By on September 4, 2012


Neil Armstrong died on August 25th of this year and the nation mourned, doubly so. First for the man, and second for what he stood for: hero, explorer, icon of a time when all that was best in America rose up on a pillar of smoke and flame to dance among the heavens.

The astronauts, of course, all drove Corvettes. GM gave a white ’62 to first-flyer Alan Shepard upon his return to Earth, then a Florida dealership provided subsequent one-year leasing deals to put astronauts behind the wheel of the latest models – clever PR for sure, and yet it seemed a perfect fit. While the very first ‘Vettes were more Piper Cub than Bell X-1, those that would be piloted by the likes of Gus Grissom and Alan Bean had the Right Stuff; the fastest and best machines America could produce.

Sixty years after GM built the first Corvette (and about fifty-six since they got the recipe right), here we are with an explorer on Mars, and it’s a robot with a sarcastic twitter feed. Heroes are scarce; the cult of celebrity now shines a spotlight on the kind of people you’d cross the street to avoid. And as for the Corvette?

This convertible is the final sortie for the C6 ‘Vette; in production since 2005, the sixth-gen Corvette is now almost entirely overshadowed by the strong-selling Camaro. Rumors about the C7 flit about the internet at the speed of conjecture, but if you’d check the click-count, I’d warrant more attention is drawn by war-correspondence on the battle between the ludicrously powerful supercharged pony cars.

Still, there’s no denying the old girl’s a stunner. It’s not really a Z06 convertible, more a Grand Sport with extra add-ons like carbon-fibre body panels. Still, between the enormous alloys and serving-platter brakes, power bulge of the hood (also carbon-fibre), and those twin grey-blue stripes on the ethereal-white body, you can tell this car is something special: a tarmac speedboat.

It is, per expectation, as plastic as Heidi Montag’s left breast. Prodding the rear bumper lightly makes for some alarming flex. There’s little sense that this car is precision-engineered or built to last.

But then, these are the rules of Corvette-dom. ‘Vettes are a big Chevy V8 up front, rear-wheel-drive out back, flimsy body in-between and a woeful interior on the inside. Speaking of which…

It does not do to complain about the inside of a C6 Corvette overmuch. Everything you’ve heard about for the past eight years is true – the navigation system is dated, the quality of the materials seems unequal to the price-tag, and there are a whole host of minor annoyances. The top, for instance, has a manual latch that’s a bit fiddly and the power-folding mechanism balked several times.

But we know all this. We’ve had these shortcomings outlined to us time and time again until they’ve become gospel. Corvettes are fast, but they’re tacky. They’re uncouth. Someday the C7 might correct the short-comings, but the C6 just doesn’t measure up to European standard. Right?

Somehow, sitting in the 427, none of these “truths” seem to matter. Just as it looks from the exterior, the inside feels like that of a cigarette boat. Yes, the seats are more comfortable than well-bolstered, but this is a street-car, not a track-special coupe.

Already feeling preconceptions melting away, I push in the clutch and press the afterthought of a rectangular start button. Two minutes later, any thoughts of what a Corvette might be is left far behind in a cloud of burnt hydrocarbons as the 427 demonstrates, unequivocally, what it is.

This is a wonderful car. Absolutely wonderful. Not only is it immensely powerful, with the Z06′s seven-litre mill providing 505hp, but there is also little-to-nothing separating you from the experience.

Sure, all that power is harnessed by wide, sticky Michelin Pilot sports, and the balanced chassis is suspended on the hyper-adaptable and ICP-baffling Magnetic Ride Control suspension, but the 427 is anything but buttoned-down. Apply full throttle in second gear, feel the chassis yaw and hear the change-over as the exhaust baffles snap open at three thousand rpm and the ‘Vette roars its battle-cry.

An ’80s-style heads-up display starts rolling over green-lit numbers at a ridiculous pace. If you’re used to miles-per, you’ll think you’ve switched over to metric. If you’re used to metric, you’ll think you’re looking at a hundredths and tenths on a stop-watch.

The 427 roars down the on-ramp with the unstoppable thrust of a Saturn V. Without a roof, there’s nothing to muffle the thunder of that uncorked LS7; come off the loud pedal and the resulting crump-crump sounds like the echo of far-off artillery. If you drive this thing through a tunnel and it doesn’t make you cackle like a madman, you’re probably a communist. Or dead.

Everything that was missing from my experience with the 911 can be found here. The ‘Vette has none of the finesse of the niner, and considerably less practicality. But it’s more honest somehow; analog, not digital – an F-14, not a flight simulator.

It’s unfair to call it crude; you’d not use the same epithet for a sledgehammer or a SPAS-12. The Corvette is simple, brutal, visceral and vital in a way other sports cars have forgotten how to be.

At the end of its production run, it’s just a funny plastic car with a gargantuan heart of pure aluminum. I love every single thing about it.

A 1967 427 Stingray once driven by Neil Armstrong is for sale on eBay right now, with bids rumoured to be in the quarter-million range. Ghoulishly, the car did not previously meet reserve when listed originally, but now is almost certain to reach a higher number with his passing.
It’s a battered old thing, clapped-out and badly treated, with hacked-up fender flares and a patina of abandon. Still something special though; something worth preserving.

