The Truth About Cars » Corvette The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:04:35 +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 » Corvette Book Review: No Time to Cry by Wilmer Cooksey, Jr. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:30:57 +0000 wilcooksey2

“On one occasion I was called out into the yard because there had been a shooting. A guard, a line worker and a car thief had been shot. The thief had been wounded gravely by the guard and was bleeding but he had made it into the cab of the car hauler and had driven for some distance before he crashed and was caught.”

The line worker probably wasn’t an unfortunate bystander, relates former Corvette plant manager Wil Cooksey in his gritty, totally human and completely engrossing autobiography No Time to Cry. At General Motors’ St. Louis assembly plant in the mid-70s, claims Cooksey, hourly workers were often accomplices to professional car thieves. These criminals planned armed raids on storage lots with the help of plant insiders, leading to occasionally deadly results. In Cooksey’s account, St. Louis resembles a battleground more than a car plant, emblematic of the worst of the bad old days of the American auto industry. This book isn’t just a rehash of the “GM dysfunction” genre pioneered by John Z. Delorean, though. As the story of a fascinating American life, No Time to Cry is a compelling read.

As a production engineer working his way up the GM ranks, Cooksey had plenty of time to observe the inner workings of one of America’s most powerful corporations. Before that, he was a poor black kid from Texas with an absent father and a mother that struggled to provide for her seven children. With some guidance, he managed to get into Tennessee State University in Nashville and earn a degree in electrical engineering. While at TSU he met his future wife Liz, who became his soul mate despite the obstacles between them. He moved on to a job as a process engineer with General Mills in Toledo, but soon, war intervened. He was drafted and after completing Officer Candidates’ School was sent to Vietnam. The experience would haunt him for the rest of his life, but it did contain one positive development. A chance encounter with a new Sting Ray in Hawaii turned him into a passionate Corvette lover, and helped change the direction of his career. After the war, he was hired to teach at the General Motors Institute in Flint. He transferred to the St. Louis assembly plant a few years later, in pursuit of his dream of managing Corvette production.

What emerges from Cooksey’s account of his sojourn through various GM plants is a picture of a company marked by sharp contrasts. St. Louis embodied virtually every stereotype of American auto plants in the 70s: racial animosity, workplace violence, sabotage, absenteeism, alcoholism and substance abuse. Cooksey claims he hid a revolver in his car and carried a six inch blade out of concern for his own safety. He describes being sucked into the toxic culture of the plant, where both management and hourly workers got loaded in the bar across the street as their coping mechanism. This, combined with the unwanted advances of many of the plant’s single women, nearly destroyed Cooksey’s marriage. However, he was able to patch things up with his wife and move to the Doraville, Georgia assembly plant, temporarily distancing himself from Corvette production.

Labor relations at Doraville weren’t great, but they were a marked improvement from St. Louis. Cooksey was able to surround himself with a cadre of trusted advisors, and made some progress on improving both quality and productivity. He had his easiest time as manager at Fairfax Assembly in Kansas City, Missouri, which he describes as a “joy” to manage. He chalked this up to differences in plant culture, brought about by a combination of both management and labor tactics. Cooksey is harshly critical of the UAW at times, as one might expect of a production supervisor. In St. Louis he describes the union as a “fierce, three-headed, Hydra-monster” that eventually brought about the plant’s demise. He does strive to make a distinction between the union and individual workers, the majority of whom he defends as good employees. Some, such as an unnamed “informant” at the Bowling Green plant, were essential to helping Cooksey stamp out persistent safety violations and improve quality and productivity. Labor only absorbs one part of Cooksey’s criticism.

Cooksey’s struggles with upper management, especially after he landed his dream job supervising Corvette production at Bowling Green in 1993, compose a large part of the text. He describes a dedicated core of “Corvette people” including himself, product engineers such as Tadge Juechter, management executive Joe Spielman, and Corvette marketing director Harlan Charles. They clashed with other managers and departments on a variety of issues, especially in terms of quality control. It was Cooksey who made the decision to halt production of the then-new C5 Corvette in 1997 to address persistent quality issues, a moment that he describes as one of the lowest points of his career. Despite these setbacks, his time in Bowling Green was more than just gloom and doom. The plant became one of GM’s best for initial quality under his tenure, winning numerous internal and external awards. He retired in early 2008, shortly before GM went under and he was left with a stack of worthless stocks. Those looking for a long discourse on the bailout will be disappointed, but Cooksey’s insights into the daily running of an auto plant are more enjoyable anyway.

At $3.99 for the Kindle edition, this book is a steal. Or, you can get a signed hard copy from the Corvette Museum like I did. Either way, you’re getting one of the best auto industry memoirs of recent years, and a must-have for any Corvette diehard. It’s littered with the kind of trivia and insights that can only come from someone as intimately involved with production as Cooksey was. The biographical side is what makes this book, though: the human passion and pain of a man trying to build a life and a legacy side-by-side, one Corvette at a time.

]]> 16
One Man, One Brand, Five Decades: The Bob McDorman Automotive Museum Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:54 +0000 10383682_242435199288709_3967894888208494067_n

Our current age is one of multistate megadealers, Carmax, Ebay, and an ever-growing number of other depersonalized ways to buy a car. In these giddy times of direct sales experiments and apps for online vehicle purchases, it’s easy to forget that local franchise car dealers were pillars of American community life for decades. At the Bob McDorman Automotive Museum in central Ohio, however, the days when car dealers were more than just a place to buy a shiny new consumer product are alive and well.


Located in the village of Canal Winchester, the Museum is a monument to the legacy of one of area’s most well-known Chevrolet dealers. Bob McDorman, 82 years young, began his career in car sales in 1953 when he was hired by a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer in London, Ohio. The first Corvette was also released that year, sparking McDorman’s lifelong fascination with America’s sports car. After he became a Chevrolet dealer in his own right in 1965, Corvettes formed the backbone of his own car collections. He was inducted into the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2012, in recognition of his contributions to both collecting and promoting the Corvette brand. McDorman has been in Canal Winchester since 1968, and his dealership is still a going concern.


The word “collections” isn’t a typo. Over the years McDorman accumulated three successive collections of GM cars, Corvettes, and memorabilia, which were then auctioned off. McDorman describes the thrill of the chase as his favorite aspect of collecting; the Museum represents his fourth collection of cars. Some of them were sold new by McDorman and were tracked down many years later. Others were cars that McDorman previously owned, but bought back when he decided to open the Museum. The Museum is in the process of adding more memorabilia to the walls, including vintage Chevrolet signs and other automobilia. Many of the light-up signs aren’t hung yet, but will be in place within the next few months.


The Museum isn’t enormous, but it has plenty of rarities and mint-condition originals. The 1957 Cameo you see above is one of one, the only truck produced in that color combination for that model year. My personal favorite is the 1960 Corvair Monza Club Coupe on display. A 10,000 mile unrestored original, the car is also one of McDorman’s favorites. There are several other mint 50s Chevrolets nearby. They might be the finest unrestored originals of their kind, including a delivery-mileage ’53 Corvette. McDorman states that the goal is to fill up the permanent display spots in the museum, while also having a few consignment cars for sale in the middle. McDorman sold a majority stake in his dealership to megadealer Jeff Wyler in 2011, and plans to retire fully in 2015 after fifty years with GM. Even so, he’ll keep his dealer’s license so that he can sell cars within the museum.


