Corvette Online’s C6 Buyer’s Guide

The old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was tailor made for the sixth generation Corvette. The fifth gen ‘Vette was such a quantum leap forward for Chevy’s sports car, that when it came time for a refresh, GM decided not to mess with a successful formula. So what the automotive world got in 2005, was essentially C5 Version 2.0. Everything we liked about the C5 was retained, while most niggling flaws were polished off.

Chevy retained the same front engine/rear transaxle design blueprint, but did a complete rethink of the body and interior. Gone was the soft, rounded edge styling of the 1997-2004 models, replaced with sharp edged fender peaks (‘a la C3,) and the first exposed headlights since 1962. The wheelbase was stretched a bit, but the overall length of the car was slightly shorter to make the car more attractive to overseas customers. With a drag co-efficient of 0.28 and low curb weight, the C6 achieved respectable fuel economy as well. If you kept your right foot out of it, you could easily get 16/26 mpg.

The C6 retained proven C5 blueprint of drivable chassis, LS power and rear transaxle and added  exposed headlights and edgy new styling with classic Mako Shark styling cues.

Many of the styling tweaks (exposed headlights, single intake grill) were met with resistance by loyal fans but were valuable lessons learned from the successful Corvette Racing program.

Buying a sixth gen ‘Vette can be a dream come true but there are many models to choose from that identifying a good car from a bad car can be daunting to the novice or newbie. As a general rule, the car with the lowest mileage and fewest owners is the goal here. A higher mileage car, if well maintained with documentation, shouldn’t be overlooked, as it might make a great weekend track car or less than perfect daily driver.

So with that in mind, here’s Corvette Online’s cheat sheet when shopping for a C6 Corvette

Ouch. Car history services like Carfax are cheap, use them.

Check for Accident Damage – C6s retained the C5’s drivable chassis with non-structural SMC panels bonded to a underlying structure. It’s not like earlier Corvettes where the body simply bolted to a ladder steel frame. Check for mismatched paint, narrow or wide gaps in body panels and overspray in the wheel wells. Put the car on a lift and do a visual check for scrapes (all “Vettes have such battle scars,) damage, corrosion, etc.  While the car is up in the air, check and see if any bonding material is a different color, indicating a repair.

Check the AutoFax, CarFax or Research Insurance Claim History – The C6 Corvette is a late model car and not excluded from data services like CarFax. For a nominal fee, a background checkup and owner history can be quickly generated and be invaluable for a prospective buyer. We suggest stepping up and getting your own report as opposed to relying on a seller generated report. It could be incomplete or not up to date, potentially obscuring an accurate picture of the car’s history.

Check Recall Data – Loads of information for a perspective buyer here too. Theoretically, any recall work should have been handled by seller via an authorized GM dealership. The federal government requires all recalled cars be brought up to spec. Asking the seller for any info regarding recalls and work performed would be helpful.

Check Factory Door Sticker – Check for this helpful info on the driver’s side outer door jamb. Its absence is not only an indication of a repair or skullduggery, but there is much information about the car contained here and is not unlike the tank sticker of older Corvettes. The VIN number on the sticker should match the VIN of the car as well. If the numbers don’t match, the door has likely been replaced. This sticker is affixed to the driver’s side door only. Don’t let the fact that a door has been replaced put you off buying the car. If it was repaired correctly and with good workmanship, it should be a deal breaker. The absence of sticker might be a clue to the accuracy of seller’s representation of the car.

Nothing here is cheap. Wheels, tires, rotors and pads are big bucks. Be sure and investigate thoroughly.

Tires, Brakes and Peripherals – The C6 eats tires up at the rate of about 15-20 thousand miles a set, burnouts not included. Always check tires for remaining tread and overall condition. High performance tires are expensive, not to mention other peripheral systems like tire pressure monitors that need maintenance as well. Most sellers will conveniently put the car up for sale before buying new rubber, leaving the buyer to re-tire the car. It is generally acknowledged that inflatable tires ride better, are quieter and last longer than the run flats. Check brakes and rotors, specially on models equipped with ceramic discs.

Get A Used Car Check – Ask a Chevy dealer to do a used car check.  If the car was serviced by a local dealer or shop favored by the seller, go there and ask for records. C6’s are complicated, computer controlled wonders and a complete electronic diagnostic of the vehicle by a mechanic knowledgeable about Corvettes is a must. If there is a “check engine light” on, get a diagnostic to investigate any code that was “thrown” by the engine’s computer.

Do A Test Drive – Turn off stereo and ask seller to zip it during test drive. Listen for clunks, rattles, whines or anything that sounds junky. Check if the car tracks true or pulls left or right under braking.  Does car hesitate or stumble under acceleration? Any smoke or smells should be investigated as well.  Check all lights, blinkers, power accessories, seats, windows etc. If the car is equipped with adjustable suspension, check for functionality as well.