It’s hard to imagine a modern astronaut behind the wheel of the modern 427. Not that slipping the bonds of Earth takes much less courage than it used to, but there’s less of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants air about it.

These days something like an autonomous car might be more appropriate. Or, given the successful flight of SpaceX (one step closer to Weyland-Yutani), perhaps a Model S?

No, this is not a car for today’s scientist-explorers. Instead, it’s a link back in time, an appropriate flag-bearer to mark the 60th anniversary of an exceptional automobile.

Its replacement, the C7, will no doubt be a refinement in many ways: proper seats, improved in-car amenities, better electronics, reduced fuel-consumption, probably faster as well.

Tough to say, though, whether actually any better than this, the last hurrah for the sixth-gen Corvette.

Because it’s a God-damn rocketship.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

91 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2013 Corvette 427...”


  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I want one :^), with fixed roof. I haven’t heard the LS7, but if it’s half as good as the LS3… yummi!

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      My son owned a base model Corvette. After driving it, my thought was: “Nice car, but why pay $50,000, when you could buy a Camaro or Mustang for almost HALF the price?” Also, the interior was okay, but, again, compared to my other son’s BMW 3-series (at $45,000), the Vette seemed rather sad… Maybe GM should pay BMW to design and build the inside of the Corvette? Because if the Beemer can have a nice interior– using expensive German labour– for $45,000, why can’t the Americans do the same?

  • avatar
    michal1980

    In my head, I stood up cheering and applauding reading this piece..

    In the back of my head, I was thinking, are you a secret top gear writer? Because I heard Jeremy’s voice while reading this.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Boy,hearing Jeremy’s voice. Really? You should have that checked out straight away.

      Personally, love the UK, read and listen to Top Gear ocassionally, Jeremy Clarkson? No love lost. Sad that he’s the face of TG. Full of himself, bully, lout,etc doesn’t do him justice.

      Corvette? Instrument that looks like it was copied from a cigarette boat. Body quality that from a distance looks more appropriate in 1/25 scale next to the rest of your daughters Barbie stuff.

      And then you open the door, sit down, and push the starter button, and suddenly you forgot what you were thinking about while you were outside the car.

      A lot of times, you dislike a car new to you, and it takes a few days before you finally admit, ‘ hey, this car is OK’. The Corvette C6 exerience is a little different. The time lapse is closer to 15 minutes, and you start admitting, ‘this is really neat’.

      If you make me choose whether I’m a Ford, Chevrolet, or Mopar guy, I’ll tell you ‘Ford’ with little hesitation. But, as most Ford guys will admit, there’s a handful of Chevrolets and Mopars in my fantasy garage, too. I’m not lusting after the C6, but there will always be a slot in my fantasy garage for a ’67 Sting Ray convertible, with hard top, 327 four speed, and preferably red.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        I really like the C3 and wouldn’t mind driving one with a modern drive train. The use of fiberglass for the body allowed for curves that probably weren’t possible back then with sheet metal. It really is distinctive for that era.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @Chicago Dude – C3 is my favorite Vette body of all time and the 6 speed manual C4s are my favorite “modern” engined models.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Well written review! Your description evokes memories of Z06 drives that made me know my C5 was obsolete and then sent me to the GM Co used cars website to see if one of these is available. The bubble burst when I found a simple Z06 for only $94K MSRP, almost as much as our second home in ’83! The torque of these monsters, all the way to their 7 grand rev limit, is simply awe inspiring! Drive one, you’ll like it!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      What do you think of the later C4s (LT1/LT4) I have been thinking of acquiring a convertible one since the C5s are going for quite a bit more at the moment.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        I like the C4s a lot. In fact, if you like to get at the engine easily, it is hard to beat a C4. The powertrains are durable, but you have to watch out for ones that have been abused. A lot of them have been. I recall they are somewhat squeaky and rattly compared to C5, but haven’t been in one in years. They are strong performers with LT1/LT4, and great fun to drive, if you like to accelerate, corner and brake aggressively. The ride is rougher than C5, too. When I drive a Corvette, I like to put the windows down and take the roof off so the engine sound and the rush of air are what I hear as I get pushed back into the seat.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        The LS motor has infinitely more potential than the old LT motor, they are well worth the cost if you can find an affordable one.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I have seen clean looking mid 90s C4s between 8 and 12, early C5s tend to be in the 15-18 range… this is retail. If I look I may be able to find a C5 at Manheim for less, I will have to look into it next year when I’m closer to maybe doing this. Trouble is though I really prefer the C4 bodystyle… something about my youth.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Nickoo is right – Gen3 Small blocks (LS series) offer substantial advantages over the Gen2 LT1/LT4,including aluminum blocks in Corvette applications. They also have higher power potential. It really depends on what you are looking for. If you want a stock engine, more of a cruiser than a hot lap car, the C4 should be fine, especially if you prefer the styling.

