The Truth About Cars » chevrolet corvette The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » chevrolet corvette New or Used? : Why Are Old Corvettes So Cheap? Thu, 19 Jun 2014 04:32:47 +0000 1984vette
O.K. Steve
Why are old Corvettes so cheap ? .
Just Monday I saw yet another 1984 ‘Vette for sale in a used car lot for $2,500, are some years simply so bad they’re worthless?
I have never owned one and only driven a few . Mostly my buddy’s ’68 350 W/ 4 speed back in the very early 1970′s when it was a neat car.
He built it from various junked and wrecked ‘Vettes at a specialized Corvette junkyard . We rode it very hard and it was a good , fun car that took quite a beating right until he drank himself to death .
I see the 1990′s (I think) four valve versions undamaged in Pick-A-Part Junkyards all over California. They are low mileage (under 150,000), zero damage, nice paint etc. ~ how is this possible ? .
I’d think they want to sell them whole and not part them out. But no one wants them?
Steve Says:
If only it were so.
I would be more than happy to drive a late model Corvette through the winding roads of North Georgia. Unfortunately, I have found them to be among the worst types of vehicles for my travels.
They are flashy, easy to drive too fast, and cops seem to enjoy hanging around them on highway jaunts.
That 84′ Corvette you were looking at may very well be the worst Corvette of the last 30 years. The quality was downright abysmal for what was, way back then, the first year of the C4 launch. The 1984 model was built in the thick of the Roger Smith era. There were very few good GM vehicles made during that time, with the most expensive models often getting shot and neutered quality wise well before they left the factory floor.
I’m willing to bet that Corvette at the used car lot was worth more dead than alive. By the time you see these vehicles at the auctions and the car lots,  they have suffered years of neglect.
It’s sad because, at least to me, that generation of the Corvette may truly be one of the most beautiful vehicles of that time period. They were gorgeous. But I never would want to keep one, or recommend it to someone who wants a sports car worth keeping.
The flip side of the coin is that the newer C6 Corvettes tend to be pretty reliable. I mentioned this in a recent Yahoo! Autos article, and if I were in the market for a used sports car, a C6 Corvette would definitely be a  top pick.
Old sports cars that had quality issues are now, just old crappy cars. A lot of 10 year old family cars will go faster than that 1984 Corvette without the quality control issues issues that come with a Reagan era ride.  Speed is often times a given in this day and age, and with America’s aging population, sporty two door cars are just not as in demand as they were back when the C4 was first released.
There is one big plus to the used Corvette marketplace that is shared with other niche vehicles such as the Mazda MX-5 and the Jeep Wrangler. 
They are usually not daily drivers. Most of these vehicles spend their time inside a garage and are used during weekends or whenever the owner gets that longing to enjoy their ride.  Corvettes tend to be lower mileage garage queens, and the powertrains are rarely stressed.
In the used car market, there is almost always a lot of them out there. Not because they aren’t worthy of ownership. It’s just that the demographics and long-term reliability of Corvettes have changed dramatically since the days of that 1984 Corvette. Today’s Corvettes are the sports car version of a cockroach. They can outlast their owners, along with most modern day bugs of the German variety.
Oh, and as for the C4 you saw, do yourself a big favor and don’t look back. I have yet to see one from the 80′s that didn’t drive like a bucket of bolts.


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New York 2014: 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:04:07 +0000 gallery_19_17_4023


Courtesy of Stingray Forums and Jalopnik, we have our first look at the Corvette Z06 Convertible – an automatic one to boot.

The Z06 convertible is the next logical step beyond the C6 427 convertible – but does that mean that the equity built up around the Z06 nameplate is tarnished? In the eyes of some people, it will be. But as far as the bottom line goes, Chevrolet is going to sell these – with two pedals, not three – in sufficient quantities to justify their R&D costs. And no amount of protest can change the realities of market demand.

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Could The 2015 Corvette Stingray Crack 30 MPG With New 8-Speed Automatic? Mon, 07 Apr 2014 14:35:49 +0000 2014-GM-Eight-Speed-Automatic-Transmission

GM’s upcoming 8-speed automatic, dubbed the 8L90, will be a cornerstone of their new rear-wheel drive cars – and the 2015 Corvette lineup will be among the first to get it.

Back in December, our own Ronnie Schreiber gave us a preview of the new 8-speed gearbox via a leaked SAE paper. Although it carries the same footprint as the outgoing 6L80, the 8L90 is full of improvements. First gear is shorter, for better acceleration, while fuel economy is said to be improved by 5 percent across the board. With 6-speed automatic C7 able to hit 28 mpg on the highway, a 5 percent gain translates to 29.4 mpg – but it wouldn’t be shocking if Chevy pulled out all the stops to hit the magical thirty em pee gee number, if only for marketing bragging rights.

Along with the Corvette, the 8L90 is expected to appear on other rear-drive cars, as well as trucks. The addition of the 8-speed auto will certainly be a nice boost for GM’s full-size SUVs and pickup trucks, not to mention rear-drive Cadillacs and the upcoming Camaro.

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SRT Needs More Firepower: The Case For A V8 Viper Thu, 20 Mar 2014 18:37:45 +0000 chrysler-firepower-concept

Years ago, after my first trip to the Detroit Auto Show, I was browsing the inventory at Lamborghini of Ohio with Jack. There was snow on the ground—Phaeton weather—and the cozy showroom seemed the perfect attraction to kill a few hours before my flight back to Baltimore. Jack was going on and on about the throat-stompingly awesome Murcielago. “That’s the only one to have,” I think he said. “I dunno,” I said, “I kind of like the Gallardo.”

“That,” he replied, “is because you have girl parts.”