Although there are plenty of fantastic cars in the museum, they aren’t the reason that you should go to it; McDorman himself is the most compelling part of the exhibit. He’s seated at the desk in the first picture, flanked by the third and last production 1978 Corvette Pace Cars. He plans to be there, ready to talk to any visitor, whenever the museum is open (usually Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 10 am to 5 pm). This is the part where I admit I was more than a little overawed; he’s had more than twice my lifetime worth of experience in the car biz and he’s still sharp as a knife. Even so, he has a genuine approachability and affable disposition that must account for some of the endless number of customer satisfaction and GM dealer awards that carpet the walls. As a kid I went every year to the massive car show he would throw on his huge lot on the outskirts of Columbus. He’d have a large part of his own collection on display, and street rodders and Corvette people would come from near and far to take it in. Now he entertains a steady stream of visitors in his own museum. How many car dealers can claim that level of community rapport? Even dealership skeptics like me should enjoy chatting with McDorman, who is a genuine enthusiast and still quite knowledgeable about industry goings-on. It’s an opportunity you simply won’t get in most other car museums. As an experiment in living history, the Museum excels.

]]> 12
Strong C7 Corvette Sales Mean More Profits for GM Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:04:14 +0000 2015 Corvette Z06. Full gallery here

2015 Corvette Z06. Full gallery here

The Chevrolet Corvette may be outselling all of Porsche’s sports car models combined, but GM will still sell fewer Corvettes this year than the number of Chevy Cruzes they are likely to sell this month. You might think that one of General Motors’ lowest volume cars could not contribute much to the company’s bottom line, but the success of the 7th generation Corvette will mean hundreds of millions of dollars more in profit this year for the automaker.

When the latest Corvette was introduced in early 2013, annual sales had been in the 12,000 to 14,000 unit range since 2009, about a 2/3 drop from sales a decade earlier. I can remember when there were rumors in the 1990s that GM might kill the Corvette because sales had dropped to about 25,000 cars a year so it was somewhat surprising that the ‘Vette survived GM’s bankruptcy with sales at half that level.

At the C7′s introduction in January of 2013, I was talking to Harlan Charles, Corvette majordomo (actually his official title is product and marketing manager for the car) and he surprised me when he said that the program was profitable at the then current build rates. When I expressed skepticism and mentioned the rumored demise of the ‘Vette in the ’90s, Charles said that it wasn’t the 1990s anymore, that efficiencies had been implemented and that the Bowling Green Corvette assembly plant made money making a fraction of the cars it used to make. In 2012, Chevy sold about 14,400 C6 Corvettes in North America. The C7 edition has been well received and Chevy has sold more than twice that number in just the first half of 2014, 18,500. Unless something completely unexpected happens, the Corvette should easily surpass 30,000 sales this year and possibly exceed 35,000.

Mark Reuss, who is GM’s president for North America, has publicly stated that the ‘Vette “makes as much money as any of the top-profit models in our company.” Those pickups can represent five figures of profit on vehicles with higher transaction prices. Adam Levine Weinberg at The Motley Fool website takes Reuss’ comments to mean that gross profit per vehicle (not including development costs) on the C7 Corvette could be $10,000 or more. That means that the 20,000 or so additional Corvettes that GM will sell this year compared to last year works out to an additional $200 million in gross profit.

Now for a company that booked a net profit of $3.8 billion dollars last year, $200 million isn’t a huge amount of money, but it’s  far from chump change. With Chrysler just introducing the 707 horsepower Hellcat edition of the Dodge Challenger, there will be pressure on the Corvette team to respond with a higher performance model than the 650 hp Z06 version of the ‘Vette. While that $200 million may be a fraction of GM’s total profits, it will certainly make it easier for Mr. Charles and his team to convince Marry Barra and her team to greenlight a ZR1 Corvette with even more power than the Hellcat.

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 get a parallax view 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 for reading – RJS

]]> 21
BMW M235i Bests Corvette, 911 In Consumer Reports Road Testing Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:00:17 +0000 BMW M235i HR 04

BMW’s M235i has earned the highest marks ever bestowed upon the German automaker’s lineup from Consumer Reports, while also besting the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette in road tests whose results were recently released online.

Bloomberg reports the coupe earned a 98 out of 100 in its road test, falling one point short of the all-time leaders, the Tesla Model S and Lexus LS460L. The 911 and Corvette, packing more firepower with less comfort than the M235i, earned 95 and 92 out of 100 in their respective road tests.

Deputy editor Jon Linkov proclaimed the M235i a “dual-purpose car” that anyone “could drive to work every day of the week” without leaving the driver in pain, followed by a weekend at the track taking on the likes of the 911 and Corvette. He added that this particular BMW “has almost a direct lineage” to BMWs of the past that lived up to the marketing of “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Neither of the trio were recommended by the publication, however, as the BMW and the Corvette were too new for reliability reports, while the 911 has below average reliability according to those surveyed.

]]> 33
Chevrolet Offers 14.7% APR Financing To “Well Qualified” Corvette Buyers Fri, 27 Jun 2014 10:40:41 +0000 download

While perusing Chevy’s website to see if there is any color of the 2014 Corvette that actually makes the car look halfway decent, I came across the financing offer pictured above. And, no, I did not enter any personal info that would lead GM’s captive Ally Financial (or whoever the hell GMAC is now) to deem me only eligible for such a high interest rate. Just what is going on here?

A quick look at other Chevrolet vehicles on the site show financing offers of 3.9% to 4.9% APR. These rates may be subvented, or bought down by the manufacturer to help move slow-selling iron, though with car loan rates being under 2.0% by independent banks in much of the US, one has to wonder how much Ally is being charged for their money. Even if they are paying a sky-high 4.0%, it is a mystery why they would advertise a 14.7% loan on the Stingray, rather than, say 6.0% or 7.0%. Ally and the dealers would make a fortune on this 72-month loan but I don’t think they will get any takers because unlike buying the Corvette itself, with dealer price gouging running rampant, consumers actually have many choices when it comes to financing.

I can only conclude that either this offer is in error (maybe even their marketing folks are slammed by the recall crisis) or Ally Financial is simply not interested in $50,000+ loans.

What say you?


]]> 24
GM Ignition Issues Pile Up From Within, Abroad Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:00:14 +0000 Violet GM RenCen

In today’s General Motors digest: An ignition-related issue is quietly fixed years before the February 2014 recall; a Chinese supplier is blamed for defective switches recalled in June; Ally prepares to take flight from the Beltway; and Mark Reuss helps bring back a Corvette stolen 33 years ago.

Automotive News reports two design flaws in switches used on the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion allowed the key to slip out of the casing while the engine still had power. The flaws were investigated twice in November 2004 and June 2005, prompting supplier Ortech to modify the shape and size of the ignition lock cylinder based on the findings. However, consumers weren’t notified of this particular change until a recall notice was issued in April 2014. The design change was implemented in 2006, according to GM.

