Leno gets ‘green and mean’ with E85-capable Corvette

  • 31-Mar-2008 05:55 EDT
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Katech built the Corvette C6RS’ custom 8.2-L all-aluminum small-block V8 that produces 600 hp (448 kW) and 585 lb·ft (793 N·m).

Following in the footsteps of the biodiesel-powered EcoJet introduced at last year’s SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) convention in Las Vegas, “Tonight Show” host and green-driving enthusiast Jay Leno used the occasion of this year’s show to introduce the Chevrolet Corvette Z06-inspired C6RS capable of running on E85 ethanol.

“The C6RS is the result of an idea we hatched to prove that high-performance cars and alternative fuel technology weren’t diametrically opposed concepts,” Leno said. “I love the idea of having 600 hp at my disposal but using a homegrown alternative to gasoline.”

To help build the supercar, Leno partnered with Pratt & Miller Engineering, the company responsible for the C6.R racecars that have raced to five victories in the GT class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and seven consecutive American Le Mans Series championships.

On the outside, Leno’s finished product is strongly inspired by its racecar brethren, with wider front and rear fenders and a wider rear fascia with an integrated spoiler on top and a racing-style diffuser at the bottom. Other aerodynamic enhancements include functional front fender louvers, a carbon-fiber underwing, enlarged front wheel vents and rear brake ducts, and a front splitter. The body, made entirely of carbon fiber, measures 1.6 in (41 mm) wider than stock.

“Every body modification has a purpose,” said Gary Pratt, co-owner of Pratt & Miller Engineering. “The features were modeled on the C6.R racecars, and there are no nonfunctional styling elements.”

Rather than convert a stock LS7 engine to E85 capability, Katech Engines, the company that builds the engines for the C6.R program, built a custom 8.2-L all-aluminum small-block V8 that produces 600 hp (448 kW) and 585 lb·ft (793 N·m) of torque.

The engine is built around a custom cylinder block that was CNC-milled from a single block of billet aluminum. While the cylinder heads, intake system, and dry-sump oiling system are stock LS7 components, a one-off reciprocating assembly, which includes a forged steel crankshaft, forged rods, and forged pistons, is employed to accommodate the larger bore and stroke dimensions than the 7.0-L LS7.

The engine is supported by a blueprinted and strengthened T-56 six-speed transmission and a high-performance Centerforce dual-friction clutch. The fuel system and engine control computer have been modified to accommodate E85. The custom-built Corsa stainless steel exhaust system employs the company’s Reflective Sound Cancellation technology to optimize interior and exterior sound quality.

Pratt & Miller also upgraded the C6RS’ chassis, incorporating a Dynamic Height Control (DHC) suspension system from ArvinMeritor. The DHC technology uses an electronically controlled air shock system and features aluminum monotube air shocks and a controller with proprietary software that interfaces with the car’s electronic control unit to automatically provide optimum ride height under all driving conditions.

The control logic in the DHC system automatically lowers and rakes the vehicle at higher speed for increased stability and improved aerodynamics. The system can also be driver-controlled at lower speeds to accommodate for added ground clearance when negotiating steep inclines.

Tires, wheels, and brakes come from the same suppliers as on C6.R racecars. The BBS forged aluminum wheels—18-in front and 19-in rear—feature racing-style locking center hubs and are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport tires. The Brembo Grand Tourismo brake system uses six-piston monoblock front calipers with 14-in (356-mm) rotors and four-piston monoblock rear calipers with 13.5-in (343-mm) rotors.

On the interior, a Dynamat sound insulation system is used, and premium leather with French seams covers the instrument panel, doors, console, steering wheel, and seats, supplied by Lear.

Pratt & Miller recently announced plans to build 25 production versions in 2008; however, they will not be E85-capable. The vehicles, which have already been reserved, are expected to cost $185,000, plus the cost of a base Corvette convertible, C6 coupe, or Z06.

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