I’ll admit, he had a point. The Gallardo was the baby Lamborghini—the “poor man’s” Lambo, if such a thing ever existed. If you’re going to lust after an Italian supercar, why not lust after the most super-ific supercar they build? Perfectly valid reasoning. But in the real world, where money is spent and things are purchased, people bought Gallardos.  It thus stands to reason that there are those in the world who are Gallardo-rich, but not quite Murcielago-rich. That doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, right? Though I suppose it’s possible that some people just have girl parts.

At one time, that choice did not exist. Until the Urraco went on sale in 1973, there was no fakerich-spec vehicle in the Lamborghini lineup. You had only two options at a Lamborghini dealership: Buy a V12-powered Lamborghini or buy no Lamborghini at all. Lamborghini’s chief domestic rival, on the other hand, did offer such an alternative. It was called the Dino.

Today, Chrysler faces a similar, though not identical predicament. For twenty years, there has been only one Viper. And for most of those twenty years, one was enough. No longer.

The time has come for a second Viper—a V8 Viper.

This isn’t an original idea. In 2005, Chrysler showed the Firepower concept. It was, in my not-so-humble opinion, the most beautiful concept car shown by any domestic manufacturer in decades. It was to be powered by a 6.1L Hemi V8 engine mated to—I’m bracing myself here—an automatic transmission. This was blasphemy on top of blasphemy, if you ask the die-hard Viper faithful. But it was exactly what Chrysler needed to keep the sub-brand healthy. It was a play for volume. Even if the Firepower was destined to carry a sticker price nearly as a high as its rough-and-tumble, V10-powered brother, it was the kind of car that would have attracted buyers Chrysler needed to keep the brand relevant—the Corvette crowd.

And now, nearly ten years later, that domestic rival is poised to eat the Viper’s lunch. In 2001, the Viper ACR laid waste to the first-generation Corvette Z06 in just about every performance category out there, and it should have, considering it cost nearly double what you would have paid for the Bowling Green bruiser. In 2015, the Viper will still cost you an entry-level luxury sedan more than what you’ll pay for the forthcoming C7 Z06, but I’ll bet a fine steak dinner that it won’t be winning any comparison tests.

Vipers are not selling now, a full year ahead of the C7 Z06 arriving on showroom floors. In what sort of shape to they expect to find themselves when that time comes?

SRT CEO Ralph Gilles insists that the Viper is not built to beat the Corvette, and maybe he believes that. But shouldn’t it be? The Viper is a 6.2L aluminum-block Hemi away from a serious C7 contender. In the age of aluminum F150s, a lightweight truck engine certainly isn’t out of the question, and something has to power the Challenger’s replacement. And mind you, I don’t think the Viper should compete with the Corvette on price. It doesn’t have to. But the Viper buyer demographic has not historically been one to purchase cars with triple-digit price tags. These guys are Viper-rich, not Gallardo-rich.

I grew up with Viper posters on my wall and Viper die-casts on my dresser.  I watched the terrible Viper TV show. As much as I believe that the V10 is critical to the Viper-ness of the Viper, my fear is that the two choices we now have at the SRT dealership—buy a V10 Viper or buy no Viper at all—will soon be taken away from us entirely.  Add the V8 option. Bring back the ragtop. Hell, offer an automatic if you have to. It will sell.

But better than that, it will win.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:00:19 +0000 01 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou know how there was no 1983 Corvette, and then the C4 finally came out in 1984, and it had this terrible twin-throttle-body fuel-injection system? Of course you do. Anyway, C4 Corvettes are worth enough these days that they’re not common sights in self-service wrecking yards, and those that I do find have been picked pretty clean.. Shops that specialize in Corvettes intercept most basket-case examples before they get to these yards, but I found four C4s all together at a Southern California yard last month. Let’s check out a well-stripped example of the first of the good-handling Corvettes.
08 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is rough, the interior smells like the blue water in a Porta-Potty, and you’ll get a case of fiberglass-itch if you get too close.
12 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBut the Cross-Fire Injection is pretty cool-looking.
06 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI didn’t bother to shoot the other three C4s, because they were all in similar condition.
09 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m sure these carcasses will stay out on the yard until there’s nothing left of them.

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2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Photos Leaked Sat, 11 Jan 2014 23:13:43 +0000 2015-Corvette-Z06-main

No specs yet but photos galore!

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Chevrolet Confirms 2015 Corvette Z06 To Debut At NAIAS Wed, 04 Dec 2013 17:44:56 +0000 Z06_teaser

Just off the wires, we have word from Chevrolet that the 2015 Corvette Z06 will debut at NAIAS in January – the perfect time slot to steal some of the thunder from the Blue Oval, which will show the all-new Mustang and the F-150 to the public for the first time. Last year, Ford managed to upstage GM’s truck debuts with the surprise unveiling of the Atlas concept. Looks like GM is exacting some revenge.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Fri, 27 Sep 2013 13:00:45 +0000 10 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe C4 Corvette is about the only Corvette that you can get for Camaro prices these days— even the 19-horsepower ’79s are worth good money now. Still, it’s pretty rare that I find a C4 at a cheap self-service wrecking yard; most of the examples I run across are melty-fiberglass burn victims, and the remainder have been picked clean. Here’s one of the latter type, discovered a few months back in Northern California.
05 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCorvettes are much like Porsche 911s in the willingness-beyond-all-reason of their owners to spend money, and so those who run Corvette or Porsche shops stock up on parts whenever possible. That means that a Corvette must be rough indeed to make it past the auction process and into the hands of a junkyard’s buyer.
02 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLook, it still has part of the driver’s seat!
13 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI predict that the taillight lenses and rear glass didn’t stick around long after I shot these photographs.

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2014 Corvette Starts Shipping From Bowling Green Thu, 19 Sep 2013 16:00:47 +0000 03-corvette-c7-bowling-green-deliveries-1

General Motors announced that production of the 2014 Corvette Stingray Coupe has begun and that it has started shipping the all-new 7th generation Corvette to dealers from the Bowling Green, Kentucky facility where the sports cars are assembled.