In related news, Reuters reports the recall of 3.4 million vehicles earlier this month by GM was due to a defective ignition switch made by Chinese supplier Dalian Alps Electronics. Unlike the similar situation affecting 2.6 million vehicles recalled in February, the automaker has opted to replace or rework the keys to eliminate a slot that would allow a ring to shift to one side, pulling the switch out of the “run” position. Parent company Alps Electric claims that while Dalian did make the part, the subsidiary manufactured the switch based on GM’s designs, and that neither party had received word or complaint from the automaker about the issue.

On the financial front, Automotive News says Ally Financial, the former financial wing of GM under the name GMAC Financial, is one step closer to corporate independence from ownership by the United States Treasury when two of the remaining three Treasury-nominated board members step down from the board during the lender’s annual shareholder conference July 17. Ally hopes to be out from government ownership by the end of 2014, allowing the lender to regain access to bank deposits in funding subprime loans, benefiting both it and its dealership network due to the low costs in using bank deposits over more expensive funding tools. Currently, the Treasury owns 16 percent of Ally, down from 63 percent at the start of 2014, and 37 percent prior to the lender’s IPO in April.

Finally, WXYZ-TV reports GM’s executive vice president of global product development Mark Reuss has offered to bring home a 1979 Chevrolet Corvette that was stolen 33 years ago from its owner, George Talley, at GM’s expense. Earlier this week, AAA called Talley to inform him the car was found in good condition in Hattiesburg, Miss. after a falsified VIN tipped off authorities to the car’s whereabouts. Reuss made the offer to Talley during an interview with WJR-AM’s Paul W. Smith, and the Corvette is expected to come home within the next few days.

]]> 2
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.


]]> 129
Feinberg: A Modest Window To File Recall-Related Claims Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:00:30 +0000 File photo of General Motors logo outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit

Bloomberg reports the compensation fund designed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg for General Motors will have “a relatively modest timetable to invite claimants to file their claims” once the claim period begins August 1. Feinberg also said by the end of June, he and his team will have a program “that will define who’s eligible to file a claim… what the dollars will look like for those who file,” as well as the obligations the plaintiffs will need to have “to prove their claim.” GM CEO Mary Barra added that her company won’t know the final cost of the fund “until the actual compensation has been run,” though an estimate may come at the end of Q2 2014.

On the other end of the scale, The Detroit News reports the automaker has come into full compliance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the agency’s request for documentation about the recall, bringing an end to the $7,000/day fine put in place for non-compliance. The total penalty paid to the NHTSA will come to $420,000 from the time the clock began on April 4 — after the automaker failed to answer in full by the previous day the 107-question survey to sort out the recall’s handling — through June 5, the day the Valukas Report was published and distributed to all concerned parties. The fine is in addition to the $35 million maximum fine levied upon GM for the decade-plus delay prior to recalling the out-of-spec ignition switch at the heart of the matter, and is due by July 4; the $35 million fine is due this Friday.

Meanwhile, Georgia lawyers Lance Cooper and Jere Beasley claimed in a statement that GM is attempting to move the nearly reopened wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of Brooke Melton to bankruptcy court in New York in an effort to use the liability shield established in the automaker’s exit from bankruptcy in 2009 to deflect the new claim. Melton’s family had accepted a settlement in September 2013 under allegations her 2010 fatal accident behind the wheel of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt was the result of the defective switch on-board, one of 13 total fatalities so linked thus far. Alleging GM hid evidence in bankruptcy, Cooper and Beasley filed a lawsuit last month to reopen the case and set aside the settlement.

Finally, Autoblog reports GM has filed a trademark claim with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to reserve the name Zora for “motor land vehicles, namely, automobiles.” The name is part of the automaker’s heritage, as Zora Arkus-Duntov helped take the Chevrolet Corvette from a low-powered roadster with European flair, to a fire-breathing beast on the track and in the showroom through the car’s first two generations. The publication speculates the name could be used on a special edition Corvette somewhere down the road, especially if linked to a Grand Sport model; Arkus-Duntov led the Grand Sport program that established the Corvette as a racing legend during the C2 era.

]]> 0
Akerson: Barra Did Not Know About Ignition Defect Before Becoming CEO Thu, 29 May 2014 13:00:03 +0000 Dan Akerson

Automotive News reports former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson proclaimed in an interview with Forbes magazine that current CEO Mary Barra had no knowledge of the out-of-spec ignition switch that led to the February 2014 recall of 2.6 million vehicles, going as far as to bet his own life on the statement. Barra added the fallout from the recall is a chance for GM to not only “do the right thing and serve the customer well through” the crisis, but “to accelerate cultural change” within the company. Akerson passed the torch to Barra in December 2013 to take time to care for his ailing wife, and has since rejoined Carlyle Group as vice chairman on its board of directors.

Within the company, Detroit Free Press reports morale is up despite the numerous recalls levied upon the automaker, according to global product boss Mark Reuss. He states the results of an internal survey among GM’s global employees are higher than those found in 2012, citing a renewed focus on corporate transparency since the recall crisis began. Finally, Reuss told reporters at an event focused upon this weekend’s Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix that the C8 Corvette is now being developed, and did not rule out the possibility for electric and/or hybrid power for the upcoming sports car.

Speaking of GM’s recall parade, Ward’s Auto says the automaker released a document of its recall activities thus far in 2014, which is available to interested parties through a special site set up by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The document focuses on recalls in the United States and North America through Q1 and Q2 2014, with the current totals as of May 21, 2014 standing at 13.8 million in the U.S. and 15.8 in North America.

In compact car news, Automotive News reports GM India will begin exporting compact and subcompact vehicles during the second half of 2014 to help better use capacity of the Talegaon plant as the local market slows down. LHD variants of the Chevrolet Beat — Spark in the U.S. — will be the first to see a trip to the docks, destined to arrive in Chile Q1 2015, a reflection of the boosted confidence in quality at the plant, according to president Arvind Saxena. GM’s utilization rate is the lowest among all automakers in India at 28 percent, contributing to an overall local industry total of 55 percent production capacity used in 2013; the automaker’s two factories produce a combined capacity of 282,000 annually.

Finally, CarNewsChina has new spy shots of the upcoming Chevrolet Aveo hatchback set to enter the market July 10. The automaker’s best-selling compact will retain the 1.4- and 1.6-liter engines of the outgoing models, with five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions available to deliver between 103 and 121 horsepower to the front wheels. The hatch will follow the redesigned sedan, the latter due next month.

]]> 22
New York 2014: 2015 Corvette Z06 Convertible Live Shots Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:33:45 +0000 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-12

Turning up alongside the new-for-United States Chevrolet Trax, the 2015 Corvette Z06 posed topless before the cameras at the 2014 New York Auto Show. Speaking of, the top can be raised at speeds of up to 30 mph, while the car itself can go from naught to 60 in 3.5 seconds; the time matches that of the hardtop variant.

As for what’s under the more airy clothes, a chassis that is 20 percent stiffer than the hardtop, upon which rests the same 6.2-liter V8 pushing approximately 625 horsepower and 635 lb-ft of torque toward the back tires. The engine will be mated with a choice of either a seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, the latter’s fast shifts could prove venerable on the track once a roll bar is installed.

The Z06, in both guises, will arrive sometime in 2015, and can be upgraded with the Z07′s list of goodies, with Chevrolet providing an open options list for future owners.