  • avatar
    redav

    “If you drive this thing through a tunnel and it doesn’t make you cackle like a madman, you’re probably a communist. Or dead.”
    - Or, you are into cars with refinement & quietness, and loud, blaring engines are simply loud & blaring.

    Having family that worked at NASA in the ’90s, I was told that the ‘astronaut car’ at that time was the BMW roadster.

    • 0 avatar
      Strippo

      “loud, blaring engines are simply loud & blaring.”

      Bless your heart.

      • 0 avatar
        USAFMech

        @Strippo: Ouch, bro. You cut deep.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Loud and blaring? Perhaps. I just spent four days with a friends 2012 Camaro SS convertible. Manual. Say what you want but the LSx engines are superb. Monster torque, reliable, even a decent revveer. Gobs of power. I loved every minute of it. GM makes a lot of mistakes, but these engines are no mistake. Far from it. Chevy deserves accolades for their V8 drivetrains. I hope the C7 takes care of some of the shortcomings of the present car but keeps every iota of that drivetrain intact.

  • avatar
    LKre

    “…clever PR for sure, and yet it seemed a perfect fit.” It was good PR because it was a perfect fit.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Brendan, what a wonderful tribute to Mr. Armstrong and the Corvette!

    I’m glad I watched “The Right Stuff” again a few weeks ago…one of my all-time favorites.

    On July 20, 1969, I was working very hard to get into the Air Force, but that day, my buddy and I watched in sheer amazement as Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon’s surface! The Eagle has landed, indeed! What a thrill, an almost unbelievable thrill to be a witness to that remarkable feat in an era when people still were optimistic about the future.

    Sadly, that optimism began to fade by late 1972 according to how I felt as well as many others, and it’s been getting progressively worse ever since…

    Mr. Armstrong, rest in peace for now…

    The Corvette? YES! I still want one – I don’t care if it’s a six-cylinder powerglide, I still want one…someday. One of the few things still done right as far as I’m concerned.

    Again, thank you for such a fitting tribute, Mr, McAleer.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Corvettes were, indeed, addressed in ‘The Right Stuff’ (the book, anyway). Nearly all of the Mercury 7 astronauts drove a Corvette. Tom Wolfe wrote that prior to actually going up in a rocket, the prospective astronauts had a bad habit of careening off the highways and crashing their ‘Vettes, then the local dealership would happily replace them.

      All, except for John Glenn. Wolfe wrote that Glenn had a Nash Metropolitan. In fact, one of the other guys once wrote on a blackboard (obviously intended for Glenn): The modern sports car: cure for male menopause.

      The only problem with this story is that I’m not sure it actually happened that way. Shepherd seems to be the only one who initially had a Corvette. It wasn’t until after the first Mercury flight that none other than Ed Cole gave Shepherd the keys to a new ’62 Corvette and a Melbourne, FL Chevy dealership made special arrangements to keep ‘all’ the astronauts supplied with Corvettes for years to come. Glenn, alone among his peers, chose a station wagon, instead. So, maybe Wolfe was taking a bit of literary license with his version of events.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Everything that’s been wrong with GM for the last 60 years, triple-distilled and injection-molded into a toy that no child with taste would play with.

    Just like that ‘Busa go-kart your neighbor slapped together last weekend on a Jack-n-Coke(aine) binge, it’s kinda fast. It’s also horrid after about 5 minutes. From materials that Mattel rejected, to build quality the Chinese look down on, to ergonomics the Afghans laughed at, this car is a the ultimate white-trash-won-a-scratch-off ride.

    Don’t get me wrong, the C6 is the shiniest turd GM has ever foisted upon the special-ed students that are its customers. But even a Viper is a far better car…

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Okay now go have fun with all your other friends hanging out under the bridge.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Another great reason to hate Porsche…

        If I want an air-cooled engine, I’ll get out my lawn tractor and cut the grass. put-put-put…

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Whats the difference between a Porsche and a porcupine? On a porcupine, the pricks are on the outside.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        And this is why I seldom waste my time here anymore. Real Porsches are not air-cooled nor do they have the engine where it doesn’t belong. Also, if you had the car that was your avatar, you’d know you could build a faster car for half the cash.

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        “Real Porsches are not air-cooled nor do they have the engine where it doesn’t belong.”

        A-ha! Now I get it- Mr. Porschespeed has a broken down 944 in his garage. No wonder he is so bitter at the world!

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Seems more likely he’s one of the Cayennamera types, claiming Porsche for their own. The 944 was far more of a traditional Porsche than anything they make now.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        Leave it to the GM apologists and sycophants to get tweaked when someone accurately describes their beloved, FAILED company’s so-called ‘flagship,’ and the kinds of people it attracts.

        PS hit the nail on the head. Any GM product is a sure indicator its owner is deficient in certain mental faculties, and is a generally inferior being; driving a ‘Vette further demonstrates a certain… physical… deficiency.