About 1,000 C7 Corvettes have been made so far at the Bowling Green plant, which has assembled Corvettes since 1981. That factory was the recipient of a $131 million dollar investment to produce the new Vette, including $52 million spent to upgrade the factory’s body shop so it can manufacture the Coupe’s all aluminum frame in house for the first time.

The all aluminum frame is also a first for the base Corvette. Though Z06 and ZR1 models of the previous generation Vette had light alloy frame components, the base C6  Corvette coupe came with a hydroformed steel frame. In addition to the upgrades to Bowling Green’s body shop, GM is also moving their Performance Build Center, where the higher performance versions of GM’s LS family of engines are hand-built, from Wixom, Michigan to the Kentucky facility.

GM’s “build your own engine” program, which allowed purchasers of cars with those performance engines (or buyers of similar crate motors) to put their engines together under the supervision of the highly skilled PBC employees, will be reestablished after the move and GM is saying that the experience will be upgraded. With the engine build facility adjacent to the final assembly plant, buyers will likely get to see the engine they build installed in the car they are buying.

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Question: What Engine Swap Would Most Enrage Single-Interest Corvette Fanatics? Thu, 29 Aug 2013 13:00:20 +0000 Toyota V8 - Picture courtesy of LextremeIn my role as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, prospective racers often ask me questions that go something like: “I have a (car type known to be fast and/or expensive) that I got for (credulity-strainingly cheap price) and I would like to race it in LeMons without getting hit with penalty laps. How can I do this?” In most cases, the car will turn out to be a BMW M3, Acura Integra GS-R, or C4 Corvette, and I tell the questioner to seek another type of car. Still, you can get genuinely horrible C4 Corvettes for LeMons-grade money, provided you sell off some trim parts and so on, and that’s just what happened with this bunch. No problem, I said, just drop in an engine that will anger the Corvette Jihad and all will be well (it helps that the Chief Perpetrator of LeMons racing was the owner and editor-in-chief of Corvette Magazine for years, and he can’t stand the Corvette Jihad). I suggested the Toyota 1UZ V8, as found in Lexus LS400s and SC400s, but perhaps there’s an engine that would raise the blood pressure of Corvette fanatics even higher. What engine would that be?
LeMons-Phoenix10-0895In fact, we’ve seen two C4s in LeMons racing. There was this one, which was overpriced at 300 bucks, came with a very tired LT-1 350, and got stomped by a couple of bone-stock VW Rabbits and a slushbox Neon running on three cylinders.
309-LVH12-UGThen there was Spank’s “Corvegge”, which featured Olds 350 diesel power and ran on straight vegetable oil. Some Corvette guys were made upset by this, but at least the engine came from General Motors.
pickup2So, what engine would elicit the most rage from the Corvette Jihad? The team would prefer something with sufficient power to get around the track at least as quickly as, say, a Saturn SL2, which rules out my first choice (a Model A flathead four). Ideally, it should be an engine that can be purchased cheaply. Chrysler 360? BMW M50? Ford Modular 4.6? Nissan VH45?

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C7 Corvette Closes In On 30 Em Pee Gees Tue, 09 Jul 2013 13:28:38 +0000 450x298x2014-chevrolet-corvette-reveal-1358126136-450x298.jpg.pagespeed.ic.wKcmAobK1t

17/29 mpg city/highway. That’s what the C7 Chevrolet Corvette is expected to return as far as fuel economy figures go. When the C7′s “Eco” mode is selected, it will apparently be capable of the magic 30 mpg mark.

The figures released yesterday are applicable to the 7-speed manual model running on premium gas. Opt for the automatic or use regular fuel and you can expect an unspecified penalty in terms of fuel consumption. In the mean time, I’m going to stare forlornly at my Miata, capable of a mere 26 mpg on the highway (frequently less in the real world) while delivering roughly 1/3rd the power. Anyone who denies that we are living in a golden age of automotive technology is a liar.

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Chevrolet SS Only $7,525 Less Than A Corvette Tue, 04 Jun 2013 17:03:32 +0000 2014-chevrolet-ss

$44,470 will buy you a Chevrolet SS when it goes on sale later this year. That’s about $7,500 less than a base model, no-options C7 Corvette Stingray $5300 less than a Chrysler 300C SRT8 and $2995 less than a Dodge Charger SRT8. The SRT8 cars have more power, but the SS does have a couple advantages; it’s more subdued looking than the overwrought Charger.


Word around TTAC is that the 300C in SRT trim is a monster of a machine, and adding a supercharger makes it an unbeatable weapon when street racing lesser machines. Personally, I have a major issue with all of those cars; no manual transmission. I’d much rather take this gently used C6 Corvette Grand Sport for the same money. Because, like all real enthusiasts, I buy used. And I’m poor.

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QOTD: What’s Your Favorite Pace Car Fri, 03 May 2013 11:00:12 +0000 2014CorvetteStingrayIndyPaceCar01.jpg


The 2013 Indy 500 will feature a Corvette C7 as its official pace car. Great for the Vette, and a rather obvious, if predictable choice. But what about the unsung heroes of the Brickyard?

For me, it’s a wash. Something about the after-dinner-mint color of the Chevrolet Beretta really appeals to me, but the Dodge Viper edges it out slightly. Word is that in 1991, the Dodge Stealth was slated to be the pace car, but the UAW threw a fit over a Japanese car being used. The replacement ended up being the not-quite-production-spec Viper, piloted by Ol’ Shel himself. Let us know you picks below.

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C7 ‘Vette Just $1,400 More Than Outgoing Model Fri, 26 Apr 2013 17:18:46 +0000

While I’m not taken with the styling of the C7 Corvette, it’s hard to argue against the value proposition; $51,995 ($1,400 more than the base C6 Coupe) will get you into a base model C7 Corvette, while the droptop model will cost $56,995. For the improvements in performance, fuel economy and interior materials, it’s a paltry increase. I can’t help but wonder about rumors of an entry-level C7, with a smaller displacement V8 and less feature content. What kind of pricepoint could Chevrolet realistically offer that car at? $52k doesn’t exactly make it a car for the everyman, but for what you are getting, it’s almost impossible to beat.