2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-12 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-13 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-15 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-2 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-4 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-7 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-5 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-10 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-3 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-9 ]]> 9
Super Piston Slap: Poorvette Fever! Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:12:57 +0000

Aside from “real racers” who insist The 24 Hours of LeMons is a joke, everyone else understands this series’ willingness to embrace engineering and artistic creativity, providing somewhat-wholesome entertainment and—best of all– giving away a metric ton of track time for little cash.  As a member of the LeMons Supreme Court in their Texas races, well, bias from judicial bribes and heartless praise bestowed upon me aside…

…here’s a dirty little secret: you can go LeMons racing in any fully depreciated machine with ZERO PENALTY LAPS, no matter how awesome the vehicle was when new. Provided you bend (not break) the rules with your whip.  And give everyone a good reason to love/hate you.  The Poorvette is proof positive.

Now this ain’t no secret, as Murilee Martin already mentioned how the Poorvette shoulda been buried under penalty laps. But wasn’t.  Why?

  1. The team: historically they‘ve been nice to everyone, pre C4 Corvette ownership.  Sometimes that goes a long way in determining penalty laps, or lack thereof.
  2. The Poorvette’s somewhat believable story: being an earlier C4 (Tuned Port Injection) body with an LT-1/6-speed swap gone wrong (supposedly), then sold for cheap-ish and parted out to fit in LeMons rules.***
  3. Track record:  American V8 iron has rarely endured in LeMony races, much less possessing the fuel economy to match with the infrequent pit stops of more efficient metal. #notwinning
  4. Margin for error: you are guaranteed to enjoy passing every lily livered furrin’ car in your wedge-tastic Vette, to the point that euphoria nets you a black flag. Then serious repercussions (that often come with zero-penalty laps) in the judging area…resulting in no chance of winning.
  5. Not winning is a big “win” for everyone: the fanbois have grist for their mill, the haters do their thang, and LeMons tells another insane story.

Clearly this is a win-win for everyone. Especially you, oh cheaty race team.

Photo courtesy: (

And how did the Poorvette do? It led the pack, getting everyone all hot and bothered.  But then the stock fuel tank/pump had starvation issues in the corners, which was the icing on the cake after the power steering failed the day before in testing.  No matter how fast you’re going, those Z06-style wheels are too wide to ever make a lack of power steering acceptable. Even still, the Poorvette probably also set one of the fastest lap times, which totally means nothing in an endurance race.

Hare, meet the Tortoise…son!

But still, the Poorvette’s maiden voyage netted a respectable 6th place on a weekend lacking Corvette friendly weather.  Not bad considering how many Porsche 944s need far more work to accomplish similar results.  Perhaps one day we will see C4s give those Porkers the drubbing they got back in the 1980s. If so, don’t expect Judge Phil to be generous with C4s again. Ever.

No matter, the Poorvette’s crew even earned a Judge’s Choice Award, which proves once more: we need more C4s in LeMons!  Well not exactly.

Perhaps more “taboo” cars that aren’t of the E30 or retired Spec-Miata variety. Like more Porsche 928s, rear-wheel drive Maximas souped up with Z-car parts, more cheaty compact trucks (cough, RANGER, cough) and more GM sedans easily modified to DOMINATE in the slower classes: C and B.   And let’s not forget more super-durable CVPI Panthers, too.

So there you have it: good stuff happens in LeMons when you play your cards right. Thank the Poorvette for proving that.

*** Considering the early C4s utter domination in SCCA back in the day, and their still impressive autocross performances today, the Poorvette crew would do just as well in LeMons with the stock aluminum headed L98 and a close ratio 4+3 gearbox. Their LT-1 swap and wide ratio T-56 gearbox did very little for me. This is an endurance race, not a drag race!



]]> 15
Editorial: Cars In A Hole Fri, 21 Feb 2014 13:00:30 +0000 corvettemuseum1

Seeing a bunch of Corvettes in a hole sucks. It got me thinking though, about how falling into a Kentucky sinkhole last week was probably the most exciting thing to happen to the cars on display at the National Corvette Museum in quite a while. That’s a damn shame.

Car museums, while often interesting, generally leave me cold. They can be great if you’re at an event with a presenter who really knows the cars and can bring the subject alive. But just strolling through, gaping at one static display after another is like going to the zoo to see the killer beasts of the jungle.

It’s such a superficial experience, just looking at this stuff, and even then, you’re not allowed to really go poking around. The velvet rope or plexiglas barrier keep you from getting too close. You usually can’t lean over, under or into the cars, let alone touch anything, and that’s where the real interesting stuff is. Oh, you might catch a glimpse of some safety wire here and a trick carburetor linkage there, but hearing and seeing this stuff in action is very, very rare.

Hearing the skull-crushing open exhaust of a full-on racing V8, and even better yet, getting to ride in one of these machines that have been ascribed such significance, is how new fans are made. You say kids these days don’t care about cars? Plop 11-year old junior in the passenger seat of something that sounds like an Essex-class flight deck during the battle of Tarawa and I guarantee you he’ll see God.

I’m not totally against museums, and I’m certainly a proponent of keeping history on a roll. Is it necessary, though, to hang on to the 1 millionth Corvette produced, just because they managed to make 1 million of them? It’s not an engineering prototype, it didn’t win any famous races, it was built and then put into storage. What an ignominious end for a sports car named after one of the speediest types of sailing ships – two things that are all about action. I have the same question about the 40th Anniversary Corvette that wound up in the pit, and the Pace Car, too. These cars seem only pseud0-significant. In fact, when you think about it, they seem like cynical attempts to create falsely-important special models by decree.

Now, actual race cars, engineering mules, vehicles where we can clearly see the head-scratching process laid bare and get an appreciation for how success and greatness were eventually achieved, those are cars we can learn a lot from. Having these cars around is a living testament to the clever work undertaken by talented engineers and designers. But how can you really get an appreciation for this stuff when it’s merely a caged animal? And who determines which cars are “significant” and which are not? Some of the most clever ideas can be found on some of the lowliest cars, stuff that wasn’t “worth” anything more than its scrap value.

This isn’t a knock on the Corvette Museum or any other car museum, it’s merely an unresolved internal monologue that probably bears some discussion as we continue to lose touch with the most visceral part of our automotive past. Should you care about museums dedicated to cars? Is it a tragedy? Would it be a better or worse end for one of these things to have its brains dashed out during a vintage racing event, instead?

]]> 58
Disaster at National Corvette Museum: Can History Be Saved? Thu, 13 Feb 2014 17:12:25 +0000 corvettemuseum1

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky suffered major sinkhole damage yesterday. Now the fate of several important Corvettes, and perhaps the museum itself, hangs in the balance.

No one was hurt in the cave-in, which occurred overnight in the “Skydome” section of the museum. Eight Corvettes were sucked into the hole, including two on loan from GM: a ’93 ZR-1 convertible and an ’09 ZR1 hardtop. The remaining six are owned by the museum: a black ’62, the ’84 PPG Pace Car, the 1 Millionth Corvette (a white ’92 convertible), a ruby red ’93 40th Anniversary Edition, an ’01 Mallet Z06, and the 1.5 Millionth Corvette (a white ’09 convertible). Video from the site is pretty grim. The video below, taken from an aerial drone with a camera attached, is a fairly complete survey of the devastation:

Click here to view the embedded video.