        It wasn’t this way in the 60s, back when GM was truly the standard of the world… but it sure as hell describes things as they are now.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        No, Zackman, not a reason to hate Porsche. Lots of reason to love ‘em. But a great reason to realize that some Porsche drivers are douchbags. There is room for all cars and only ignorant fools think only one manufacture can produce a great car.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Are real Porsches the ones that have been grenading their engines with distressing frequency?

    • 0 avatar
      USAFMech

      Well written. All understated and subtle. Passionate yet impersonal. I like the cut of your jib. Would you perhaps have a newsletter to which I could subscribe?

    • 0 avatar
      typ901

      Well not too sure about the ‘real’ Porsche bit, as most would argue that real Porsche’s are air cooled with engine in rear; and everything post 1998 is selling out to the masses ie-Boxster, Cayenne, Panamera. 924/44 were great, but no real draw other than gutting them and putting in an LS series engine..hmm just like the Corvette has…928? maintenance nightmare. I have not owned a Corvette, but am on my second Porsche, 964 & Cayenne and they are great, but they are not for everyone, especially when you get that repair bill. I envy the Corvette guys-As far as A**hole’s driving one or the other, I would say scan YouTube and it is a balance between the two marquee’s for stupid moves.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      @porschespeed

      Judging by your tag I’m sure you’re adept at swerving through city streets while talking on your cell phone. Maybe that’s taste -enjoy it – and let others enjoy what they like you supercilious punk.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      The quality of the commentary here is really slipping.

  • avatar
    raph

    ”Because it’s a God-damn rocketship”

    Sniff… beautiful

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Chevy Corvettes, serious performance value on the cheap. There are many who disdain them because GM builds them, or they’re not European, or they don’t start at 100k. Stupid fast, loud, and American. I’d buy another one.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      To be fair, I think most people who disdain Corvettes do so because they don’t care to associate with the gold-chained louts, blowhards and a-holes who tend to own these cars. In other words, same reason why some people avoid Harley’s.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        and porsches, and BMWs, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys’ Rolls-Royces and just about every other car known to man. The only group of owners I haven’t seen being flamed on the internet are Lancia owners. Anyone know any good stereotypes about people driving Fulvias?

      • 0 avatar
        mikedt

        If they spent an extra couple hundred on the interior they’d probably sell twice as many. Corvette owners shouldn’t have to start every conversation with “yes, the interior sucks, but….”

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        well- most Porsche owners would fairly be stereotyped as arrogant elitists- but at least nobody is embarassed to be seen around these people.

  • avatar
    Duncan

    Brilliant writing!

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Too bad the ‘vette isn’t more affordable from the factory, as clearly the cost to manufacture them vs MSRP has no basis in reality, but the nice thing about them is the ridiculous affordability in the used market and the easiness with which any modern LS holding ‘vette can be turned into a CAM-in-Block destroyer of Italian supercars for only a few thousand.

    I can’t wait to see the c7, my hope is more angular, chiseled, less curvy, and all business, the computer animation from a few weeks ago was the near perfect evolution for the c7, particularly in the headlight design where the ‘vette is the weakest. I hope they never go to DOHC either, even if they do put the valve fouling direct injection on it.

    • 0 avatar
      thehomelessguy

      I’ve heard some weird things about the C7, like that they are putting in rear “seats” (will only fit kids) akin to the porsche 911. I think they think they’ll sell more as then young parents might actually buy them. Not sure how smart that is as it still won’t be that practical with 911 sized seats.

      Where GM really screwed the pooch was with the Camaro. With as huge as the Camaro is it really should have a better and more accessible back seat. I believe it could be done while still maintaining the muscle car look (suicide doors like the Rx8 for easier entry and move things about to add a couple of inches back there). In fact the new camaro has less rear leg room than the previous generation. While the camaro has sold well, such a car would really be in a class of its own. Believe it or not there are lots of 30 somethings out there who would love a car like a Camaro, but need to be able to fit a car seat in the thing. I know that I’d seriously consider one if the above was true.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    “… If you drive this thing through a tunnel and it doesn’t make you cackle like a madman, you’re probably a communist. Or dead…”

    Yes indeed, best statement about the ‘vette evah!

    Loathe, dispise, and f*rt in the general direction of GM, but I did love my ’05 C6. Sold it due to the seats obviously designed by a womyn’s studies major and approved by GM’s most incompetent MBA…but as for the rest of the car, pure evil joy!

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      The best upgrade one can get for a ‘vette is a pair of recaros

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        When the C6 came out, reviews said great car in need of seats. So then GM added three suspensions, the Z06, the Grand Sport, the ZR-1, the Z07. Reviews said, great cars in need of seats. So GM made cosmetic changes to the seats and called them fixed when they weren’t. GM.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        Yeah and I suppose if you can afford the Corvette, you can afford Recaros.

