GM engineers develop sunscreen for the Corvette

Corvette's exposed-weave carbon fiber is protected from the sun's harmful rays with a special clear coat.

Suzanne Ashe
Suzanne Ashe has been covering technology, gadgets, video games, and cars for several years. In addition to writing features and reviews for magazines and Web sites, she has contributed to daily newspapers.
Suzanne Ashe

Corvette ZR1 exposed carbon-fiber roof is very sensitive to the sun's harmful rays. GM

Exposed-weave carbon fiber now has a fighting chance against UV rays. The lightweight material, used to give the Corvette better speed and handling, can be protected by a new clear coat that is sprayed on like paint.

This industry-first technology acts as a sunscreen for the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. "Everyone said it couldn't be done, and we were crazy for trying," Mark Voss, senior design engineer for the ZR1 said today in a press announcement. He and his team worked for three years on their own time to develop the clear coat.

Carbon fiber is one-fifth the weight of steel and one-third the mass of traditional composite panels. That makes, for example, a lighter, more fuel-efficient Corvette C6.R race car. The car also benefits from a lower center of gravity for better handling on the track.

Drivers of the street-legal ZR1 will reap the benefits, too, because the carbon-fiber roof panel, roof bow, rocker moldings and front fascia splitter won't degrade in the sun.

"Our challenge was finding a way to give our customers exposed-weave carbon fiber with the durability they have come to expect from a Corvette," Voss said. "Other automakers have opted for fake attempts at a carbon-fiber look. With the Corvette ZR1, we wanted to give customers the real deal."