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Soft Top Stingray Surfaces Mon, 04 Mar 2013 08:44:00 +0000

Prior to its reveal at the Geneva Auto Show, Chevrolet released a couple of renderings of the new Corvette Stingray Convertible. From the angles shown by Chevy, the Stingray looks a bit more elegant without a roof – the various louvers and vents don’t seem as prominent. Unfortunately, the wheels look like they were taken from an aborted Cruze SS concept.

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TTAC Salutes The C6 Corvette Fri, 01 Mar 2013 22:46:55 +0000

Today marked a sad occasion at TTAC; the final C6 Corvette rolled off the line at Chevy’s Bowling Green, Kentucky, assembly plant.


The last C6 was a 427 Convertible with an engine built by Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter. The car is destined for GM’s museum in suburban Detroit, and in an ironic twist, demolition of the C6′s assembly line began mere minutes after the last C6 rolled off of it.

Despite constant haranguing regarding a perceived anti-GM bias, there is universal admiration for the C6 in these parts. The base car and the Grand Sport represent some of the best sports car bargains available and the Z06 and ZR1 are among the world’s best performance cars at any price. Reaction to the new Corvette Stingray’s styling has been mixed, but given the superb performance of the C6, it’s easy to be optimistic about the C7′s capabilities. But the C6′s styling will always remain as the definitive modern ‘Vette, evolving the best cues of the C5 into a timeless shape that was distinctly American. A Black C6 Z06 is high upon my “must own list”.


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QOTD: Cocaine Cowboys, Pick Your Money Pit Wed, 12 Dec 2012 15:57:09 +0000

Bring A Trailer rarely disappoints, but today is an exceptionally fruitful day. Not one, but three delightfully kitschy relics of the Reagan era are on sale, offering something for a broad spectrum of tastes, whether you like new wave, metal or the burgeoning urban genre known as “hip-hop”.

Option 1: The Callaway Corvette – This baby did not age well. The teal paint and “ribbed for her pleasure” body cladding evoke the worst possible Corvette stereotypes; impotence, pattern baldness, substance abuse. The 345 horsepower figure isn’t anything to write home about in an era where a Lincon MKWhatever Ecoboost would leave it for dead at a stop light. But like those impossibly high-cut bikinis, it’s still appealing in a strangely retro way.

Recommended soundtrack: The Scorpions – Rock You Like A Hurricane

Option 2: The AMGrey Market Mercedes – if you’ve ever fantasized about yourself and Lorenzo rollin in a Benzo, this one’s for you. The monochromatic red aesthetic looks Straight Outta Compton’ by way of Stuttgart, and there’s room for yourself plus some additional honeys. You can even have a couple sit on the rear deck as you slowly cruise down the main drag, puffing on a Philly Blunt. This 500SL makes today’s AMG cars seem like commoditized simulacra intended for the spouses of developing world plutocrats. Oh, wait a minute…

Recommended sountrack: Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full

Option 3: The RUF 911 – this car kills novice drivers. ‘Nuff said. This is about as far removed from a Cayenne as one can get. I’ll take it.

Recommended soundtrack: The stereo was removed by RUF to shave 1.3 kilograms off the curb weight

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Hammer Time Remix: The Piper Principle Mon, 29 Oct 2012 13:00:17 +0000

Wrestling fans and auto enthusiasts have a lot in common.

They can be sickeningly loyal to their favorites. Even when it’s obvious their one and only favorite is well past their prime.

They also have a bit of a dopamine problem.

Adrenalin, excitement, the thrill of seeing ‘their guy’ win the battles. It’s all there. Even for the boring ones.

Whether it’s a Camry climbing up the sales chart. Or a 1988 Toyota MR2 carving up a modern day competitor over a mountain overpass. It’s a rush to see ‘your choice’ of past and present be the best choice.

But then there’s the Piper Principle.

What about the brand that can’t sell cars to save their ass from first base? What about the company that goes bankrupt or leaves a market? Heck, what about Rowdy Roddy Piper?. For those who don’t know the guy, Piper is a funny and arrogant wise-ass whose verbal slights and coconut endorsements put him at the top of the wrestling business when roids were all the rage.

He was funnier than hell, quirky, and probably drugged out of his mind. But the essence of Piper  was that the more of a heel he became, the more you rooted for the guy. Piper was the guy you loved to hate… and once you got sick of the ‘good guys’, you rooted for him.

I look at certain models the same way I looked at Piper. The Chevy Volt seems to get a lot of haters these days. Why? Well…

“It’s not as good as a real hybrid like the Toyota Prius!”

“It’s not REALLY that economical if you drive it 200+ miles every day!”

“It’s subsidized by the taxpayers.” (Note: ALL automakers throughout the world are subsidized and given resources by their respective governments.)

“It’s American, and American cars are crap! By the way, Steve? Can you help me find a car? I’m open to any suggestions you have as long as it’s a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord.”

Of course certain folks have bitched and moaned about the Big 3 offering gas guzzling SUV’s and pickups for decades. While subtly ignoring Toyota’s and Honda’s desire to move into the same markets.

Hell I’ll even go out and say it.  Most car enthusiasts have prejudices against car brands that are based on media and myth.

There are a lot of vehicles enthusiasts tend to despise because of nothing more than this guilt by association. The Corvette is a fantastic sports car. But a lot of car buyers can’t get past paying $50k for a Chevrolet.

The Hyundai Genesis? Needs a prestigious brand name like Lexus. The IS-F does not have a Bavarian acronym in front of it. BMW equals Y-U-P-P-I-E… and so forth.

Best car? Doesn’t matter.

This line of thinking bothers me. I like to see the best car win… and I like to see people buy the best cars for them without blinders.