        My Accord’s “leather” seats are atrocious and cause me severe pain at times. I fully intend to replace them as soon as financially feasible. I love everything else about the car too much.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Some may call the C6 crude, but compared to a C5, or a C4, or a C3…it’s a paragon of refinement. Hopefully the C7 will fix the C6 shortcomings. But I tell ya, it’s a moving target.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    In 1964.5 Ford launched the Mustang as their response to the Corvette. Obviously they went after a different income level consumer and let the likes of Shelby turn the base model into a “rocket ship.” GM on the other hand had the Camaro AND the Corvette. One was a true competitor to the Mustang but the other became a mid-life-crisis purchase of aging men. It’s not a supercar and I wouldn’t call it a halo car, it’s just an expensive “muscle” car stuck in some middle ground.

    Kids drool over supercars. Back in the 80′s the Countach was what my friends and I all wanted to ride in, not the ‘Vette. Then Acrua came out with the NSX. Who cares if a Corvette could outrun it, the NSX was just better looking and MID ENGINE. I’ve wanted one ever since. Ford even came out with the GT, an honest to God supercar with limited run. Should the C7 go the supercar path or should it stay where it is now? All I know is that my friends don’t aspire to drive Corvettes, but I do know a couple people with new Camaros.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d buy a used ‘vette over a new Camaro anyday. I’ve driven C4′s, C5′s & C6′s and enjoyed them all….(for driving in straight lines). Then again the Corvette is a case study in what is wrong with GM. Hugely profitable for them I’m sure but product overlap, public image issues, etc. This model Corvette needs to be finished.

    • 0 avatar

      Wasn’t the original Thunderbird more of a response to the Corvette?

      IIRC, the Mustang was actually inspired by the Corvair Monza.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Actually the original Mustang was a redesigned Falcon with a big engine. The design was supposedly done by the Ford Truck Division and was approved by Lee Iacocca and Henry Ford II. The Camaro came out two years later. Nice thing about Corvettes is that you can leave one out of sight and not worry about “my precious”
      The original ‘Vette had an inline 6 and didn’t sell that well. GM being GM put a V8 in it. Sales improved rather nicely.
      The 58 T-bird was a brain child of Bunkie Knundsen. Seems he didn’t like the 2 seat T-bird and wanted to show he was a very important man of substance at Ford.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Big engine might be overstating it. The Mustang launched with a 170 ci straight 6 standard. The Falcons and Mustangs had pretty much the same engine options with the exception of a 144 ci engine at the bottom of the Falcon line.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Ah, but a V-8 was optional and cheap. The pony car market was started, for the good of all us.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Actually, the two-seater Thunderbirds already outsold Corvettes by a wide margin to that point, but Ford felt they needed to sell better, and it turned out that the 1958 Thunderbird four-seater outsold the 1955-1956-1957 T-Birds combined. So, Ford’s hunch paid off on that score. I don’t know if the switch to four-seater was Bunkie’s idea, or not.

        As for Mr. Karesh, he’s correct that the two-seater Thunderbird was Ford’s answer to the original Corvette. And , yes, the original Mustang was Ford’s answer to the Corvair Monza / Corsa models, it’s a bit of a shame that Corvair, particularly, the 1965 and newer models, didn’t sell better. As Jay Leno said about his Corsa, they’re basically a poor mans Porsche 911.

        As for the ’65 Mustang being Ford’s answer to the Vette, well, NO.
        Someone is forgetting the ’62-65 AC/Shelby Cobra 289. Probably one of the two fairest comparos I’ve seen written was between the ’64 Sting Ray fuelie coupe with metallic sintered brakes and a ’64 Cobra 289 with no options. They were within $400 of each other, and neither ran away and hid from the other.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The original Mustang was not a design that originated with Ford’s Truck Division. It was the result of studies and meetings conducted by the “Fairlane Group” (referring to the place where the group met, not the car with the same name).

        This group, headed by Lee Iacocca, was looking at ways to tap the “youth” market, where Ford was relatively weak at that time. The 1960 1/2 Corvair Monza, with its bucket seats and upgraded trim inside and out, was an unexpected hit, and showed the group that there was a healthy market for a small, sporty four-seater. The resulting concepts evolved into the first Mustang. The design that ultimately became the Mustang originated in the Lincoln-Mercury styling studio, if I recall correctly.

        The 1958 four-seat Thunderbird was not developed by Bunkie Knudsen. He was at Pontiac Division at that time, working to change its stodgy image with the all-new “Wide-Track” models that debuted for 1959. Knudsen did briefly join Ford in the late 1960s, but the two-seat Thunderbird was long gone by that point. He influenced the styling of the 1970-71 Thunderbirds, which feature pointed, prominent front ends that people today refer to as the “Bunkie Beak.”

        It was Robert McNamara, head of Ford Division, who pushed through the concept of the four-seat Thunderbird. The two-seater had sold reasonably well, but it wasn’t very profitable. The original two-seater shared a fair number of parts with the “standard” 1955-56 Ford, but as that Ford was restyled and lowered, it shared fewer parts with the Thunderbird. Given the relatively low volume (by Detroit standards) of the Thunderbird, it did not make sense from a financial standpoint to completely restyle the car.

        The original plan was to phase out the two-seater, but McNamara convinced Henry Ford II to use the name on a restyled and enlarged four-seat version for 1958. That Thunderbird, with its bucket seats, center console and low construction, was a hit and essentially invented the personal luxury segment that would be very popular through the early 1980s.