The black ’62 and the ’09 ZR1 landed near the top of the pile, bruised but hopefully still intact. The ’93 40th Anniversary looks pretty trashed though, as does the 1 Millionth Corvette. Both have tumbled end over end at least once, with the 1 Millionth landing behind the slab on which the ’62 precariously lies. What looks like the ’84 Pace Car is almost completely buried, and the 1.5 Millionth Corvette appears to have been squished underneath the slab on which the ’09 ZR1 sits. The Mallet Z06 is nowhere to be seen.

From a historical perspective, the loss of the 1 Millionth and 1.5 Millionth Corvettes is the worst part of the accident. Both represent irreplaceable milestones in Corvette history, as does the ’84 Pace Car to a lesser extent. Time will tell if they can be resurrected, but for now the museum faces bigger worries. The Bowling Green Fire Department estimates the hole to be about forty feet across and up to thirty feet deep, based on the drone video. The Museum has stated that the Skydome is a separate unit from the other facilities, and that hopefully the structural damage can be contained. However, the nature of the disaster raises troubling questions about the viability of the rest of the Museum.

Bowling Green is only about ten miles away from Mammoth Cave National Park. Much of Kentucky lies in what is known as a karst region: an area where easily eroded limestone forms the bedrock. Acidic water and other weathering create natural caverns below the soil, which range widely in size. Some of them have formed tourist attractions like Mammoth Cave, but many others are undiscovered booby traps for human development. Once they collapse in, they are difficult to work around. The Museum’s sinkhole formed from the collapse of one of these caverns. Depending on the engineering report, the integrity of the entire site may be called into question. In any case, there will be tough times ahead for one of America’s best known auto museums.

]]> 87
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.

01 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1984 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 72
Corvette & Cosworth Introduce Industry’s First Performance Data Recorder Telemetry System Mon, 06 Jan 2014 11:00:12 +0000

Chevrolet used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to introduce what it says is an industry first for the 2015 Corvette, a factory equipped Performance Data Recorder that integrates video, audio and motorsport inspired telemetry recording to improve driver technique and lap times. Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer, said in a statement, “The Performance Data Recorder combines the ability to record and share drive videos with the power of a professional-level motorsports telemetry system. Drivers can easily record and share their experiences driving down the Tail of the Dragon or lapping Road Atlanta. In addition, with the included telemetry software, users can analyze their laps in incredible detail and find opportunities to improve their driving and lap times.” The PDR will be available when the 2015 Corvette goes on sale in the third quarter of 2014 and pricing will be announced closer to launch.

The PDR, system was developed with Cosworth, the British engineering company that already supplies the factory Corvette Racing team’s data acquisition and telemetry system. The PDR system has three major components, a 720P HD video camera mounted in the windshield header trim that gives a driver’s point-of-view, a self-contained telemetry recorder that uses a dedicated GPS receiver operating at 5 hz. That’s five times faster than a typical navigation system and allows for more precise locating and corner traces. The recorder also is connected to the Corvette’s Controller Area Network, or CAN, giving it access to vehicle information including engine speed, transmission performance, braking forces and steering wheel angle. The third component is a dedicated SD card slot in the glove box for recording and transferring video and data. An 8 gigabyte card will be able to record about 200 minutes and a 32 gig card will store up to 13 hours of driving time. A dedicated microphone records audio.

In addition to Touring Mode, which simply records and displays video and audio of the drive, there area three data overlay options for the display, rendered in real time:

  • Track Mode – shows the maximum level of data on the screen, including speed, rpm, g-force, a location-based map, lap time and more.
  • Sport Mode – shows fewer details on the overlay but includes key data including speed and g-force
  • Performance Mode – records performance metrics, such as 0 to 60 mph acceleration, 1/4-mile speed and elapsed time, and 0-100-0 mph runs.

The finished video can be downloaded to a computer for editing and sharing. PDR videos can also be viewed on the Stingray’s 8″ color touchscreen when the car is parked.

If drivers want to dig deeper into their performance, the package comes with “Cosworth Toolbox” software, that combines Cosworth’s professional-level motorsport data analysis with an easy-to-use graphic interface.

For users who want a more in-depth understanding of their performance, the PDR vehicle data can be opened in the included “Cosworth Toolbox” software, Cosworth’s professional-level motorsport data analysis tool. The application overlays recorded laps on a Bing-enabled satellite map of the track. Then it compares actual corner traces, vehicle speed and cornering forces from selected laps to help drivers improve their speed through corners and overall lap times.

“The ability to review laps between track sessions can identify immediate adjustments for quicker laps in the next session,” said Juechter. “It’s like having a 32-GB crew chief trackside providing you with real-time feedback to improve your driving skills.”

]]> 11
Original Documents: The Corvette Story (Circa 1961) by P.J. Passon Thu, 26 Dec 2013 14:00:42 +0000 sae

Okay, so it’s not The Christmas Story, but while trying to track down a since deleted summary of an upcoming Society of Automotive Engineers paper that leaked details of the 8 speed automatic transaxle that the 2015 Corvette will offer, I came across another SAE paper concerning the Corvette, this one published in 1961, titled The Corvette Story. In 1961, just 8 years after the first Corvettes went on sale,  fiberglass bodied cars were still a new thing. Chevrolet engineer P.J. Passon’s paper for the SAE goes over the processes involved in making the Corvette bodies and then how the cars are assembled. He discusses the 1961 Corvette’s engineering features and explains why GM went with fiberglass instead of steel and also why mass-market Chevrolet was making and selling a sports car with limited market appeal. I’m sure that anyone with an interest in Corvettes and Corvette history will find it worthwhile, though it’s also a nice snapshot of advanced materials manufacturing circa 1961.

The Corvette Story
P.J. Passon

Chevrolet Engineering Center
Chevrolet Motor Division
Warren Michigan


In its brief life span of eight years, the Corvette has undergone rapid character development. It has built up a clientele all its own – demanding, but enthusiastic. Their attitude is contagious, and progress has come fast. I do not intend to cover the history of the Corvette this morning, except to say that its roadability has increased since 1953 in roughly the same proportion as its power-to-weight ratio or approximately two-to-one.

Many interesting engineering concepts have been incorporated into this car, and I intend to cover them briefly this morning. However, since most of you people, and I hope all of you, are going to tour the Corvette assembly plant this afternoon, I want to tailor my talk to enable you to take full advantage of that opportunity. I’d like to answer the questions that would occur to you as you tour the plant; so in this comparatively quiet atmosphere I will give you a “Cook’s Tour,” concentrating on the interesting and unique operations that occur down the line.

Shown in Figure 1 is the end product – the 1961 Corvette. As you can see, it’s not a family car.


Underbody panels and door inner panels (Fig. 2) are shown stacked In the yard of the Corvette assembly plant. They arrive with all standard equipment holes punched, and nearly ready for assembly. These panels are unaffected by the elements, so outside storage is no problem.


The first question on the engineering mind is: “What do these panels consist of, and how do they get that way?” The quickest way to answer that question is to go directly to the supplier plant where they are made.

Figure 3 is a view of the underbody preform in our supplier plant in Ashtabula. It is the first of a three-station operation in producing an underbody. A mixture of chopped fiber glass strands and liquid resin is being sprayed onto a vacuum-backed wire-mesh screen shaped like an underbody.


