Wilmer "Wil" Cooksey was named manager of the world's only Corvette plant in February, 1993. As a lifelong fan of the amazing sports car, it was a dream job come true.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Cooksey received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Tennessee State University in 1965. He earned a Master's degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Toledo in 1972 and completed post graduate work in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University.
Cooksey's General Motors career began with his first job as an assistant professor in industrial engineering at GMI in Flint, Michigan. In 1976 he transferred to the St. Louis plant where he held several positions before being transferred to the Doraville plant in Atlanta. After working at various superintendent positions at Doraville, he was named the production manager at the Fairfax plant, the position he held until his move to Corvette Plant Manager in 1993.
In 1997 Cooksey received the "Black Engineer of the Year President's Award." Also in 1997, Austin Peay University named him "Achiever of the Year" in their Focus Program. He has been honored as an Outstanding Graduate of Tennessee State and named a "Black Achiever in the Industry" by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Wil Cooksey retired from General Motors in 2008, and in celebration of his tenure there, GM honored him by manufacturing 505 427-Limited Edition Corvettes. Mr. Cooksey will be celebrated by Corvette enthusiasts the world over for his contributions to this amazing sports car and community.
In his free time, Mr. Cooksey likes excitement. His hobbies include drag racing and flying airplanes. He resides in Bowling Green with his wife, Elizabeth, a teacher at Western Kentucky University. They have two children, David and Crissy. Wil's passion is working on and racing his Corvette race car.
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The arrival of the 2008 Corvette was met by a volatile U.S. economy with a very uncertain future. U.S. mortgage-backed securities, which were marketed around the world, carried hard to assess financial risks. These risks proved to have an enormously adverse impact to lending institutions around the globe, as banks watched the securities they had tied to real estate begin to plummet. With loan losses mounting and the fall of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, a major panic broke out on the inter-bank loan market. Housing prices and stock shares declined, causing many large and well established investment and commercial banks in the United States and Europe to suffer huge financial losses – and others to face the real possibility of bankruptcy.
The financial crisis, which would become known as the “Great Recession,” would quickly spread beyond the housing and investment markets. In just a matter of months, the financial decline would begin to have an adverse impact on almost all consumer markets. It stood to reason that as housing market values plummeted and the strength of the dollar diminished, American consumers would understandably become increasingly reluctant to spend money. This recessionary decline in spending would hurt commercial and retail businesses around the globe, and would cause a sharp drop in new car sales within the United States automotive markets.
Despite this rapidly approaching recession, management at Chevrolet persevered, even though sales and stock value were beginning to plummet. The funding and development behind the Corvette persevered as well, even though the sales numbers for the 2008 Corvette would ultimately reflect the financial strain being experienced by General Motors, the nation and, indeed, the world.
The most notable advancement of the 2008 Corvette model year was the news that Chevrolet had developed another evolution of its legendary small-block engine. The new engine was designated the LS3, and would become the standard engine for both the base coupe and convertible models. The LS3 included a size increase from 364 cubic-inches (6.0L) of the LS2 to 376 cubic-inches (6.2L). In addition to increased size and displacement, the engine also received a thirty-horsepower increase. The LS2 featured high-flow fuel injectors and cylinder heads like those found on the Z06’s LS7 engne. They featured a large-valve, large port design with larger, straighter intake ports. The engine’s intake va
valves featured hollow stems with nine-percent larger diameters. The camshaft provided a five-percent increase in valve lift. Outwardly, the LS3’s beauty covers and composite intake manifolds had acoustically tuned sections that were used to dampen and tune valve train noise.
The LS3 engine was developed to operate at a slightly lower compression ratio than the LS2. This ability to operate at a lower compression ratio was developed to accommodate GM’s interest in making all of the vehicles in their fleet capable of operating on E85 ethanol-blended fuel. Despite this, the LS3 produced 430 brake horsepower and 424 foot-pounds of torque, both peaking at 5,900rpm, providing unprecedented performance numbers for an engine that was intended for the base model coupe and convertible.
An optional Dual Mode Exhaust System (RPO NPP) was also introduced for coupes and convertibles. The system used vacuum-actuated outlet valves controlled by engine RPM and throttle position. This system included 2.5-inch diameter pipes, and introduced a more aggressive sounding exhaust note. When installed, the Dual Mode Exhaust System increased the LS3 engine output to 436-horsepower and 428 foot-pounds of torque.
