By the time the 2004 Corvette was released, everyone knew the C5 was heading for retirement. Indeed, the motoring press in 2003 was filled with rabid rumors and spy photos of the replacement C6. Sure enough, Chevrolet signaled another changing of the guard with the 2004 Corvettes, which were virtual '03 carryovers except for the addition of tellingly named "Commemorative Edition" packages.

A Commemorative Edition package was available on all 2004 Corvettes.
A Commemorative Edition package was available on all 2004 Corvettes.
It included the LeMans Blue paint as well as special badges inside and out.
See more pictures of Corvettes.

The commemoration celebrated a sterling 2003 season for the racing C5-Rs, which notched a third straight manufacturer's title in the American LeMans Series after just missing a GTS-class three-peat at the LeMans 24 Hours. The Commemorative packages must have been good-luck charms, because C5-Rs won every race they entered in 2004, notching a fourth ALMS championship and a third double victory in France.

All the Commemorative Edition 2004s were finished in vivid LeMans Blue paint with wide red-edged silver stripes adorning the hood, roof, and rear deck. Special "LeMans 24-hours" crossed-flags emblems appeared on the nose and tail, and as embroidered logos on the headrests within a specific shale-colored interior. Polished alloy wheels completed the coupe and convertible ensembles, which cost $3,700 and included all features of the regular 1SB Preferred Equipment Group.

The Commemorative option for the Z06 cost $4,335, but included a unique (and costly) carbon-fiber hood that took a useful 10.6 pounds off the nose. Also featured were special clear-coat wheels with hubs reading "Commemorative 24:00 Heures du Mans." In addition, testing at Germany's famed Nürburgring track produced revised damping for the Sachs gas-pressure shock absorbers, stiffer bushings for the front upper-control arms, and softer bushings for the rear antiroll bar. Together, these tweaks aimed to "settle" the Z06 more quickly in fast transient maneuvers -- and they did.

As Frank Markus enthused in Car and Driver's September 2003 review: "[The Z06's] steering response is [now] so much quicker it's hard to believe the ratio is the same [as in other Corvettes]. Its weight is within 141 pounds of [other models], yet it feels like hundreds less. Its structure also feels twice as rigid. Yes, it filters out less road noise and harshness, but at least each bump is felt just once.... Grip is astonishing" -- Markus reported a leech-like 0.98g -- "but these wide paws tend to wander a bit along pavement ruts. This chassis is also exceptionally well tuned to the active handling system's competitive-driving mode.... The [Commemorative] Z06 is clearly the [Corvette] that best rewards expert driving."

2004 Corvette Z06 models with the Commemorative Edition package got the first stock carbon-fiber hood offered in North America.
2004 Corvette Z06 models with the Commemorative Edition package got the first
stock carbon-fiber hood offered in North America, as well as special chassis tuning.

Or just good ol' pedal-to-the-metal driving, for that matter. Motor Trend lauded the Commemorative Z06 as the fastest showroom Corvette it had ever tested, timing just 4.2 seconds 0-60 and a standing quarter mile of 12.4 seconds at 117 mph. All this, plus GM's usual three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

The one sour note to the tasty Commemorative confections was deliberately limited production: a mere 2,000 Z06s, perhaps twice that many coupes and convertibles. But whatever one may think about "factory collector cars," this was a fine sendoff for a highly successful Corvette generation.

Of course, success can be defined in many ways, but consider that nearly a quarter-million C5s were built over eight model years. That averages out to some 34,000 yearly sales, the best Corvette performance since the mid Eighties. What's more, the C5 added a slew of awards to the Corvette's bulging trophy case -- besides all those racing cups. An independent panel of automotive journalists named the 1998 Corvette the North American Car of the Year. The C5 was also Motor Trend's Car of the Year in 1998, Automobile magazine's "Automobile of the Year" in 2001, and on Car and Driver's annual 10 Best List in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Last but not least, the C5 was a perennial Consumer Guide® "Best Buy" among sports cars.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1997 Corvette1998 Corvette1999 Corvette
2000 Corvette
2001 Corvette2002 Corvette
2003 Corvette2004 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

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