The purpose here is to get a mat of fiber glass of uniform thickness to fit into the rather complicated shape of the matched-metal dies. The preform screen is mounted on a rotating drum to make uniform distribution easier for the operator to achieve.

The huge doors to the right and left of the picture swing closed to form a baking oven, and heat is supplied to shorten curing time. In about three minutes the preform is removed and placed in the match metal dies. The preform mat itself is only of sufficient strength by virtue of the resin binder to stay in one piece during this transfer. You will notice in the lower right hand corner of the picture, the fiber glass yarn is fed from spools into the spray gun mechanism. There they are chopped into half inch strands and fed to the blower. As they leave the spray gun they pass through liquid resin coming from a separate nozzle on the gun. A timer on the spray gun helps the operator control the density of fiber glass from panel to panel which is specified as 40 per cent by volume in the finished part.


This is the matched metal die (Fig. 4). The operators pour and spread evenly measured quantities of polyester resin mixture, which consists of resin, inert filler, (which in our panels is a pulverized clay) and a catalyst. The closing action of the dies completes the distribution of the resin mixture over the surface and through the mat thoroughly impregnating the fiber glass with resin. The curing cycle is speeded by steam heat circulated through both dies at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Curing time is about three minutes. Thick-ness, controlled by the space between the closed dies, is .100 inch in almost all panels used in the Corvette body. A wax-based lubricant on the dies permits easy removal of the finished part.

In less complex shapes, the pre-form operation is unnecessary. The fiber glass mat is simply laid out like a blanket to conform to the final dies. The contours of the finished part determine the method to be used. If the mat can be placed in the die with no wrinkling, or no difficult matching of cut up pieces, this method can be profitably employed. Pinch-off of the excess fiberglass around the edges is accomplished by the shearing action of dies as they close as shown in Figure 5. This arrangement also serves the purpose of preventing the resin from oozing out on all sides.


The third station (Fig. 6) drills all the holes necessary for standard attachments. No further drilling is required after the panel gets to the plant, except that required for installation of optional equipment.


All Corvette body panels are made by outside suppliers to Chevrolet specifications. The original specifications that Chevrolet set up are still in effect. However, the methods some of the suppliers use to meet these specifications have changed. For instance, the cooling rate of the panels after they are removed from the die is controlled more closely than it was in the past so that warping can be minimized. Shrink is allowed for, and the suppliers have also found it to their advantage to use fixtures for spot checking dimensional accuracy of the final parts. A question frequently asked by engineers is “Why does Chevrolet use plastic panels such as these in preference to steel – using Kirksite dies for the volume involved?” I would like to answer that question briefly before getting back to the assembly plant.

Originally, plastic was used to meet a deadline. The Corvette dream car shown at the Waldorf in January 1953 was so well received that Management decreed we produce 300 cars the same year. With the help of the then infant plastic industry we made that deadline. As of that time, the plastic body became practically a mandate for two of the best reasons industry has for doing anything. The customers loved it, and a full-scale investigation proved the cost penalty to be slight. It hasother advantages, of course. Probably its most significant property is its low weight.

The density of reinforced plastic, translated into comparable standards of required thickness, is still about half that of steel.

A square foot of plastic panel one tenth of an inch thick weighs half as much as the same size piece of standard .036 inch steel.

As you might expect, the use of fiber glass reduces the weight of the Corvette body by approximately 300 pounds – to little more than half the weight of a comparable steel body. This is, of course, a distinct advantage in maintaining a desirable power-to-weight ratio in a ear of this type. Fiberglass will not rust or corrode, and is impervious to any chemical substance to which it might be exposed in normal service. Our experience to date indicates that we can expect the first Corvette bodies to be around for a long time. In specifying the necessary physical properties of these panels, Chevrolet leaned heavily on its experience with sheet metal. In fact, we used what we called sheet metal-plastic equivalents.

The most fascinating investigation was covered very thoroughly by Mr. E. J. Premo at the SAE Annual Meeting in January 1954. This morning we only have time to recommend this paper entitled “The Corvette Plastic Body.” (Paper No. 212)



Here we have an underbody panel ready for the first operation at the assembly plant (Fig. 7). In this booth the bonding surface of each panel is roughened by shot blast to assure good adhesion of the bonding mixture. Cut wire shot is guided by the operator to the specified area. In the past we have used shields to prevent over-spray into the areas to be painted, but experience has proven the most efficient control to be a design that eliminates these areas. Of course, a clean spray pattern and a reasonably careful aim by the operator are still necessary. In the few small parts where this operation is critical, the small areas affected are roughened by a 7. Preparing surfaces for bonding hand grinder on the assembly line.


The underbody panel is placed on the body truck and secured through its body mounting holes (Fig. 8). Pay particular attention to the box-like master fixture set in place here. This fixture helps lock the underbody on the truck and serves as a master locating fixture for all subsequent assembly operations. Originally this step was thought unnecessary. However, since incorporating this procedure we have been able to get the assembly accuracy we need with greater ease than was formerly possible. Once this underbody is attached to the body truck, it stays there to the end of the line, so that the complete body is assembled, trimmed, and painted on one rigid foundation. One step precedes this operation. You will notice in the background a fixture where various attachments are applied to the inverted underbody. Rocker sill reinforcements are bonded, wiring harness clips are riveted, various brackets are attached. The attachments made here would otherwise have to be made from the underside of the body truck.This is a view (Fig. 9) of the first sub-assembly operation – the seat back partition panel. This operation exemplifies one of the fundamental differences between this assembly plant and the higher volume operations car makers are accustomed to. Five or six bodies per hour come off the end of the line. This gives each operator over ten minutes per job. He has a lot to do.


On this job the operator mixes his bonding material, applies it, and assembles the various components on a fixture. While the bonded joints are curing, he assembles various attaching parts. He then hands the completed structure to a man on the line who bonds it to the vehicle. There are many such sub-assembly stations along the line. There are few overhead parts conveyers. The components are simply rolled in on trucks to each sub-assembly station.

The completed seat back partition panel is a typical sub-assembly. It consists of seven major parts held together by riveting, bonding and bolting.


In Figure 10 it is being attached to the underbody across the rear of the cockpit. It forms the gas tank housing, partitions the luggage adds to the structural rigidity and passenger compartments, partially forms the lock pillar, and across the body. Notice how the apply fixture locates from the master fixture to assure good alignment. This pattern of operation is followed down the line. We will explain the actual bonding operation in a moment, but first let’s get the basic body shell assembled.Figure 11 is a view of the hinge pillar sub-assembly station. The sub-assembly is being held by its steel reinforcement member.


The hinge pillar is fixtured In and attached to the underbody (Fig. 12). Here again, you can see how the various fixtures tie into the master box fixture to maintain alignment.

Notice the steel reinforcement in the hinge pillar and along the rocker sill.

Advantage is taken of the dimensional stability of steel networks throughout the entire assembly operation of the body shell. In most cases the steel is simply a part of the attaching fixture. Once the plastic panels are bonded together, the assembly is rigid, and the attaching fixture is removed.


In your tour this afternoon you may have some difficulty distinguishing between the steel trusses being assembled into the car. Some are for assembly alignment only. Others stay with the body.

In Figure 13 are shown the members that stay with the body. Attachment of the reinforcements to the fiber glass is accomplished by means of aluminum rivets, or in some cases a bonding strip is riveted to the metal, and the main panel is bonded to the strip. In no case is fiber glass bonded to metal.