A test drive isn’t time to hear the seller’s life story. It’s a critical time to look, listen and smell what your future ‘Vette may be telling you.

Anticipate Ownership Costs – You’ve got to store, insure, and maintain a complex, late model performance car. Create a tally of what your monthly costs will be to participate in the Corvette hobby without going broke.

Well Served By Aftermarket – Check out Zip, Corvette Central, and Mid America Motorworks for an extensive selection of parts and mods for C6 Corvettes.

Do your Research – This guide is intended as a brief overview. We have researched many Corvette bibles that will assist you in a “deep dive” regarding VINs, rare colors, options, and low production models.

Take Your Time – Chevrolet made over 200,000 C6 Corvettes. They are plentiful with many to choose from. Don’t buy the first one you see!

Here Is a Brief Overview of Changes During the C6’s Eight Year Model Run

Early model C6s were beautiful in the simplicity of their styling.

Model Year 2005 – This was the debut for the C6 and it took the winning C5 formula to a much higher level. Initially introduced as a removable roof coupe, a convertible joined the ranks later in the model year. Push button start, navigation, electric door releases and a better interior are good reasons to choose a C6 over a C5. The C5’s LS2 with 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque is carried over with available manual or automatic transmissions.

Exposed headlights aided aerodynamics and ash canned the electric motors, actuators and weight associated with pop-up peepers. The C6’s suspension was revised and calibrated to provide excellent handling and a comfortable ride. Three suspensions are available, the standard for comfort and handling, the selectable Magnetic Selective Ride Control, and the Z51 Performance package. The Z51 package brings the new base Corvette almost to the level of the C5 Z06. A new power close latch for the rear hatch makes it much easier to close than the C5.

Chevrolet built a total of 37,372 ‘Vettes for 2005, with a mix of 26,728 Coupes and 10,644 Convertibles.

Model Year 2006 – The big news here is the introduction of the much anticipated, higher-performance Z06 model. It came with an LS7,  a new, race-spec 7.0L (427ci) small-block V8, with 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, which proved to be the most powerful, naturally-aspirated engine of its day.

The Z06 was the first salvo in the C6's mega performance models.

The LS7 sported a racing inspired dry-sump engine oiling system with titanium connecting rods and intake valves and a 7,000 RPM redline. The front cradle in the Z06 was now made from magnesium and the front fenders and wheelhouses were carbon fiber. The roof of the new Z06 was fixed for more rigidity and aerodynamics. Huge 14-inch front disc brakes with six-piston calipers and 13.4-inch rear disc brakes with 4 piston calipers were standard. The engines were hand-built at GM’s new Performance Build Center. Each engine was built by a single person and that builders’ name was attached to the engine.

Infamous 427 returns with 505 hp.

The 2006 C6 also introduced a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift on the steering wheel. XM Satellite Radio was included with the Bose stereo system. Two new exterior colors were introduced; Velocity Yellow and Monterey Red Metallic.

Total production for 2006 was 34,021 units with a mix of 16,598 Coupes, 11,151 Convertibles and 6,272 Z06s.

Model Year 2007 – This was mostly a carryover year with no changes in horsepower or transmission options. The most memorable event for 2007 was that sales cracked the 40k barrier, the first time since 1984 and the sixth in Corvette’s history.  Two limited production cars were introduced in 2007. The Arctic White Ron Fellows ALMS GT1 Z06, of which 399 were produced, was the only white Z06 available. Chevy also built five hundred Indy Pace Car replica convertibles in Atomic Orange. New options for 2007 included steering wheel mounted audio controls and a two tone seat option for the Z06 which included embroidered Z06 logos on the headrests.

Total 2007 Corvettes Built – 40,561, with a mix of 21,484 Coupes, 10,918 Convertibles, and 8,159 Z06s.

The revised 2008 interior had sewn material around the center stack and higher grade trim. Now, about that Cobalt steering wheel…

New LS3 motor was rated at 430 hp. Here’s some easy LS motor math: C5 = LS1/LS2,  C6 = LS2/LS3,  C7=LT1.

Model Year 2008 – This model saw the introduction of the LS3 motor with a bump in horsepower to 430 and 424 lb-ft of torque. The interior was freshened with better materials and a 4LT package that  swathed all cabin surfaces in swanky leather. The wheels were also updated to a new five-spoke design. Sales started a downward trend beginning in 2008.

Total units sold were 35,310 with a mix of 20,030 coupes, 7,549 convertibles and 7,731 Z06s.

With the intro of the new era ZR1, old sacred cows were slayed as this was easily the best, most extreme Corvette ever produced.

Model Year 2009 – The ZR1, a new “King of the Hill,” ‘Vette made a big splash for 2009. The ZR1 program was formally announced in December 2007 by General Motors and just two years later the car was in production. The ZR1 tested the waters for a $100K Corvette, admittedly a lot of money, but an absolute bargain compared to other cars that could match it performance-wise. The ZR1 achieved GM’s goal of 100 hp per liter with the new LS9 6.2 liter motor. The Eaton supercharger equipped mill pumped out 638 hp with 604 lb-ft of torque and was the most powerful production engine ever built by General Motors. Both the automotive press and ‘Vette fans went berserk.