        The first Corvette with a V-8 was the 1955 model. Sales were still lousy – a whopping 700, compared to over 15,000 1955 Thunderbirds. For 1956, GM restyled the Corvette, made several improvements (such as adding roll-up windows) and watched sales increase. The 1956-57 models assured the future of the Corvette.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Geeber, that’s wonderful historical information. Deserves to be its own story.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        The original Vette sold poorly…as just about everyone admitted, it was not a very good sports car. Two years later, just as GM was going to cancel the Vette, Ford came out with the T-Bird…Ford was very careful not not to call it a sports car, I believe they referred to it as a “boulevard cruiser”. The T-Bird sold much better than the Vette. GM was not about to be upstaged by Ford, so they crammed their new V-8 into the Vette and the rest is history.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      What makes you think the Corvette is “hugely profitable”? GM usually cancels turkeys when they drop to about 26K units a year. Dealers sell approx 12K Corvetts per year and something like 1/3 are previous year’s models.

      That and Corvettes have to be ridiculously expensive to produce.

      Halo car? I don’t know, but definitely another loss leader/write off.

      • 0 avatar
        Aqua225

        I hate GM nowadays, due to their invitation of and continuing dependence on government to keep them limping along. I used to be a big cheerleader for them till all that came down the pipe, the engineering brilliance of the LSx being my favorite plus mark for GM.

        That said, I hold a special place in my heart to one day own a Corvette. I don’t see how the Corvette can survive when the government teat is removed from their corporate mouth.

        I think if GM went through a *real* bankruptcy, the Corvette would be quickly lopped off the product sheet at GM, and probably be redesigned to be just as powerful, but more attainable by the common man. Corvette prices have continued to soar. It used to be a relative bargain, not so much anymore. It sells & costs like a supercar, though at least they appear to mostly stay out of the shop like most daily drivers. Something the Italians and Germans really can’t reach.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Corvette is profitable for GM because it commmands high enough prices so that is possible at low sales volumes.

        @Aqua225- in what way do you imagine GM remains dependant on government? The new company generated all time record profit last year compared to the old GM and that was accomplished on much lower dollar sales. Old GM had on the order of $200 Billion a year in sales at the peak, while new GM had $135B or so last year, if memory serves.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @doctor olds – Most Corvettes are base to GS convertibles and bargain priced considering their high tech and hand built hydro-formed space frames and whatnot.

        If Corvettes are profitable, why don’t we know HOW profitable? There should be NO secret books, especially now.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        There are seldom any incentives on Corvettes and very few of them are base cars. None of them are inexpensive! They are “bargain priced” only in the sense that you would have to spend far more on something else that comes close to matching Corvette’s performance.

        I have not seen a sales breakdown by model lately, but believe Corvette is the best selling two seat car in the country as it has been for a very long time.

        I would just like to know of any carline from any manufacturer anywhere in the world that you have found profit/loss info. Please share it. Lots of folks would like to know.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @dr olds – There are never Corvette incentives, but they also sit at dealers for years sometimes.

        It’s clear not all models generate a profit otherwise no OEMs would’ve needed bailing out.

        OK, we know the F-150, Silverado and Ram trucks are the top 3 most profitable lines of cars in the world. You can say it doesn’t come down to sheer volume, but at look at Lamborghini and all the supercar OEMs. Their cars sell for up to 1/4 million dollars, but can never turn a profit. We don’t need a profit and loss sheet to know that.

      • 0 avatar
        Aqua225

        Dr. Olds,

        GM is still majority owned US Government. Why? Because no one else wants the stock. You recount the administration’s numbers and tactics as gospel facts, but they aren’t.

        Any company can generate record profits if their debts are forgiven! Are you really trying to front that as an intelligent argument? Or in GM’s case, if you simply conveniently offload your debt on shareholders by sticking them with the bag of the “Old GM”. Dream your fevered GM dreams. I bet you believe they paid off their government loans too. Maybe in some bizarre fantasy accounting, yes. But the bailout of GM runs to what most estimates I have seen, 65 billion or more US dollars? And what, they paid back 9 billion? Go masturbate to your underscored GM poster and the quarterly results while watching quarterly announcements made possible by the administration’s wonderful accounting procedures.

        And what did GM gain? Wow, the Cruze and the Camaro are a success. Only two new successes with a 65 billion dollar taxpayer “investment” (more like, ROBBERY). The trucks and SUVs were already in pretty good shape before ’08, they can’t really claim those came out of a New GM.

        When the government milk is turned off, you’ll be able to buy GM stock for pennies, because only fools who deal in penny stocks will want it. They still have the same old union obligations as before. Billions in outlying expenditures. You can’t push them off forever, but good for current GM employees and mgt., you can for a while if you can call US Uncle “Sugar Daddy” Sam and have him pop you another loan, and stick more stock holders with the bad baggage.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        GM is majority owned because the Obama administration chose the details of the structured bankruptcy that any rational American would have wanted for our largest industrial corporation.