Shown here (Fig. 14) are all the parts comprising the rear end structure, held in place for the bonding operation. Due to the large size of the panels being assembled, special steps are taken to assure accuracy of the final assembly. The fixture itself duplicates the contours of the individual panels and provides for accurate positioning. Vacuum cups on these contoured shapes hold the panels rigidly in place. Bonding strips are placed over the butted joints. Clamps are then cycled in to apply 3 psi pressure against these strips while the bond hardens. When the vacuum and clamps are released, the individual panels hold their shape by virtue of having become locked in portions of the complete sub-assembly.

In the completed rear end assembly, (Fig. 15) the bonded joints are visible as black lines.


This rather complex looking fixture (Fig. 16) picks up the rear end panel assembly and positions it to the underbody. As in previous operations alignment is taken from the master fixture.

The completed body shell ready for finishing operations Is shown in Figure 17. But let’s back up for a moment for the details of the bonding process.

The bonding mixture contains the same ingredients used in the fiber glass panels themselves, with the exception that powdered asbestos is used as the reinforcing agent instead of chopped fiber glass, and a promoter is added. The promoter steps up the catalytic action so fast that it is kept separated from the catalyst until its action is needed (Fig. 18). The operator, therefore, has two mixes of resin and asbestos, one containing the catalyst, the other containing the promoter. He can, by the proportions he chooses, determine the hardening or curing time. Curing time ordinarily is about five minutes. When he mixes the two, many wondrous chemical reactions take place. The net result of all of this is that the promoter and catalyst team up to release the heat of fusion, as the resin mix goes from the liquid to a solid state. The mixing is done by egg beater within a paper cone. The operator snips off the tip, squeezes out the unmixed portion into a waste drum, and applies the rest to the surfaces to be bonded (Fig. 19). It is applied like squeezing out toothpaste on a brush. Lampblack is added to the hot mix to enable the operator to determine visually the thoroughness of the mixing action. Since they are the same color originally, this also identifies which is which.


Shown in Figure 20 are some typical joints used in the Corvette body. Bond “E” is a cross- section of the “bonding strip” method of butt joining panels. This joint is preferred over Bond “A” where strength is required. It is used for example in the rear end structure you have just seen.

The choice of bonding methods to be used is one of assembly convenience. The specifications on the bonded joints call for a joint that is as strong as the panels being joined. Tests indicate that the panels will fail before the joint. Approximately 20 quarts of bonding mix are used on each vehicle.

After the body is assembled, all bonded joints are sanded in one operation in the body finishing area (Fig. 21). The entire panels are also dry sanded to smooth surfaces. The operators have fresh air supplied into those hoods they are wearing.


The dark gray portion of this body (Fig. 22) has just undergone the application of a filler material called putty rub, which fills voids, pits, and imperfections. The panels have an inherent porosity and surface waviness due to shrink factor that is corrected for in this step. After the putty rub, two coats of primer paint are applied. The first is gray and the second red. Following this, the paint is baked for 90 minutes at 190 degrees Fahrenheit. From the oven, it goes into the wet sanding area.

Here the surface imperfections are removed (Fig. 23). In doing this the operator also removes most of the red primer coat. The purpose of having two different colors is to assure a thorough wet sanding operation and to warn the operator when he has gone far enough. This way he does not dig into the fiber glass itself, which would raise glass fiber making necessary an involved repair operation.

Following wet sanding the body is dried. One coat of sealer and a coat of colored acrylic lacquer are applied, and baked (Fig. 24). After dry sanding, the second and third coats of lacquer are applied. The body is then baked for thirty minutes at 170 degrees Fahrenheit and final polished (Fig. 25).


One question engineers often ask is “Why not pigment the plastic and eliminate painting?” The answer is that at the present state of the art, the problems make this impractical. Attaining uniformity of color in panels molded by multiple sources would be difficult. Surface defects would not provide acceptable finishes. Exterior bonded Joints would have to be covered by moldings or pigmented to match the panels, and the factory or service repairs required would pose a color matching problem.

Trim operations are quite conventional and will, for the most part, be self explanatory on your inspection tour. However, the windshield assembly is unconventional (Fig. 26). The windshield shown here is assembled in a separate frame. This is attached to the body in the cowl area. Studs protrude from the windshield lower frame down through the steel reinforcement network in the cowl area. The frame has die cast side posts and steel upper and lower frames covered with stainless steel moldings. This differs from most passenger car installations where the windshield frame is part of the body upper structure. The removable windshield and frame assembly permits the owner to lower the silhouette and hence the wind resistance if he chooses.

In Figure 27 is a finished body ready for assembly to the frame. Up to this point we have talked about the fabrication of the body. In this view we see the body being lowered on the chassis. Readying the chassis for this operation is quite a simple operation at the Corvette plant.

The first operation on the chassis assembly line is the attachment of the suspension units to the frame (Fig. 28). These units are Chevrolet built and supplied as complete assemblies. The fixture used in this operation has a dual purpose. It is used primarily as a build buck to hold the frame in an inverted position to give ready access to the suspension attachments. Its second purpose Is to act as a shimming fixture.

The dimensional variations in the body mounting points on the frame are measured and proper shims selected to bring the mounting points into the same plane. In this way optimum mating of the body and chassis is insured. The shims are installed just prior to the body drop. No rubber cushions are used to isolate the frame from the body to control vibrations and noise. The damping qualities of fiberglass make them unnecessary. The rubber pads that are attached to the top of the frame do not actually contact the body as installed, but do prevent plastic to metal contact in extreme deflections of the body.

At the initial build up of the rear suspension system, the attachment parts which incorporate rubber bushings are left in a partially assembled state – that is, they are not torqued to required specifications. As the chassis progresses along the assembly line and after power train installation, the rear springs are compressed by pneumatic fixture to design height (Fig. 29).

At this time the final tightening of the rubber bushing attachments in the rear suspension elements is completed. The reason for this is to position the bushing in a neutral position so that they will not have a residual torsional characteristic, which would adversely affect bushing life and the ride and handling of the vehicle.

The assembly operations are conventional until we get to the soft top installation (Fig. 30). The top has only two pivot points – one at each lock pillar. Four snap type clamps – two on the windshield header and two on the top compartment lid secure the top in the up position.

With the soft top retracted and completely hidden the hard top can be installed (Fig. 31).

There are nine inspection stations along the line, whose operations are really quite self-evident, so we won’t cover them here. However, two final inspection procedures are of particular interest. The chassis roll and the water test operation.

The chassis roll simulates on-the-road operations and checks out mechanical components – the engine, transmission, rear end, instruments, and the steering (Fig. 32). The left side is smooth. On this side he checks acceleration on all transmission speeds, checks for noise, shift characteristics, feel, etc. He turns the steering wheel slightly to the right and moves the car over to the rough-road side of the rolls. This produces considerable vehicle shake, so that any miss-assembly will soon make itself known.

The front and rear rolls are linked so that the front rolls are driven. Inertia Is built into the rolls themselves by virtue of their sizes and weights. Top speeds reached are 50 to 55 miles per hour. The braking effect on the rolls is very similar to that experienced In highway braking. The feel is the same – if brakes pull right or left, or if braking distribution is uneven front to rear. The operator’s observations are recorded on the test ticket that goes with the car and adjustments are made if required.