Although the actual transmission designations remained the same, there were improvements made to both the manual and automatic transmissions used on the coupe and convertible models. For the manual gearbox, the transmission linkage had shorter fore-aft travel. The automatic transmission had hardware and software changes made to it that resulted in quicker manual paddle shifts. Additionally, a 2.73:1 performance axle was provided (as an option) with automatic transmissions, and came included standard when the combination of an automatic transmission combined with the Z51 performance package were ordered.
The 2008 Corvette’s steering feel was improved through the use of more precise machining, a stiffer intermediate shaft, and revised controller calibrations. These improvements created a more enjoyable driving experience for consumers, especially when piloting the Corvette during extreme driving conditions.
Outwardly, there were few notable cosmetic changes to the exterior of the car. However, the wheels offered with the 2008 Corvette received some notable improvements. New for the model year was a split-spoke wheel that came standard on all coupes and convertibles. This base wheel was painted Sparkle Silver (a color which debuted with the 2007 Indy Pace Car replica), though it could also be optioned in Competition Gray. A five-spoke forged wheel was also optional for 2008, and it could be ordered in either a polished or chrome finish. The wheels on the Z06 model remained the same as the previous model year, except for those that were offered on the 427- Limited Edition Z06.
The 427-Limited Edition Z06 Corvette Coupe was created in commemoration of retiring Bowling Green Corvette Plant Manager Wil Cooksey. The car came in a Crystal Red exterior paint, and featured a Dark Titanium customer interior, “spider” chrome wheels and special trim and graphics. All 505 units produced were autographed by Wil Cooksey, making the car more collectible than other Z06 Corvettes built that year because of the unique signature each of the Limited Edition Z06’s possessed.
Although the interiors were still very much a carryover from the 2007 model, the 2008 Corvette interior did receive some updated appointments worth noting. One notable revision to the 2008 model was that the interiors were revised with a new wrapped “cyber” graphic pattern console trim plate, along with bright surrounds for the cupholder and manual shifter, and a brushed aluminum shifter and door release trim. Metal door sill plates were introduced (though they first made their appearance in the middle of the 2007 production run.) The floor mat retainers were simplified. While not strictly a feature of the interior, the 2008 Corvette’s remote key fob now included a concealed door key with a small, sliding compartment.
In addition to these refinements, the 2008 Corvette also offered consumers a greater level of standard options including OnStar, XM Radio, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with built-in compass. All radios, except those equipped with a navigation system, also included an MP3 audio jack.
For Corvettes equipped with the 3LZ and 4LT convenience packages, the Corvette interiors received additional refinements including a leather-wrapped instrument panel, door panels, and console. The console trim featured a unique bias-graphic pattern. The 4LT package also included cross-flag headrest embroidery on both the driver and passenger seats. The leather wrap options was offered to all models built with either Linen, Sienna, or Ebony interior color options.
In addition to the 427-Limited Edition Z06 listed above, there were a couple of other special edition Corvettes that made their appearance as part of the 2008 lineup. As with the 2007 model year, GM once again offered a special edition Indy Pace Car model, though for the first time, the car – available as both a coupe and convertible - could be ordered in one of two special paint schemes. The first design was based on the actual 2008 Indy 500 pace car. This special Z06 Corvette was unique in that it paced the Indianapolis 500 while running on E85 (ethanol) fuel. The second pace car design featured a special silver/black paint scheme in commemoration of the famous 1978 Corvette Pace Car model. Both pace car variations included special Titanium seats and Z06 spoilers. All of the pace cars were specially numbered and signed by Emerson Fittipaldi.
In addition the Indy Pace Car models, GM also created a special edition Corvette for the Hertz car rental company. Known as the ZHZ Coupe (RPO ZHZ), 500 special edition Corvettes were produced exclusively for the Hertz Fun Club rental program. All 500 units produced in 2008 were targa-topped coupes that came finished in Velocity Yellow with a broad, black stripe that ran the length of the hood and roof. Mechanically, the car came equipped with the LS3 engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters), vacuum actuated valve exhaust, the F55 suspension package and unique, 7-spoke chrome wheels.