The rest of the lineup saw incremental changes, but the revelation here was sales were down almost 50% to 16,956 with mix of 8,737 coupes, 3343 convertibles, 4,400 Z06’s and 1,847 ZR1s. The “Great Recession” was in full swing and the ‘Vette wouldn’t crack the 20K production mark again until the C7 debuted. Sales wouldn’t break 20,000 units again until C7 intro.

Supercharged LS9 is a gearhead’s delight. It’s also an intricate piece of engineering. Have a specialist give it a health check-up.

Model Year 2010 A hallowed old ‘Vette moniker returned for 2010 with the addition of the Grand Sport model. Essentially a “luxury” version of the Z06, it shared its wide fender bodywork, but added its own unique wheels, exterior jewelry, and styling tweaks while skipping the 7.0 motor and relying on the 6.2 LS3. The Grand Sport also replaced the Z51 package but borrowed its suspension set up. We think this was the prettiest C6 made.

The Grand Sport debuts in 2010. A mash up of Z06 body panels, Z51 suspension and LS3 power. A big hit for Chevrolet, ultimately outselling base coupes and convertibles.

Sales of 2010 models were almost a third of what they were in 2008 with 12,194 unit sold, with a mix of 3,053 coupes, 3,703 Grand Sport coupes, 1,003 Grand Sport convertibles, 518 Z06s and 1,577 ZR1s.

Model Year 2011 A sparse year for revisions. Wheel choices are updated, larger cross-drilled brake rotors (13.4 inch front and 12.8 inch rear) became available on coupe and convertible, or included with (F55) Magnetic Selective Ride Control. Z06s get the Z07 performance package. Sales hover at mid-teens with 13,956 total units sold with Grand Sport coupe, (5212) now outselling the base coupe, (3112.)  Grand Sport convertible sales are 2,782 compared to 780 base convertibles. 904 Z06s and 1,720 ZR1s are moved by Chevy’s dealer body.

The C6 is a perfect home for Chevy's mighty LS V8.

Model year 2012 – GM was in a holding pattern with the C7 almost ready for production so understandably, the changes for 2012 were slim. Base cars saw an upgraded interior. Z06 was treated to a full-length rear spoiler and a carbon fiber hood as options. The ZR1 receives adjusted gear ratios to sip less dino juice and also gets a performance package introduced. Z06s get the Z07 Performance Package tweaked with new wheels. 2012 has the dubious distinction of the lowest model production numbers of the C6 run.

Just 11,467 units were sold, a little over 25% of 2007 levels: 2,820 base coupes, 5,056 Grand Sport Coupes, 621 base convertibles, 2,268 Grand Sport convertibles, 478 Z06s and 404 ZR1s.

Saved the best for last? The 2013 427ci convertible had every tweak of an eight year model run. A beautiful way to end the C6 juggernaut.

Model year 2013 – The last year for the C6, with production terminated after just nine months. The best part of this last model year was the 427ci convertible which was for all intents and purposes a Z06 ragtop. It’s very good looking in white with silver stripes, pale blue interior and unique badging and trim. The seats were revised with higher seat backs and a few other tidbits. What’s interesting about the end of the C6 model run, is there were 5 distinct models available, the most in Corvettes history. The swan song 2013 model year saw 13,466 models produced: 2,597 base coupes, 4,908 Grand Sport coupes, 720 base convertibles, 1,736 Grand Sport convertibles, 2,552 427 convertibles, 471 Z06s, and 482 ZR1s.

What Are These Cars Worth? The late model Corvette market fluctuates from year to year and is influenced by the economy and the whims of the hobby. The best way to ascertain what a C6 Corvette is worth is to find comparable cars for sale that are similar to a car you’re looking for. A keen buyer will scour Craigslist, Hemmings, AutoTrader, and other publications to see what cars are bringing. Joining a Corvette club could be a valuable resource as well as online forums and chat rooms. The National Corvette Restorers Society is also a great resource too. As always, keep your eye on Corvette Online as well.

As a general rule, low mileage cars, Z06’s, ZR1s, Pace Cars, 427ci convertibles will obviously bring the most money. Some trends start to appear as well. General production 2007 cars are the most common, model year 2012, the rarest, and 2008 models have the more powerful LS3 motor. Bottom line? Think of your quest as a C6 safari and your goal is to find the perfect car for you.  After reading this guide, we hope you are now a seasoned prospector for C6s listed on the market. Go forth and know that the hunt is as good as the catch.

The smile that sells, and wins.

About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods. He currently owns a '95 Corvette, '76 Cadillac Seville, '99 LS1 Trans Am and big old Ford Van.
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