A Suzuki SX4 is a great under $18,000 all-wheel-drive vehicle that would have received 20 times the volume if it had a popular emblem on the front of it. I would argue the same for the 1st gen Ford Fusion, the current Mazda 5, and even the Pontiac G8 when it was out and about.

Am I wrong? Perhaps. But I see writing off certain brands and models as the equivalent of writing off certain forms of music, food… and wrestlers. You can never get the full enjoyment of being an ‘enthusiast’ unless you’re willing to change your mind.

To paraphrase the Piper, “If you think you always have all the right answers, you need to start changing the questions.”

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Corvette C7 To Bow In January, Production Begins June 30th – Or September. Thu, 18 Oct 2012 15:45:05 +0000

The first Chevrolet Corvette C7 will roll off the company’s Bowling Green, Kentucky assembly line on June 30th, 2013 – 60 years to the day after the first Corvette was built. Or at least that’s what Reuters is reporting, based on supplier information.

While Reuters quotes “…two suppliers familiar with the automaker’s plans but are not authorized to speak on behalf of GM,” the official line from General Motors, according to Automotive News, is that production will begin in August or September of 2013. But a six-month retooling process is scheduled to begin in February, and the timing coincides perfectly with the June 30th anniversary.

Orders for the C6 car will cease in December, with the C7 debuting right before the 2013 North American International Auto Show press days. The new car is said to be smaller and lighter, with a more upscale interior. Only two parts have been carried over from the C6 Corvette, as GM is attempting to appeal to younger buyers who would normally gravitate towards foreign sports cars.

GM will announce details on their new generation of small-block V8 engines on October 24th, but they did release the newly re-designed Corvette logo, shown above.

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Behind The Scenes: General Motors Production Build Center – Building the LS9 Engine Fri, 14 Sep 2012 13:39:52 +0000 A couple of redheads, one thin, one not so thin, building a LS9 - Photo courtesy of Cars In Depth

When Bertel Schmitt launched TTAC’s Behind The Scenes series with an exclusive and in depth look at Toyota’s high-tech LFA Works, I thought to myself, “Self, you live in Detroit. Lots of automotive scenes to get behind in and around this area.” So, following up on Bertel’s idea to use the access TTAC affords us to give you a look at things you might otherwise not experience, I sent an email to someone in communications at GM about their Performance Build Center in Wixom, MI.

The GM PBC is a small factory where about two dozen high skill employees hand build many of GM’s highest performance engines, primarily the 505 HP normally aspirated LS7 used in the Z06 Corvette, and the supercharged 638 HP LS9 that goes in the ZR1 ‘Vette (the supercharged LSA fitted to Cadillac’s CTS-V models, which slots in between the LS7 and LS9 in terms of power, is assembled in Mexico). The PBC also builds crate versions of those motors as well as the dry sump equipped LS3 for the track oriented Grand Sport edition of the base Corvette, and it will be assembling all 200 or so engines that will be available in the 69 non-street legal COPO Camaro drag cars they are selling (each COPO car can be ordered with up to three engines to match various NHRA Stock Eliminator and Super Stock classes).

The facility has been building engines since 2005, and was designed as a showcase facility, using AMG’s engine plant and Hendrick Motorsports’ engine shop as benchmarks. GM says that it’s a unique facility, not really matched by any other large car company. Large automobile manufacturers make engines by the millions, not short runs of essentially hand built components. When a large manufacturer needs a relatively small number of specialty engines built, they usually turn to an outside firm. In Bertel’s LFA series, he points out that the V10 in that car is actually assembled by Yamaha, who also supplied Ford with the original Taurus SHO V6. Even the Lotus-designed LT5 in the previous C4 based ZR1 of the early 1990s (GM had control of Lotus at that point in time) was assembled for Chevy by Mercury Marine. Some car companies do build hi-po engines in house, Ford built the Ford GT’s V8 at their Romeo, MI engine plant and Volkswagen builds the Bugatti Veyron’s W16 at VW’s engine facility in Salzgitter, Germany. While of course there are dedicated assembly lines and particularly skilled workers involved, those are both huge factories. The GM PBC has three small lines of 15 stations each. I was told that it’s GM’s most “flexible” facility. One line currently builds LS7s and LS9s, another line does the LS7 and the Grand Sport’s LS3, and the third line is “open” and currently used for COPO builds not done by customers and some special builds The shop floor also has an area where component kits for specific engine builds are put together, and a “supermarket” where parts and subassemblies are kept in inventory. The 100,000 sq ft plant has an annual capacity of 15,000 engines, a small fraction of the engines a typical automaker’s engine plant can produce. If needed, there’s a railroad siding out back. I’m not sure exactly how the GM PBC differs from AMG’s Affalterbach facility, from which the GM PBC borrowed the “one man one engine” assembly method, but GM says that the PBC is one of a kind. Perhaps the distinction is that AMG was an independent company acquired by Daimler while the PBC has been an in-house project at GM from the get go.

General Motors Performance Build Center floor plan

In Detroit there are skilled trades and then there are skilled trades. While the guy who plugs in your machine in the factory where you work could have the job classification of an “electrician”, you still might not trust him to wire your house. The UAW members that build the engines at the Performance Build Center are indeed about as highly skilled as you’ll find working in industry. Most have, on their CVs, experience with hand building experimental and prototype engines in GM’s Pontiac pilot facility and at the Warren Tech Center. While there were one or two short timers when I was there, to be considered for a long term job building engines at the PBC, regardless of their prior experience, workers still have to first pass an apprentice test. So the facility is a combination of high tech and old-world style guild craftsmanship. The people who work there seem to be very proud of being associated with a world-class facility.

