Call this the Corvette diet plan: Consume more carbon fiber and lose weight.
For its latest Z06 street version of the 2006 Corvette race car, the General Motors Corp. icon is boosting its use of carbon fiber on key structural and body components as part of an overall resolution to cut unneeded pounds and pick up speed
The Chevrolet sports car first used carbon fiber for a hood on a special commemorative edition of the 2004 Z06.
Now the 2006 version of the Z06 drops the material use on the hood, but instead puts it on two front fenders, the front wheel wells and passenger compartment floor.
``We learned how to do the carbon fiber on that hood and worked our way up to 2,000 of them to really work it out,'' said Dave Hill, vehicle line executive and chief engineer for Corvette. He spoke at the Z06's introduction Jan. 10 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
``We felt we had world-class manufacturing, and now we're doing two [body] panels per car,'' Hill said.
Toray Composites, the carbon fiber supplier that worked with Hill and his team to develop the material used on the hood, will continue supplying material for the latest Z06.
Vermont Composites Inc. has taken on the work of molding the fenders, continuing to tweak the tool making and manufacturing processes in the autoclave production to turn out parts at a high enough volume to meet Corvette's requirements, said Don Lasell, program manager for the Burlington, Vt.-based molder.
``We've done a lot of process development to improve the production,'' he said.
The rest of the race version retains the SMC and reaction injection molded body panels of the standard Corvette.
Overall, the combination of carbon fiber, aluminum and magnesium used in specific places on the vehicle have dropped its overall weight to 3,130 pounds, compared to 3,179 on the standard Corvette.
One of Corvette's original suppliers is responsible for some of the weight reduction. Molded Fiber Glass Cos., the Ashtabula, Ohio, business that built the first Corvette fiberglass bodies, now is placing the first carbon fiber cored flooring on the Z06.
``This is unique,'' said Glen Warner, corporate vice president for MFG. ``The Corvette's got to be lighter, and it's got to be stiffer.''
MFG currently compression molds the floor for the standard Corvette and its Cadillac sister vehicle, the XLR - producing a sandwich structural part that wraps a piece of balsa wood in polyester.
The flooring for the Z06 retains the balsa inner core, but then wraps it in carbon fiber, compression molding the structure in a two-minute cycle.
MFG also will mold the wheel wells for the race version.
The Z06 is geared toward racers, boasting 500 horsepower and a top speed of 190 mph, but Hill said he also wants it to be a car filled with technology that will actually hit the road.
``People are going to buy it and they're going to drive it,'' he said. ``We're not interested in something just to look at.''