Chevrolet introduced the redesigned 2003 version of its muscular sports car early, and a special Anniversary Edition marks the 50th anniversary of the fiberglass-bodied Corvette. The first batch of white Corvettes debuted during the 1953 model year and featured six-cylinder engines and screened headlight covers. Since its debut, the sports car has been through a series of generations; today, the Corvette is an American icon.
Corvettes for 2003 get what Chevrolet calls the industrys fastest, most powerful real-time damping suspension. Called Magnetic Selective Ride Control, the system controls wheel and body motion using Magneto-Rheological fluid in the shock absorbers. By altering the current supplied to an electromagnetic coil inside the dampers piston, fluid consistency can be changed. On bumpy or slick surfaces, the system integrates with traction control to assure maximum stability. According to Chevrolet, its the only suspension-control system with no small parts.
Three Corvette versions are still offered: a hatchback coupe with a removable center roof panel; a convertible with a glass rear window, a defogger and a manually folding top; and the Z06 hardtop, which packs 405 horsepower rather than the usual 350 hp. Chevrolet says the Z06 is ready for the racetrack and is intended to honor Zora Arkus-Duntov, the first Corvette chief engineer.
Standard equipment includes fog lamps, sport seats, a powered passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and a parcel net. The coupe models include a luggage shade. Medium Spiral Gray metallic paint replaces the previous Pewter color. All 2003 Corvettes have special 50th Anniversary badging at the front and rear, and CRAS child-safety seat hooks are installed.
Painted in Anniversary Red, the Special Edition coupe and convertible get unique badging, a Shale interior and champagne-painted anniversary wheels with special emblems. Convertible models have a Shale fabric top. Embroidered badges go on the seats and floormats. All Corvettes are built in Bowling Green, Ky.
This generation of Chevrolets two-seater was last redesigned for the 1997 model year, and the overall styling stands pat for 2003. Familiar styling cues include side air scoops, hidden headlights and quad taillights. Just like their predecessors through the last five decades, the 2003 Corvettes have fiberglass bodies atop a steel frame.
The super-performance Z06 coupe features functional bodyside brake ducting and special alloy wheels with wider tires than usual: P265/40ZR17 in front and P295/35ZR18 at the rear, compared to P245/45ZR17 front and P275/40ZR18 rear tires on the other body styles. The Z06 coupe gets extended-mobility rubber and a can of liquid tire sealer in the trunk, while run-flat tires are installed on the regular coupe and convertible. No spare tire is included.
All Corvettes ride a 104.5-inch wheelbase, measure 179.7 inches long overall and stand just under 48 inches tall. Each model is equipped with an electronic stability system called Active Handling. The dual-function system can apply braking force to individual wheels and also retard engine power in an attempt to keep the vehicle on course during swift turns.
Every Corvette since 1953 has been a two-seater, but todays bucket seats are clad in leather. Interior storage space is at a premium, with a small glove box and a console bin. Standard equipment includes full analog gauges, a low-tire-pressure warning system, an in-dash CD player, a theft-deterrent system and heated power mirrors.
In addition to a more potent engine, the Z06 gets dual-zone automatic climate control and a Bose CD stereo system. A head-up display, which is standard in the Z06 and optional in the other models, projects vehicle speed and other information onto the windshield. Cargo capacity is 24.8 cubic feet in the coupe, 13.9 cubic feet in the convertible and 13.3 cubic feet in the Z06.
Under the Hood
Regular coupes and convertibles carry the 350-hp LS1 5.7-liter V-8 engine, which pumps out 375 pounds-feet of torque with the optional six-speed-manual transmission and 360 pounds-feet with the standard four-speed automatic. The 405-hp LS6 5.7-liter V-8 engine in the Z06 produces 400 pounds-feet of torque and is available only with the six-speed manual.
All-disc antilock brakes and traction control are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available. The Corvettes Active Handling system applies brakes as needed to maintain traction on both wet and dry surfaces.