiber, measures 1.6 inches wider than a production Corvette Z06. The carbon fiber front fascia has integrated brake ducts and ram air induction. Aerodynamic enhancements include functional front fender louvers, a carbon fiber underwing and rear diffuser, enlarged front wheel vents and rear brake ducts, an integrated rear spoiler, and a front splitter.

"Every body modification has a purpose," Pratt explained. "The features were modeled on the C6.R race cars, and there are no nonfunctional styling elements."

The C6RS chassis is upgraded to complement the improved aerodynamic grip. A Dynamic Ride Height Control suspension system provides three driver-adjustable settings: Low, Drive and High. In the Low mode, the system lowers the ride height to improve handling, while the High setting increases ground clearance to negotiate steep driveways and ramps. The suspension is upgraded with Pratt & Miller-tuned dampers and heavy-duty wheel hubs and bearings.

The same manufacturers who supply tires, wheels, and brakes for the Corvette C6.R race cars also provide the rolling stock for the Pratt & Miller C6RS. The street car's BBS forged aluminum wheels (18 x 11-inch front, 19 x 13.6-inch rear) have racing-style center nuts. The stunning black chrome wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport tires (P295/30-18 front and P345/30-19 rear). The Brembo Grand Tourismo brake system delivers impressive stopping power with six-piston monoblock front calipers with 14-inch rotors and four-piston monoblock rear calipers with 13.5-inch rotors.

With 600 horsepower on tap, the 8.2-liter C6RS engine rivals the performance of the restricted 7.0-liter engines that powered the C6.R race cars to five GT class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and seven consecutive American Le Mans Series championships. Developed by engine partner Katech Performance, the 500ci small-block V-8 is based on a high-strength 6061-T6 billet aluminum Dart block with linerless Nicom-coated 4.205-inch diameter cylinder bores. The rotating assembly features a forged steel crankshaft (4.500-inch stroke), forged 4340 steel connecting rods, and 11:1 compression forged aluminum pistons. The custom-built CORSA stainless steel exhaust system employs the company's patented Reflective Sound Cancellation(tm) (RSC) technology to optimize interior and exterior sound quality. An aluminum flywheel and twin-disc clutch transfer the engine's torque to a blueprinted T56 six-speed transmission.

A luxurious interior is the counterpoint to the Corvette C6RS's cutting edge technology. A Dynamat sound insulation system produces a quiet refuge, while the instrument panel, doors, console, steering wheel and seats are wrapped in premium quality leather with French seams. "Our goal with the Corvette C6RS was to capture the soul and spirit of the Corvette C6.R race car in a premium GT car for the street," said Pratt. "The C6RS is a car with a legendary racing heritage and an unrivalled engineering pedigree. Just as the Corvette C6.R race car has become the benchmark in production-based sports car competition, we believe that the Pratt & Miller Corvette C6RS will set the new standard for sports car performance and luxury on the highway."

Founded in 1989 by Gary Pratt and Jim Miller, Pratt & Miller Engineering & Fabrication provides automotive and non-automotive clients with leading-edge engineering and low-volume manufacturingsolutions. For more information, visit the Pratt & Miller website
In this case--though not many can aspire to own a C6RS--we'll give him two thumbs up. Now, how about a full test drive?


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