GM to Allow Corvette Buyers to Build Their Own Engines
By Chris Haak
A few years ago, I wanted to buy a new Corvette in the worst way. I stalked the Internet forums about them, visited dealer websites daily, went to Corvettes at Carlisle, and even contacted my insurance agent to get a quote on how much comprehensive and collision coverage would cost on one. Then I looked in the rearview mirror and saw two little boys sitting in their car seats, looked to my right and saw my wife’s smiling face next to me, then looked at my bank statement, and realized that this was a dream to be realized later in life. So I bought a Cadillac CTS instead; it has four doors, after all.
In my year-plus of online Corvette research, I learned about several of the programs that GM offers for buyers of new Corvettes. You can watch your specific car be built in the company’s Bowling Green, Kentucky plant, and you can have your new Corvette delivered to you at the adjacent National Corvette Museum, then you can drive it home. Also, buyers of new ZR1s receive a two-day driving instruction course as part of the car’s purchase price at one of two official driving instruction schools.
The latest offering from GM takes the owner involvement concept to another level. Buyers of new Z06 and ZR1s may opt to build their car’s engines at GM’s Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan. These two models are the only ones included in the program because their engines are hand-built. The other Corvette engine choice, the naturally-aspirated 6.2 liter LS3 V8, is built using regular production processes.
For the privilege of building your own engine, GM is asking $5,800. Rather than watching a technician build your engine, you will do much of the work yourself, under the watchful eye of a master engine builder. Each LS7 (7.0 liter V8 from the Z06) and LS9 (6.2 liter supercharged V8 from the ZR1) is built by a single engine builder, not in an assembly line fashion where each worker installs a single part.
Your hand-built engine receives a custom nameplate identifying its builder, and is then shipped from Wixom to Bowling Green for installation in your new Corvette – which, as mentioned earlier, you can observe being assembled and pick up at the factory. Engines built by customers under this program are still covered by GM’s five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Last fall, Autoblog’s by Sam Abuelsamid had a chance to experience this engine build process, which he did a great job of documenting here. It is likely that his experience was a sort of beta test by GM to see if this program would work as planned, having non-experts do very detailed work, but under the tutelage of someone who really knows his or her job well.
While this program sounds like a neat thing to experience, with its hefty price tag, I think I’d personally pass on it. Of course, having already seen the National Corvette Museum, I don’t think I’d ante up just a few hundred dollars for a build tour or museum delivery either. That money could have gone into options or upgrades in my fantasy Corvette. That dream car is done in LeMans Blue with polished aluminum wheels, by the way.