In 1999, GM got serious about a factory-backed Corvette racing team. After two seasons of sorting out the new car, the C5-R became a dominant force in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The team took the GTS class at Le Mans in 2001 and 2002, with a runner-up finish in 2003. In total, the C5-Rs won First Place in 8 out of 10 races in 2001, 10 out of 11 races in 2002, and 5 out of 10 races in 2003.

The '04 Commemorative Edition Corvette was designed to celebrate the C5-R's success. Unlike the '03 50th Anniversary Edition, this package was available on all '04 Vettes, and it accounted for 20 percent of all sales that year. The price for the coupe and con-vertible package was $3,700, or $4,335 for the Z06. Included was dedicated Le Mans blue paint with silver and red stripes on the hood, roof, and rear deck. Special badges and wheel centers were also included, and the standard Z06 wheels were polished. The Z06 version was the first American production car to use an exterior carbon-fiber body part. Coupes and roadsters received special two-tone shale interiors, while Z06s had all-black interiors. The package included a heads-up display, a power telescoping steering column, auto dimmer mirrors, a memory package, and a twilight sentinel system.

Thanks to the success of the C5-Rs and, later, the C6.Rs, Ron Fellows became a Corvette racing legend. The Canadian driver took two class wins at Le Mans, three ALMS championships, and was voted most popular driver every year from 2004 through 2007. To celebrate Fellows' success, Chevrolet created the '07 Ron Fellows Z06 Special Edition. Only 498 units were built-399 for domestic sales, 33 for Canada, and 66 for the rest of the world. Priced at $77,500 ($11,035 more than the base Z06), this was the most expensive Vette since the '95 ZR-1. Unique to the car were the Arctic White paint and Grand Sport-inspired red front-fender hash marks with subtle Canadian maple-leaf graphics. Sporting a full-width rear spoiler and a unique windshield banner, the car was a real head-turner. Fellows signed every unit, making this the first "signature series" production Corvette ever offered.

For 2008, Chevy offered the 427 Limited Edition Z06. Most obvious with this special edition were its brilliant Crystal Red Tintcoat paint with contrasting, Stinger-inspired black hood stripes; classic 427 badges; and new, "Spider"-styled chrome wheels. Inside the Dark Titanium interior, every console armrest was signed and numbered by retiring Bowling Green plant manager Wil Cooksey. The 3LZ option package included everything but the Bose Navigation System. This car had the brute force to back up its stunning good looks.

Another '08 special-edition Vette could only be rented, albeit for a cost of around $150 per day. A total of 500 ZHZ coupes and roadsters were built that year as part of the Hertz Fun Collection. Thanks to its Velocity Yellow paint; bold, black stripes; rear deck spoiler; and seven-spoke chrome wheels, this car was impossible to miss. Each one came with the paddle-shift six-speed automatic, Magnetic Selective Ride Control System, and Sirius Satellite Radio. Today, used ZHZ cars are not easy to come by.

Continuing the racing theme, the '09 Competition Editions offered motorsports fans and driving-event attendees some cool racing trim on Z51 and Z06 models. The $55,655 Z51 cars received the differential cooler, Dual Mode Exhaust, and heads-up display options. The Z06 was already loaded, so no additional hardware was included. Visual enhancements included a wide Z06 rear spoiler (on the Z51 version), racing stripes, a yellow windshield banner, red brake calipers, a special engine cover, and "Jake" skull badges. The Z51s were available in Arctic White or Blade Silver, while the Z06s were offered in Blade Silver or Black. Interiors were trimmed in Ebony with titanium embroidery, a Jake shifter knob, and Corvette Racing pedals. Owners could even get specially designed racing numbers. But the market wasn't in the mood, and only 72 cars were built, making these the rarest of all special-edition Corvettes.

Designed as a salute to 10 years of ALMS racing success, the GT1 Championship Edition was available on the coupe, convertible, and Z06. The Velocity Yellow cars received black stripes with silver trim, and the Black cars featured yellow stripes with silver trim. The hood graphics included a "ghosted" image of Corvette Racing's Jake mascot, while the class-championship years and each of the drivers' national flags appeared on the roof. The coupe version went for $65,310, the convertible cost $71,815, and the Z06 brought $86,385. Chevrolet planned 600 units, but only 125 were produced.

Marking the 50th anniversary of first Corvette appearance at Le Mans is the '11 Carbon Edition Z06. Essentially, this is a Z06 with the ZR1 chassis and some of the ZR1's carbon-fiber body parts. Available in either Supersonic Blue or Inferno Orange-with black-painted ZR1 wheels, front splitter, and side rockers-this is one smokin' hot Vette. The ZR1 suspension and carbon-ceramic brakes allow the Carbon Edition's LS7 engine to flex its muscles even harder on the track. The interior is all business, trimmed in black leather and suede. As of this writing, no price has been announced, but speculation puts the figure between $85,000 and $90,000. Production will be limited to no more than 500 units.

The Corvette has evolved into GM's halo performance car, and the special editions provide an additional dose of high-end appeal. Some of these cars were produced in the thousands, others in the hundreds, and a few in the tens. If you're considering a new special-edition Vette, be sure to get the R8C Corvette Museum Delivery option. The experience and extra documentation are a worthwhile investment in what's already an exceptional automobile.

For reproductions of this and previous Designer Series articles, go to www.illustrated corvetteseries.com.

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