I missed this while going to NAIAS last week, the interview Auto Focus held with Kirk Bennion, Z06 Design Manager. If a duplicate post, or to those who already found and read this, my apologies. Thanks Autofocus!
Corvette Z06 designer Kirk Bennion: Form follows function - Autofocus.caautofocus said:Chevrolet is calling the new Z06 trim on its 2014 Corvette Stingray the most track-capable production Corvette ever, a 625-horsepower supercharged beast of a thing that shares several chassis bits, engine technologies and an aerodynamics strategy with the also-just-unveiled C7.R racecar.
Performance aside, the car looks quite a bit different – better, in this writer’s opinion – than the stock Stingray, from the front splitter to the smoked-out gray taillight lenses. According to Kirk Bennion, Design Manager for Performance Car Exteriors for GM, the changes are almost all functional—except one or two.
Autofocus: Design-wise, how did you build on the Stingray with the Z06?
Kirk Bennion: “The C7 gave us a really good starting point, but with the Z06 we wanted to make it that much better—a lot better. We’ve added a lot more downforce, offered up in three stages. The Z06 at its starting point will come with a front splitter and a full-width rear spoiler, and that delivers a responsible Cd [coefficient of drag] for someone that likes to drive the car and take it out on trips. As you option up, we offer a carbon-fibre front splitter, carbon fibre rockers and a three-piece rear spoiler. For the extremist, people who like to track the car, we have the Z07, which gets you cup tires, ceramic brakes, and an aero package with larger end pieces and winglets on the front splitter and an adjustable third wickerbill out back.”
“With all those pieces on there, you can drive it around at, say, 60 mph [100 km/h] and see some reduction in your fuel efficiency, but you definitely wouldn’t want to go highway speeds or on an eight-hour trip with the Z07. But those pieces are made to be interchangeable by the customer or by the dealer. In fact we’re probably the first car to do an adjustable rear spoiler that a customer can tune to his liking.”
AF: The splitter and rear wing are quite apparent, but are there some modifications made to the Z06 we might have to look twice for?
KB: “Actually, for the Z06, one of the key things is the wider stance—the front end is 28 [millimetres] per side wider, the back end is 40 [millimetres] per side wider, so it’s a 77-inch wide car, which kind of gets you into exotics territory, but it gives you that wide track and advanced handling.”
“If you didn’t notice, the hood’s all-new, too: it’s actually higher and wider than the Stingray hood, and we flow more air out of it. Stingray has multiple blades in that vent, and this one just has three, and we notched out the centre to get more air out. The rear fascia is also wider to match the wider track, but we also moved the taillights out 35 millimetres per side because we wanted the car to look wider than the Stingray and help the proportions.”
AF: No offence to your work on the Stingray, but it didn’t strike me in the way the Z06 did, to be honest.
KB: “That’s not an uncommon reaction. In large part it’s the proportions, because with the Z06 we’re now approaching the size and shape of something like a Ferrari, really low and wide. There are a lot of bits and pieces on the car, too, but I think we’ve made them work. You don’t want it so the bits and pieces are all people see. It still has to be this holistic—it still has to be designed with a theme. It’s important to have that harmony, because you want the function, but you don’t want those pieces to look foreign to the car.”
AF: How many of the changes are functional, as opposed to pure aesthetic?
KB: “Most of the changes are functional. The Z06 needs more air cooling in the grille, needs more brake cooling, more air into the rear diff, so it has a very aggressive appetite all the way around. Even the quarter inlet, where we’ve a fin there—you might expect an upward-standing scoop, but when we tested that, it didn’t get us the numbers. We did countless CFD [computational flow dynamics] tests on the computer, and actually it’s the computer that helped us model and finesse this beautiful shape and get fifty percent more air into those inlets. The rocker pieces help with lift reduction, but also they help with yaw (side-to-side movement or drift). We found the front half of the rocker was more functional than the back half, so that’s why we contoured it like that, and so you can get more easily get in the car.”
“The one element that was a little more style-driven, something we did more to support our lineage, was the brake scoop in front of the rear wheel. It is functional but we could have taken air from underneath the car or outside the car to cool the rear brakes, but our modern Z06s have always had this rear brake duct, so we did that to sort of tie it into the previous two generations.”