When Chevrolet unleashed the all-new Corvette C8 Z06 late last year, it shocked the motoring world. Aside from the fact that it looks radical, the new Z06 broke away from tradition by no longer using a supercharged V8.
Instead, Chevrolet equipped the Z06 with a 5.5-liter, naturally-aspirated V8 called the LT6. Despite having a smaller displacement and a slightly lower torque output than the standard 6.2-liter LT2 V8, the 5.5-liter V8 actually makes more power - 670 PS and 623 Nm of torque. Compared to the LT2, the Z06’s engine cranks out 174 additional horses (torque is down only by 14 Nm).
So how was Chevrolet able to make the 5.5-liter V8 engine more powerful than the bigger 6.2-liter V8? Unlike most of Chevrolet’s V8 engines, the LT6 actually uses a flat-plane crankshaft. Compared to traditional V8s with cross-plane cranks, a flat-plane design is lighter and allows the engine to generate power quicker. But how was Chevrolet able to learn how to make V8s with a flat-plane crank?
According to Jordan Lee, General Motors’ Global Chief Engineer for Small Block Engines, they actually bought a used Ferrari 458 Italia engine in order to make their own flat-plane crank V8. No, we’re not kidding.
Speaking with The Drive, Lee told an interesting story about how they were able to get their hands on a Ferrari engine. Back when they were still developing the new Z06 in 2014, the team was interested in what made Ferrari engines tick. However, buying a Ferrari to only get its engine wasn’t exactly a viable option at the time. So they went for the best alternative they could get; buying a wrecked 458’s engine from Poland.
“We wanted a Ferrari 458 engine, to take a look at their components and see what they did. We were able to buy a wrecked car engine from Poland on eBay. We sent them a check for something like $25,000, and we were all pretty pleased and thrilled that the engine actually did show up,” Lee said.
From there, the team got busy disassembling and studying how the 458’s V8 made 570 PS and 540 Nm of torque despite only displacing 4.5-liters. From isolating vibrations from the crankshaft to protect electrical components as well as using smaller bearings and a flat-plane crank, Chevrolet took their time to actually make the LT6 a reality. The engineers were even able to test a prototype Z06 against an actual 458 to benchmark its performance.
While some might say Chevrolet’s method of making the Z06’s flat-plane V8 a reality is unorthodox, you cannot deny the ingenuity behind what the Chevrolet team did to make it happen. This makes us all the more curious as to how other automakers try and one-up each other when it comes to making high-performance machines.