On behalf of the Official C5/C6/C7 Registry and its members, we were all stunned by the news that broke last week of eight very significant Corvettes being damaged by a sinkhole in the Skydome at the National Corvette Museum. As GM prepares to oversee restoration of the Corvettes damaged, we wanted to take a look back at how two of these vehicles fit into Chevrolet’s history.
2009 ZR1 “BLUE DEVIL”
Folklore has it that the then CEO of GM, Rick Wagoner, a Duke University graduate, saw the nearly completed C6 Z06 prototype in 2004. He wondered aloud what the Corvette design team could create if it had a mandate to develop a $100,000 Corvette.
At the time, Corvette Chief Engineer David Hill and Corvette Engineer Tadge Juechter took Wagoner’s challenge to heart and went to work to develop a significantly more powerful Corvette that would be called the ZR1. Then Vehicle Line Executive Tom Wallace stated that this project had the code name “Blue Devil” after Wagoner’s alma mater. Wallace continued saying that this prototype test vehicle needed to push the technology envelope into the supercar realm so that this Corvette could take on any production car in the world.
We now know that this “Blue Devil” was built to test the engineering standards necessary for the ZR1 to achieve astronomical performance characteristics – including the ability to be the fastest production automobile that GM has ever built. Never in the history of GM has a production automobile been produced with a 638 HP and a top end speed in excess of 200 mph. So, we’d say that the “Blue Devil” is certainly one of the most historically significant Corvettes ever on loan by GM to the National Corvette Museum.
2001 MALLETT HAMMER Z06 CORVETTE
Chuck Mallett was one of the premier tuners of the C5 era. Mallett is credited as being one of the first tuners to apply his craft and customize the C5 Corvette for superior handling and performance. When the Z06 was introduced in 2001, Mallett quickly grabbed hold to engineer and develop the “Mallett Hammer” Z06 Corvette. Historically, this Z06 is significant because it was one of the first Mallett Hammers engineered to take the 2001 Z06 to a whole new performance level with outstanding handling characteristics never felt before on the race track.
Kevin and Linda Helmintoller of Tampa, Florida recently donated the Mallett Hammer Z06 that was swallowed by the sinkhole to the museum.
Mallett set the benchmark with the Z06 Hammer for a whole army of tuners to follow, thus beginning the legendary C5 Z06 Tuner Era. From this point forward, Mallett and others pushed the Z06 Corvette to limits well beyond the standard factory package. The Helmintoller’s raced their Z06 on tracks all over the east coast, just as many of the Mallett Hammer Z06 owners did. This Mallett Hammer’s significance lies in the fact that it was a forerunner of the C5 tuner experience. We feel these were track cars designed to give you the kind of performance required to win races at the track.
For more information on all eight vehicles affected by the sinkhole and the efforts being made to restore these historic Corvettes, visit the National Corvette Museum’s website. You can also see a live stream of the Skydome restoration here.