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GM to let '11 Corvette buyers build own engines

Image: Chevrolet Corvette, Auto Show
At $100,000 for a top-end model, why not invest a little sweat equity?Jim Prisching / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Corvette owners could soon be revving up an engine they built with their own hands.

General Motors Co. said Monday that buyers who order a 2011 Corvette Z06 or ZR1 can help assemble their cars' high-performance LS7 and LS9 engines. The automaker believes the program is the first of its kind in the industry.

The engines will be built at GM's Performance Build Center in Wixom, Mich., where GM assembles all of its high-performance engines by hand. The facility can assemble up to 15,000 engines per year, GM spokesman Tom Read said.

Read said it will take buyers about six hours to assemble, adjust and clean their engines with the parts provided. A skilled technician will supervise.

The 2011 Corvettes are just going into production and will go on sale soon. Read said the company expects to have customers building their own engines as soon as next month. GM sold 13,934 Corvettes last year, according to AutoData Corp.

GM suggests dealers charge $5,800 for the engine-building program, which doesn't include air transportation but does include one night of lodging. But that's just a fraction of the cost of a Corvette Z06, which starts at around $75,000, or a ZR1, which is more than $100,000.

The engine-building program joins a list of special options available exclusively to Corvette owners. ZR1 buyers can attend free Corvette driving courses in Arizona or Nevada, for example. For a fee, Corvette buyers can also have their sports cars delivered to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., or watch their Corvettes be built at the Bowling Green assembly plant.

Read said the program shows the lengths Chevrolet will go to for its customers. The program could also help build positive buzz for the company, which is planning an initial public offering as early as October.

The U.S. Treasury Department has owned 61 percent of the automaker after a brief stay in bankruptcy protection last year.