Motor Trend test drove a 2008 Corvette Z51 Coupe in September, 2007, and produced some impressive performance numbers, though perhaps not quite as impressive as might have been expected given the LS3’s increase in horsepower from the previous year’s LS2. In short, Motor Trend clocked the Z51 coupe with a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds, a 0-100 time of 9.5 seconds, and an impressive 12.5-second quarter-mile at 115 miles per hour. Per Motor Trend’s article on the 2008 Corvette, these performance numbers “line up almost perfectly with those of (the) best 2002 C5-generation Z06. No surprise, really – that car made, ahem, ‘only’ 405 horsepower and 400 pounds-feet of torque.” Adding to the impressive performance numbers recorded by Motor Trend, Autoblog.com reported that the 2008 Corvette coupe – the base model – could now reach a top speed of 190 miles per hour!
Unfortunately, not even the most impressive performance numbers in the world could outweigh the critical reality of the U.S. economy. By the end of 2008, unemployment was soaring, and consumer spending continued to diminish as millions lost their homes and credit dried up for both indivduals and businesses. The “Great Recession” had taken hold, and its effects were felt in every market. This was very evident in Corvette’s dwindling sales numbers. For 2008, Chevrolet sold 20,030 coupes, 7,731 Z06 Coupes, and a mere 7,549 Convertibles, bringing the total units that year to 35,310 cars – a decline of more than 5,000 units from the previous model year.
Still, while the 2008 model year suffered because of a global economic downturn, the engineers and designers at Corvette were continuing to work closely with the Corvette Racing program to develop some of the most innovative and exciting technology ever seen in the history of the car. The results of this effort were clearly demonstrated when Corvette Racing ended its final full season in the GT1 class of the American Le Mans Series with a drivers championship – won by drivers Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Although the 2008 ALMS season marked the end of Corvette Racing’s 10th year in GT1 category, both the No. 3 of Magnussen and O’ Connell,
Similarly, the development of the ZR1 would continue in earnest throughout 2008, giving rise to some criticism against GM for developing what was assured to be the costliest, and the most powerful, Corvette of all time. The “Blue Devil” was about to emerge – but many were questioning if its arrival would coincide with the financial collapse of General Motors – leading some to speculate that the Corvette program might be in serious jeopardy. Little did anyone realize, for how could they, that GM was on a track that would catapult the Corvette to levels of performance and popularity even greater than anything seen in its now fifty-five year history.
1.) Corvette Black Book - Copyright 2014, Michael Bruce Associates, Inc.
2.) The Complete Book of Corvette, Every Model Since 1953 - Copyright 2005, Mike Mueller - MBI Publishing
3.) www.corvettemuseum.org/specs/2008 - "New for 2008" Web Page - Copyright 2014, National Corvette Museum
The Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans, the home of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, embraces some of the most recognizable names in motorsports. Road racing enthusiasts around the world revere Tertre Rouge, Mulsanne Corner, Arnage and the Indianapolis Corner.
In 2008, a new name has been added to this honor roll: the Corvette Curves. The Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organizer of the world's most famous sports car race, recognized Corvette's rich racing heritage by naming the section of the Le Mans circuit between Virage Du Pont and Maison Blanche in honor of America's iconic performance car.
"Success at Le Mans has played an important role in establishing the performance reputations of automobile manufacturers since the first 24 Hours of Le Mans was contested in 1923," said Ed Peper, GM North America Vice President, Chevrolet.
"Chevrolet is truly honored that the ACO has recognized Corvette's contribution to Le Mans' racing legacy by naming the Corvette Curves in perpetuity. It's a distinction that will forever link Corvette with this prestigious event."
The arrival of Chevrolet's factory Corvette Racing team at Le Mans in 2000 signaled the start of a new dynasty in the production-based GT1 category. Prior to the 2008 running of the 24 Hours of LeMans, Corvette Racing has scored five wins (including four one-two finishes) and 13 podium finishes in the GT1 class.
The Corvette Racing Teams would again have a podium finish at LeMans as they took second and third place podium finishes at the prestigious race in the summer of 2008. Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows completed 344 laps in their No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R, finishing on the lead lap with the winning No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9 of David Brabham, Antonio Garcia, and Darren Turner. The No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis finished third with 341 laps completed.