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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.

Corvette ZR1 exposed carbon fiber roof. X11CH_CR084L (10/27/2010) (United States)
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."