Northern Exposure
When they're not tinkering with CAD renderings or schmoozing with enthusiasts, Corvette engineering-team members subject our favorite car to some pretty abusive treatment. Each new model undergoes an extensive testing regime to root out problems that need to be fixed before the car is released to the public. Take this Precision Red C6 coupe, which now resides in the National Corvette Museum. The car started life as a Manufacturing Validation Build (MVB). MVB cars are built at Bowling Green prior to the start of regular production. This one was produced in early 2004 as an '05 model and carries VIN 00061. Spec'd out with a four-speed automatic and a 400hp LS2 engine, it led a brutal existence throughout 2005 as a suspension-development mule.

Later, the car was reconfigured to '06 specifications. It then saw duty at various racetracks-including VIR, Homestead Speedway, Spring Mountain, Moroso Motorsports Park, and Roebling Road-as part of the development process on the new six-speed automatic trans. "Ol' Number 61," as the car came to be known, also prowled the Autobahn and was even tested on the Nrburgring. In 2007 the car was again rebuilt, this time to '08 specs, which included an improved version of the six-speed auto and the 430hp LS3. In this guise, it was used to validate the retuned-for-'08 traction-control and stability systems. It was also sent to the upper peninsula of Michigan in winter for cold-weather testing.

By the time its test cycle was completed, the engineers had grown very fond of Ol' Number 61. So when they were contacted by Car and Driver magazine regarding an unorthodox story idea, they volunteered the well-used coupe. The magazine wanted to reprise an Alaska Highway trip and travelogue that former Editor Brock Yates had performed years earlier in a '76 Corvette. Because the modern Alaska Highway is paved and clotted with motor homes, the magazine selected an unpaved 484-mile route called the "Dempster Highway" that started in Dawson City.

Before the Vette was shipped to the magazine, Corvette engineers performed a few modifications. These included raising the ride height 0.075 inch and adding a metal roof rack to hold a spare front tire and two 5-gallon fuel jugs. The team also installed windshield stone deflectors, a brush guard, a bra, and a pair of zillion-candle-power lights, which were to be illuminated at all times. The 968-mile round trip from Dawson City to Inuvik and back was an engineer's worst nightmare. Nevertheless, the Corvette survived with no flat tires and only a crack in its windshield and some broken turn-signal bulbs. Once the trip was done, engineers drove the car 4,000 miles back to Michigan. Later, it was put on display, unwashed, at the NCM, where it's finally getting the rest it deserves.