Instant Gratification: C5 Corvette Coilover Suspension Upgrade
In recent years, the C5 Corvette Z06 has become a poster child for affordable performance. Available with as much as 405hp from the factory tuned LS6 V8, the Z06 offers modern levels of acceleration and brute force for well under $30k for a well kept example, and sub-$20k for a project. And while the interior and exterior aesthetics may be dated, there are few other vehicles that offer a similar, exciting driving experience for so little money.
But there’s always room for improvement. The C5 Corvette suspension maintained the use of lightweight composite leaf springs mounted at the front and the rear of the vehicle, much different than the heavier steel coil designs found on most contemporary sports cars. While this setup sufficed in the early 2000’s, suspension technology has come a long way since the late '90s.
Always Room for Improvement
A newcomer to Corvette ownership, owner Anthony McConnell was drawn to the Z06 for the same reasons as every other enthusiast, but quickly developed a desire for a lower stance and sharper handling. His first attempt was to use aftermarket lowering bolts, a cost efficient way to lower C5 Corvettes. Unfortunately, that ultimately didn’t provide the look and performance he was looking for.
“I installed my wheels and lowered the car using aftermarket hardware and it just didn't sit right. The front was about 2" too high for my tastes,” he said. “I reached out to the local Corvette community and online, and everyone had the same answer: Silver’s NEOMAX coilovers were the go-to.”
For most modern cars, swapping from a coil spring and shock setup to a coilover is usually a pretty straightforward process. Converting the C5 Z06 to coilovers, however, is a little more tricky. Anthony recalled the process, “The installation was a pain in the butt to be honest. For those who don't know, the Corvette has a transverse fiberglass reinforced plastic leaf spring that basically goes from LCA to LCA; there is no coil on strut setup. So removal of the leaf springs, UCAs, LCAs and install of a hybrid coil on strut that replaces just the strut was unusual."
"The top of the new suspension is a ball joint for the strut mounting pad. The only difficult part was the fact the ball joint didn't move very freely. I had to test fit, pull it back out and adjust the joint over and over in order to get the bolts/nuts to line up to avoid cross threading,” Anthony said.
From "Good Enough" to Great
After an alignment and some tweaking of the 24 levels of damping adjustability, Anthony has been pleased with the increase in performance. “The handling in the car is tremendously better,” he noted. “The ride quality is also much better. Lowering the car on stock bolts or aftermarket bolts ruins the handling quality across the board.”
Silver’s offers the Neomax with four different spring rates, from 12k/8k for a softer, daily driver, to a stiff 14k/10k drift setup. Anthony opted for the suggested 12k/10k sweet spot. “My only complaint is I wish I went with the stiffer springs I had originally ordered,” he said.
“When we photographed the car, it rubbed a lot due to my floorjack being in the trunk. The extra weight is just too much for these springs. Bottom line, get stiffer springs if you're a big boy and want to carry a load in the trunk ”
Best Bang for the Buck Upgrade
That being said, the coilovers were a transformative move for what ultimately wasn’t a ton of money. Anthony said that he has around $1800 invested in the project with the alignment and doing the install himself. In the future, he plans to stiffen things up a little more with an upgraded sway bar.
While a Z06 will always be a perfectly competent car for the price range with the stock suspension, a coilover conversion brings the car fully into the 21st century. Enthusiasts have been swapping LS motors into more current platforms for years to try to combine American power with modern handling characteristics, but swapping the modern suspension into the Corvette is a much more efficient way of getting that combo.
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