AMG’s Affalterbach engine shop has visitor tours, though they don’t allow photography. Since it was built to serve in part as a showcase, a couple of years ago someone at the PBC got the great idea that not only was it a cool place to show off to the media, they could also show it off to customers though GM went AMG a step or two beyond just letting you take some pictures. They started the Corvette Engine Build Experience for any customer buying a Corvette equipped with one of the PBC engines and have since expanded it to crate motor and COPO customers as well (if they want to, COPO buyers can build all three engines they buy). Of course it’s not free. GM charges $5,800 for the “experience”.

When a customer builds an engine they have options from just standing there and watching an expert technician build their motor to pretty much putting in every part and torquing every bolt and everything in between. You’re scheduled to arrive at 7:00 AM. If you don’t do much, you might be done by early afternoon. If you do a lot of the work, like to talk, ask a lot of questions and are busy taking pictures and shooting video for TTAC, it can take most of the day. That means that on a Build Experience day the aforementioned highly skilled worker only “builds” one engine that day instead of two or three.

One cost that GM doesn’t have to worry about is an incompetent customer building a crappy engine. The plant’s normal quality control and testing procedures are impressive and designed around consistent and uniform high quality. Every fastener’s torque is applied with a computer controlled device and those torques are logged by the control system. Bar codes are used at every step of the process. If something hasn’t been tightened properly, the system knows it. If too few bolts were fastened the system knows it. If too many bolts are fastened, it has to be accounted for. When everything is copacetic, the panel on the bar code reader flashes a graphic of Jake, the Corvette mascot, in green and you can proceed to the next station. Fixtures are used when alignment of parts, like the dry sump oil pump, is critical and in one case a runout gauge is used. Add in good instruction plus continuous very close supervision and providing you know which end of a socket goes on a bolt, the engine a customer builds should be as powerful and reliable as any that come out of the PBC. I’m not saying that a trained monkey could do a customer build, and “idiot proof” is a crude way of characterizing the sophisticated QC systems in place, but in a sense the PBC is gilding refined gold with the skill of the assemblers during normal production.

Though they don’t do a full throttle gasoline powered power and torque test on each engine, during the build at a couple of points torque needed to spin the engine is measured to make sure that internal friction is within tolerances and the almost assembled engine is also tested with air pressure to make sure that there are no leaks in the cooling and lubrication systems. Once competed, the engine is filled with oil and coolant for a cold spinning test and then it’s run, powered by natural gas, on a dynamometer in a test cell during the final harmonic balancing. As mentioned, that’s not a full gasoline fired dyno test, but it is used as a final check to screen out engines with anomalies before shipping. Assuming everything checks out, most of the engines built at the PBC are shipped to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, KY, where they will again be tested, once installed in a Corvette, on a chassis dynamometer. The customer built engines come with the identical warranty as any of the other engines produced by the facility. In addition to all that testing, the engines are not just rated under SAE test procedures, the plant is “SAE Certified”, which means that GM is effectively guaranteeing advertised power ratings.

While five or six grand for a one day event isn’t cheap, GM isn’t exploiting anyone, and the revenue probably comes close to the cost of the program. Based on my own experience and the fact that the actual customers are likely to already be Corvette fan boys and girls, I don’t think that they’ll be having any dissatisfied customers. About 50 customers have built engines so far, and paying participants get their picture on the PBC’s wall of fame, plus, I’m guessing, some cool swag. GM also supplies lodging, food and ground transportation, everything but transportation to the Detroit area.

As a car guy living near Detroit, I know that a lot of people, including many Americans, think that the entire Detroit area is an actual, not virtual, hellhole filled with the indolent, lazy, stupid and talent-challenged, but like Peter DeLorenzo likes to say, there are still plenty of true believers with plenty of smarts, talent and a personal drive to make great cars in this town. The GM Performance Build Center appears to be staffed by some of those true believers.

Disclaimer:   GM let me participate in the Engine Build Experience and bought me a vegetarian salad and a root beer for lunch. Oh, and a Pepsi. I provided transportation. I did get one of Mike Priest’s “assembled with pride” plates that gets attached to each engine he builds. Actually, as I applied the plate to the side of the intercooler housing per the placement fixture Mike had set in place, I asked him if I might be able to have one as a souvenir. He smiled and took the one out of his shirt pocket that he’d already gotten for me. I’m guessing that for their $5,800, actual Engine Build Experience customers also get a shirt and some swag. That and a very cool, very powerful engine.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS


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Chevrolet Volt On Pace For 20,000 Units In 2012 Sun, 17 Jun 2012 13:00:05 +0000

The Chevrolet Volt should eclipse its 2011 sales total by the end of June, and is apparently on pace to sell 20,000 units this year. It’s also outselling a major Chevrolet nameplate.

Wired magazine is reporting that based on sales data via GM (which is apparently based on “deliveries”, though Automotive News and other sources show identical numbers) the Volt is outselling the Corvette. 7,057 Volts have been sold versus 5,547 Vettes.

It’s hardly fair to compare the two cars. They are wildly different, and the C6 Corvette, as great as it is, is now old news, and the C7 is just around the corner. The more interesting story here is whether the Volt can finally gain some traction in the marketplace and keep up the current pace.

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Neil Armstrong’s 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427 For Sale Wed, 02 May 2012 17:44:30 +0000

As a teenager, I idolized Tom Wolfe after reading Bonfire of the Vanities. By the end of high school, I had read every single book read by him, and his too-brief description of the muscle cars of American astronauts in The Right Stuff instantly came back to me (along with the smells of my high school cafeteria) upon seeing this ad.