        They do not want to sell the stock because the US auto sector is still depressed- Ford’s stock value has moved nearly in lockstep with GM’s since the IPO.

        There is ZERO government milk flowing and GM did, in fact, repay the loans that were provided by the Bush Administration in recognition that every rational American would have wanted our largest industrial corporation to survive the financial tsunami of 2008.

        Your anger would correctly be aimed at the Obama administration for taking majority ownership of the company in exchange for financing the structured banrkuptcy. GM had not say in the matter, being victims of external events with no where else to get the sums necessary to weather the crisis.

        Whether or not you like the way things were done, GM is very strong financially, and all new products are well recieved and moving with lower incentives at higher transaction prices. GM is back.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Actually, GM is not majority owned by the US government. Treasury owns only 26% of the company.

        As for “Corvettes sitting on dealer lots”:

        Those are all sold vehicles, from a GM perspective. GM is paid for vehicles a defined time lag after shipment from the factory. GM’s primary interest in dealer inventory is its impact on the dealer’s ability and willingness to order more product. Most Corvettes are sold thru a relatively small number of dealers who specialize in them anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @dr olds – If it was anyone other than GM, no they still wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt and actually Corvettes do get rebates.

        “To keep the sales rolling, Chevrolet has extended the factory incentives on new Corvettes through the July 4th weekend. For 2011 Corvette models, buyers can receive $3,000 Dealer Cash or 1.9% financing up to 60 months or 2.9% for 72 months. For the remaining 2010 Corvettes that are still in dealer showrooms, $4,000 in Customer Cash is available or finance it for 72 months at 0% interest. The only Corvette model excluded in the latest round of rebates is the 2011 Corvette Z06 Carbon Edition.”

        http://www.corvetteblogger.com/2011/06/01/may-2011-corvette-sales/

        The loss leader, halo car concept died a long time ago and took the Supra, 3000GT, RX7, 300ZX and others down with it. The Ford GT was never intended to turn a profit and didn’t.

        This is GM we’re talking about which you’ll defend to the bitter end despite common sense. Robert Farago had something to say on the subject.

        “A mainstream carmaker has no business building niche products. Literally. For one thing, they’re hardly ever profitable. For another, even when they are, their profits are relatively insignificant. And most importantly, “halo cars” are four-wheeled glass and steel versions of Dumbo’s magic feather. They lead manufacturers to mistake cause with effect: if we build this, we must be good. In fact, any automaker that focuses its creative, financial and corporate resources on a halo car risks forgetting how to do what it did to get those resources in the first place—and an eventual plummet towards the circus floor. The Chevrolet Corvette may be only one of GM’s magic feathers, but it’s the most famous and, therefore, visible. GM should kill it, STAT.”

        http://forums.motortrend.com/70/7415221/the-general-forum/wha-ttac-thinks-chevy-should-discontinue-the-corve/index.html

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Brendan,

    Very good article. Great prose!

    While everyone is crying crocodile tears over the C6, I really think, guys, you may be delighted with the new C7 (I hope). That car promises to “clean up” the niggling little things, WHILE keeping great performance, WHILE showing us renewed styling. Will it be mid-engine? From all indications, probably not: that may be the C8. (As long as they put the parking brake on the driver’s side….:0)

    But as I had mentioned before on this board, if the C7 can sell NEW internationally, it will have arrived. We Americans tend to be a bit overly sentimental about Corvettes. But the Chinese or the South Koreans would not be, and if they buy them…well, it’s new game. Hello, Corvette!

    ————-
    As an aside to Porschespeed: I dearly love Porsches too (ironically, now being a BMW guy!), but I think you should give the new C7 a chance. It is not meant to be a Porsche, but as the current ALMS race results show**, there may be more than one way to skin a cat (assuming anyone would want to do such a thing! (^_^))

    **http://www.alms.com/results/race?year%5Bvalue%5D%5Byear%5D=2012&race=597
    ————-

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “While everyone is crying crocodile tears over the C6…”

      I’m crying tears of joy….and hope. The Vette is a wonderful performance machine and some might say bargain. I sincerely hope GM will pay attention to the details this time.

      IMO it’s past time for the C6 to be a memory.

  • avatar

    There is a lot going on with that car. Stripes, scoops and badges, Oh my!

    Nothing makes me happier than to watch ‘Vette and Porsche stereotypes rant back and forth at each other.

  • avatar
    USAFMech

    Great pictures, Brendan. I have a friend with a Z06. If only you could drive it from the outside….

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Drop. Dead. Gorgeous.

  • avatar
    Luper

    Thanks for the great review, Brendan. Well written and honest. As both you and many have noted here, for many the Corvette is more than the sum of its parts. It’s one of those cars that brings out the young punk in us–which will bring a smile to the face of some and disgust to others. But the Corvette doesn’t seem to care one way the other.

    1986. I was a high school senior, cruising in my dad’s red C4 with a friend, Ray Bans and Ocean Pacific T-shirts on full display (having left the removable roof in the garage). We caught the undivided attention of the cute blonde and brunette in the convertible Mustang ahead of us at a stoplight. I’d wager a significant sum of money that it wasn’t the two of us that got those young ladies excited–the Corvette alone is what they were flirting with. The low-frequency V-8 rumble and taught, muscular lines are simply intoxicating to the inner adolescent.

    And while my friend and I knew it wasn’t just us the girls were leering at, we were totally okay with it. Thanks for the memories, Corvette.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    With an engine so ugly that it has to be covered up with plastic. Why must this be?

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    This is the Pamela Anderson of automobiles. Too old and way too much fiberglass. Pass.

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    Looking at that interior makes me feel like my Saturn LS interior is decent (smoke stains asides. Hey, it was free.) This article does raise question, though: what WOULD today’s space explorers drive on this planet?

  • avatar
    HillbillyInBC

    “If you drive this thing through a tunnel and it doesn’t make you cackle like a madman, you’re probably a communist. Or dead.”

    Shall I conclude from this that you nailed the accelerator in the Cassiar Tunnel on your way over to West Van for the photo shoot?

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I feel bad for the Corvette, they’re great cars, but unfortunately they have a REALLY bad image problem. Usually, it’s some sort of combination of guy with mid-life crisis and redneck lottery winner.

    No matter how great they make those cars, people will instantly dismiss it because it’s a Corvette, never mind they can run with just about any supercar on Earth.

    Still, I don’t understand why GM can’t just decide to overshoot on the interior and jack up the price about $700. Put high-end italian leather in and cover every hard plastic surface with it. That would definitely help with the image department, seems like a pretty easy solution to me.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Hopefully GM will really step up and overshoot on the interior. At this price range, an extra $500 spent above and beyond what the interior materials should be as a minimum will be met with glowing praise. So, get the interior first class, make Recaros available as an option, trim that J Lo butt, and make it 12 inches shorter. Tighten up the fit of the panels – my buddy’s Camaro has excellent panel fit, so GM can do it – and the car will be a smashing success. Keep it proudly American in style and musclecar performance.

      That old stereotype image? Well, Vettes are pretty much out of the price range of the gold chain redneck types so I think if you improve the car, the image will fade as more people lust over it. The present car does not appeal to younger people; the C7 can begin to rectify that….

    • 0 avatar
      Speed Spaniel

      Oh c’mon bad image problem. Really? Something has to win the ultimate cheese product award. These cars are high in entertainment value, as in point and laugh at the old geezer driving it. Chances are there’s a Members Only jacket and Amber vision sunglasses somewhere in that vehicle.

  • avatar
    rodface

    I can understand a cheap interior in a $75,000 American muscle car. But the fitment of the plastic insert in the hood scoop would be unacceptable even at the $15,000 price point.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Awesome car. Much better than the C5. I recently rode in a friend’s C5 Z06 and I swear, the radio, dash and stalks were transplants from my old 2002 Tahoe. The key was the same too. It seems like in my mind that Covette should be kind of a sub-brand, with its own unique logos, gauges, dash, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Well FWIW on that, I purchased a 2000 Honda S2000 this spring. The key, remote fob, and radio were identical units to the ones in my wife’s old 2000 Civic that we offloaded a few years ago.

      Not that it matters to me, since the grin I have once I turn that key makes it all worth it.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Sigh… Corvette, another car on my must own someday list…

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    In my country Corvettes are to expensive. Corvette 427 coupe has the same pricetag as a Porsche Cayman R.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Every time I walk around and sit down in a ‘vette, I get the same cheap agricultural feeling when I get in my 2500HD Sierra to haul off some hay bales, minus the smell.

    The lack of refinement and anything remotely attractive outside or inside is painful. It’s a vulgar car with a large engine and a lot of horsepower.

    The analogy to a combat shotgun or a sledgehammer is apt…

    If you could get one of these cars for 35-40 grand, it’d forgivable, but they sticker in the 50s-60s. That’s just embarrassing.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    i have tried to like these cars over the years. I really have. This car is more to my liking, it has nice lines, but i dont like the tail at all. The interior is pathetic, tho. It looks like it was lifted from an 87 pontiac – it sucks that where u spend all of your driving time – inside the car – looks as shabby an depressing as this. My 95 VW has a more interesting dashboard. I dont know why they dont pretty up this penalty box.

  • avatar
    Nick

    I’ll always bitterly resent GM for not making these large enough for me to sit in and drive comfortably. That’s true of most cars, of course, but in this case it’s particularly exasperating.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Corvette. The time has come and passed on this relic. For the past two decades it’s been Barbie’s “sport car” and really not very exciting or groundbreaking. There’e plenty of YouTube videos showing some knot head gunning his corvette only to lose control and hit something. These appeal to the shallowest of middle aged gear heads and want-to-be’s. Seeing one on the road today no longer invokes the kind of excitment that it did in 1967. This new version is pure ugly from the rear, and the front still screams “Barbie”. For the money , the Corvette is a fools fantasy car that really should have been killed off 25 years ago. O.K. Haters, chime in!


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States