Wolfe recounts a story of the astronauts befriending car dealer and 1960 Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann. Rathmann was also friends with Chevrolet head Ed Cole. The two of them made sure that the astronauts got behind the wheel of Cole’s products

Eventually, Gus and Gordo had Corvettes like Al Shepard’s; Wally moved up from an Austin-Healy to a Maserati; and Scott Carpenter got a Shelby Cobra, a true racing vehicle. Al was continually coming by Rathmann’s to have his gear ratios changed. Gus wanted flared fenders and magnesium wheels. The fever gripped them all, but Gus and Gordo especially. They were determined to show the champ, Rathmann, and each other that they could handle these things. Gus would go out rat-racing at night at the Cape, racing full-bore for the next curve, dealing with the oncoming headlights by psychokinesis, spinning off the shoulders and then scrambling back up on the highway for more of it. It made you cover up your eyes and chuckle at the same time. The boys were fearless in an automobile, they were determined to hang their hides right out over the edge—and they had no idea what mediocre drivers they actually were, at least by the standards of professional racing.

Like Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong evidently had a Corvette at some point in his life. This example, now owned by a private citizen who apparently bought it from a NASA employee after Armstrong’s use, isn’t in the best condition. British classic car fanciers would tout its “lovely patina” and “provenance”.

Just what type of restoration the car would need is up for debate. I’m of the opinion that cars should be driven and enjoyed, not garaged and gawked at, but it’s important to strike a balance between keeping the car’s history intact, and bringing it up to an appropriate condition.

Thanks to Bring a Trailer for the link

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Chevrolet To Sell Corvette In Korea Tue, 01 May 2012 12:00:16 +0000

Is this another “senseless provocation” by “imperialist American dogs“, or do Koreans really want to buy the Chevrolet Corvette?

As the world’s most odious regime threatents the lives of those south of the 38th parallel, Chevrolet had decided to sell the Corvette in South Korea at a hefty premium. A Corvette Coupe (the only model available) will cost $76,300, or $26,700 more than the United States. Chevrolet already sells the Camaro in South Korea.

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Curbside Classic: GM’s Deadly Sin #9 – 1990 Corvette Fri, 30 Apr 2010 15:03:16 +0000

I walked well past this Corvette before I stopped and gave it a backwards glance, suddenly remembering that it is yellow convertible week. I wavered momentarily, gauging my feelings. Yes, it was fast and pulled impressive numbers on a skid pad. But numbers alone do not make the car. And my feelings meter just wasn’t moving one way or another, so I almost moved on. Call it the Madonna of sports cars? Then it hit me: this is the most soulless sports car ever, the ultimate antithesis to the TR-6. The C4 Corvette sold its soul to the devil of numbers. And in my cartechism, that’s a Deadly Sin.

Madonna would have been the right choice: hard, fast and soulless. The C4 was a technocart: seemingly designed to meet a few key stats, but all the other qualities that truly make a car were forgotten. I remember vividly Chevy crowing about how their new ’84 C4 was the first production car to pull over one G on the skid pad. Who cared, when the ride to the mythical glass-smooth skid pad was so punishingly hard that every pebble in the road became a menace to one’s health?

The eighties were GM’s worst decade ever, because the whole company had sold its soul to the numbers devil, Roger Smith. Everything at GM became reduced to numbers, resulting in…ever worse numbers. Of course, like most new GM cars that arrived during this period, the initial shortcomings were eventually attended to over the next few years, thanks to the screaming feedback from the paying beta testers.

But their endless complaints about the C4′s profound lack of structural cohesiveness were beyond just jiggering with the springs and shocks. The C4 was fundamentally flawed in that regard, and it made painfully clear how the plastic Chevy differed from a Porsche, much the same as it was thirty years earlier. Certain deeply ingrained personality traits are hard to shed.

The C4′s styling reflects its soulless character, or is it the other way around? Bill Mitchell, the soul father of the  stunning 1963 C2 and the flamboyant 1968 C3 was highly dismissive of the C4, designed just after his retirement. I suspect the new Corvette wasn’t the only thing coming out of GM he felt that way about. Of course something a bit cooler than the emotive and exaggerated C3 was inevitable. It’s not so bad, from a distance. Get close, and it looks like a cheap kit car cobbled up by the kids down the street. Is it really a Fiero with a Corvette body kit?

That doesn’t even properly describe the interior: it looks like it came from some East Bloc country in the dying days of communism: it never fit together properly when new, and now it looks like its about to discombobulate. Maybe this one hasn’t exactly been pampered, but look at it! It’s coming apart at the seams, literally. This alone is one big nasty reason why old Corvettes are not very appealing. Makes the Triumph dash look look like a million bucks.

Well, at least the the new generation reconnected with the Corvette’s inner V8. After the miserable decline in the small block’s output for almost a decade, the C4 marked the turning point. There really was a redeeming feature to Roger’s love of technology! Fuel injection to the rescue, as well as whatever it took to get the venerable sbc to start breathing again. The resuscitation efforts started very modestly, with the highly mediocre cross-fire (two Iron Duke TBI units?) 5.7 extracting all of 205 hp. But when the General finally sprung for genuine port injection, like the 1957′s once had, long slumbering horses slowly began to stir again.

The incremental improvements came in clusters of five or ten ponies at a time, and by 1990, it was up to all of 240, almost back to 1974′s 245 hp LT-1. But that vaunted name returned for 1992, with a new LT1 that finally packed some serious punch: 300 hp. The Corvette was back! And the LT1 made the vastly more expensive ZR-1 look irrelevant, given that it cost twice as much for an extra 75 hp. Call me a wet blanket, but the ZR-1 was another numbers bragging fest whose numbers didn’t add up.

The C4 Corvette was a fairly modest seller. Once the pent up interest of the first two years were gone, it bumbled along at around 20k units, less than half the rate of what its aged and fairly lethargic C3 predecessor was selling through most of the seventies. That alone confirms it: soul sells; numbers don’t.

More New Curbside Classics Here

]]> 75 Curbside Classic: 1962 Corvette – The Marilyn Monroe Of Cars [NSFW Alert] Thu, 25 Feb 2010 07:29:41 +0000

Seductive, voluptuous, hot, fast, flawed, sexy, modest beginnings, all-American, iconic, hits the big time in 1953, gone forever in the fall of ’62, immortal, unforgettable. My apologies if others have gone down this road before, but when I re-opened these Corvette pictures last night, that’s what came to mind. And I’ve learned to just go with it. Want to come along for the ride? If so, NSFW alert!

They both had modest beginnings. Norma Jean Mortenson was the product of a broken and dysfunctional family in working class Los Angeles. The Corvette sat on a shortened 1953 Chevrolet sedan frame, and shared its suspension, brakes, and Powerglide automatic. Its “Blue Flame” six cylinder engine was an evolution of Chevy’s first six that was probably conceived about the same time as Norma Jean was. The first Corvette sold in small numbers; Norma Jean modeled and eventually found her way into minor roles in obscure movies.

Both faced serious early challenges: an ancient six and nude photos. But Americans are a forgiving folk, and in 1953 Marilyn had her first big hit with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The Corvette lagged Marilyn a few years, but began to find its inner hotness in 1955, thanks to the new Chevy small block V8. One learned to act, the other to fly; both now hit their stride, right into the hearts and pants of mid-fifties America.

The Corvette and Marilyn both entered my life on the very same day: August 29, 1960. We arrived in NYC on the 27th from Austria, and I was a seven year old utterly innocent of the existence of either one of them. But then a relative took us for a tour of Manhattan two days later, and I saw my first Corvette. I wrote about that moment of my Corvette-induced instant automotive assimilation here. And my assimilation into the world of Marilyn occurred that very evening, thanks to a Life or Look magazine sitting on my grandmother’s cousin’s coffee table. I was now doubly and fully assimilated. And I promise not to use that word anymore.

The Corvette is memorable for two things only: its blistering hot V8 and its good looks. By 1957, thanks to its new-found performance coach Zora Arkus Duntov, it come into its full glory. A 283 hp fuel injected 283 cubic inch Mighty Mouse motor combined with the new four speed transmission and the right rear end could tear the fiberglasstic ’57 ‘Vette from zero to sixty in 5.7 seconds, and rip off the quarter mile in in 14.3 seconds at over 90 mph (Road & Track). Those were staggering numbers fifty three years ago, and made it untouchable in its time. It would be some ten years and a hemi head later before they were bettered.  And in 1957, the Corvette began to win trophies in SCCA racing. With the right parts, the Corvette was remade.

Marilyn discovered the Actor’s Studio the same year that the ‘Vette found its V8, and she broke through to new levels in her performances thanks to acting coach Paula Strasberg. Her performance in Bus Stop earned her a nomination for a Golden Globe that year. The Corvette and Marilyn had both been dismissed as lightweights by the sports car racing scene and Hollywood, but now they were showing their true capabilities.

That’s not to suggest that all was perfect with either of them. The Corvette’s cockpit may have been flamboyant and stylish when it was first conceived, but its lack of room for tall guys behind that delicious wheel was problematic, as were its instruments and controls. They might have been the cat’s meow on the Futurama stand in 1953, but by 1962 in the real world they were sorely outdated. It takes love and devotion to put up with the ‘Vettes ergonomic shortcomings. Ask the guys who try taking it for long drives. And Marilyn? Ask Joe DiMaggio what it was like to be married to Marilyn, for less than a year. “A comfortable fit” was probably not how he would describe it.

Although the Corvette was capable of winning races with the right parts and preparation, that’s not to suggest that it was a world class sports car. It’s crude underpinnings were hard to hide, even with that veneer of plastic fantastic. I spoke to a guy recently who bought a new Corvette in 1962, like this one, on a whim. He was heading to California from NY for a new job, and he figured he would treat himself for the drive cross the country. He said it was faster than stink, but he sold it as soon as he arrived in LA; the harsh ride, primitive handling, crappy brakes, and lack of creature comforts just didn’t wear well with him. It was a short, intense, but exhausting fling, and he traded it in on…damn; I can’t remember, but it was something from Europe, and it had a proper suspension, brakes and comfortable seats. Maybe even a Peugeot.

It didn’t take long for Marilyn to find a new hubby, Arthur Miller. Although it lasted longer, Marilyn’s exhausting unpredictability, fits and intense mood swings made their marriage anything but a smooth ride. The Corvette and Marilyn extracted plenty of pain in exchange for their pleasures.

As much as I fell for the Corvette as a seven year old in 1960, by 1962 I was having to confront its increasingly undeniable shortcomings. A cart-axle rear end suspended from a pair of leaf springs was looking mighty primitive compared to the complex IRS rear ends that Mercedes and Jaguar were showing off under their skirts. Never mind their disc brakes and OHC engines. My painful coming to terms with the ‘Vette’s Chevy sedan roots is documented here. Innocence is a fleeting phenomena. And by 1962, only ignorance could deny that the Corvette was long in tooth.

Chevrolet’s (predictable) solution to the Corvette’s rear end issues? A delightful new pointy ass for the 1961 model. But all it did was cover up the aging bones in a new pair of hot shorts. Marilyn’s was aging better.

That’s not say everything was hunky-dory with Marilyn, by any stretch. A troubled beginning is hard to shake off. Her last movie, The Misfits, is a gem,but she only barely got through it. Drugs and alcohol didn’t help. A visitor to the set later described Monroe as “mortally injured in some way.”

The C1 Corvette was nearing the end of its run, but at least it was injected with a burst of final-year energy, in the form of the brilliant 327 small block. Now the ‘Vette had the best all-round performance engine in the world, and European exotic car manufacturers were lining up to buy it to power their Iso Grifos, Bizzarinis, and the like. But the Corvette’s time had run out, and in the fall of 1962 the brilliant new 1963 Sting Ray inherited the C1 ‘Vette’s tidy ass and the 327 but little else, to finally take its place among the world-class sports cars of the day. Marilyn, sensing the end of her run, took another route. About the same time the last C1 Corvette ran off the line in St. Louis, Marilyn checked out for good. Some icons can be replaced; others not.

More New Curbside Classics Here

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