Following this test, the vehicle Is driven around the building on a short road test schedule, which includes cornering. He drives over a rig which tests the effectiveness of the optional limited slip differential, (Fig. 33) and then he re-enters the building for the water test.

Twenty eight nozzles surround the vehicle, and a 18 psi deluge is sprayed for four minutes. The amount of water sprayed onto the vehicle is equivalent to the severest cloudburst to which the vehicle will ever be subjected. The operator checks for leaks within the vehicle. Following this is a repair area where any defects noted on the inspection tickets are taken care of. Seats and soft trim are installed after the water test. The car is now ready for delivery. In the time remaining, I’d like to touch on some of the engineering features of the Corvette.

As we mentioned earlier, Corvette buyers tend to consider driving an art – an avocation to be indulged. One of their greatest satisfactions is the ability to drive out on a Sunday afternoon, demonstrate their driving skill anyplace where they can collect trophies for it, and return home, all in the same car. Many of them enter into rallying, gymkhanas, drag racing, and even sanctioned road racing.

Even those who do not actually participate enjoy the feeling that they could If they wanted to. Catering to the interests of Corvette buyers has become a habit with Chevrolet – to the point where many fully engineered optional equipment items have been made available to them. To name a few:

– 5 engines, headed by fuel injection — a fully synchronized 4-speed transmission — a quick steering option — a built-in fast clutch adjustment — and heavy duty suspension and brake options.

These interests have inspired many significant refinements. As an example:

In the rear suspension system, (Fig. 34) radius rods relieve the rear springs of the axle housing torque reactions during acceleration and braking. Located above the front portion of the rear spring between the frame and rear axle, the radius rods control rear axle rotation by forming a parallelogram linkage with the forward halves of the leaf springs. The springs are virtually free of axle housing torque providing more consistent and precise handling.

A standard steering ratio of 21:1 is used on the production Corvettes. This ratio is satisfactory for normal sports car use and makes possible adequate cornering with relatively light steering wheel handling and effort.

A quick steering adapter is available to reduce the ratio to 16.3:1 for the fast intricate maneuvering many Corvette enthusiasts are required to do in competitive events. It comes as part of a heavy duty package which includes special brakes and higher rate shock absorbers.

Shown in Figure 35 are the heavy duty brakes with sintered metallic linings. Physical properties of the metallic linings are such that high brake operating temperatures do not affect their composition and more significantly, their coefficient of friction.

These brakes are extremely fade resistant; incorporating finned brake drums, vented backing plates with air scoops, and cooling fins mounted inside the brake drums.

The brakes are virtually unaffected by water, and oil does not tend to deteriorate sintered iron linings. The air scoops supplied with the option are shown in Figure 36.

They are owner-installed for competitive events.

The Powerglide automatic transmission was standard equipment on early Corvettes and is offered today, but only as optional equipment on the two lowest horsepower engines, Of more interest perhaps, is the four speed transmission (Fig. 37) which is fully synchronized in all forward speeds. The closely stepped gear ratios permit operation in the high engine output range and the use of engine braking through down shifting. The four speed transmission is the only one on the market with a positive action reverse inhibitor. A further innovation in clutch linkage design makes possible either normal release action or shorter travel action to facilitate more rapid gear changing.

Five separate axle ratios are available to tailor the Corvette to its intended use.

Today five engine options are available for the Corvette. These options range from a single four barrel carburetor engine at 230 horsepower to a fuel injection special camshaft engine at 315 horsepower (Fig. 38). All engines are based on a 283 cubic inch displacement.

The fuel injection system is particularly desirable for the high speed maneuvering often required of sports cars, in that the tendency of fuel to dump from a regular carburetor bowl on cornering is eliminated. The unit has air manifold ram pipes tuned with respect to length, taper and cross-section-al area, to produce a supercharging effect, which permits peak engine output in the high rpm range. The practically instantaneous response, regardless of speed and load conditions, and the “solid” feel with lack of stumble are very noticeable when driving a Corvette equipped with the fuel injection option.

When we mentioned earlier that the Corvette components were “fully engineered” we meant that the Corvette is designed, overall and piece by piece, by the same engineers who design the regular passenger cars. It is by no means the exclusive province of a small group of specialists. The Corvette design crew includes the full complement of project engineers, the designers on the boards, the test and development engineers in the laboratory and at the proving grounds.

A question frequently asked is this:

“Why does Chevrolet, the greatest producer in the mass market, give such attention to an inherently limited segment of that market?”

There are many good reasons for this but I feel qualified to speak of only one – the effect on the engineering department. An engineer is essentially a creative artist – but a well disciplined one. Working day in and day out In an intensely competitive atmosphere he can easily adopt the attitude that in final analysis, cost considerations override all other design objectives.

When an engineer begins to anticipate rejection of a new design because of cost, he finds his safest course is to direct his total energies toward cost reductions in the old design. His efforts bring joy to the hearts of stockholders and customers alike. However, this is not the stuff progress is made of. His first aim should be to produce a highly desirable product. Cost is his main obstacle, and can become his most convenient excuse for designing a product that stands still.

The Corvette buyer is a demanding one. He doesn’t hesitate to ask for qualities he may have found in cars costing twice as much.

Meeting these demands has been a continuing challenge, and an opportunity for Chevrolet engineers. It has given more realistic evaluations of what can and cannot be accomplished in a regular passenger car. In helping our engineers maintain a broader perspective, the Corvette has raised the general level of our engineering standards.

sae01 sae02 sae03 sae04 sae05 sae06 sae07 sae08 sae09 sae10 sae11 sae12 sae13 sae14 sae15 sae16 th ]]> 7
SAE Paper Summary Leaking 2015 Corvette’s 8 Speed Auto Gets Redacted Tue, 10 Dec 2013 13:00:19 +0000 2014-GM-Eight-Speed-Automatic-Transmission

It’s not known if the leak was intentional or not, but the summary of a paper initially published by the Society of Automotive Engineers, since taken down from the SAE site, says that a new eight speed automatic transmission, given the designation 8L90 by General Motors, will be introduced in the 2015  Corvette, on sale next fall. The all-new 7th generation Corvette is currently offered with GM’s 6L80 six speed automatic and a seven speed manual gearbox. The 8L90 is described as being designed for rear-wheel-drive applications and variants will likely be used in GM’s fullsize pickups and in rear wheel drive Cadillacs.

The 8L90 has about the same overall dimensions as the 6L80, and is said to be able to handle up to 737 lb-ft of torque. It has a shorter first gear for better launch acceleration, an overall ratio spread of 7.0 and three speed sensors for better shift response. Other benefits are said to be better fuel economy, improved performance and a quieter car with improved NVH levels. The current automatic C7 is rated at 28 mpg on the highway and it’s possible that with the new eight-speed it might be able to achieve 30 mpg. Of course, at EPA “highway” speeds, the 455 hp LT1 in the Corvette is more or less loafing along.

Also new for the 2015 model year will be a Z06 version of the new Corvette that will be introduced in about a month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Previous generations of the Z06 were stick only, but now that you can’t buy some Porsche and Ferrari models with a manual transmission, it’s possible that the C7 Z06 may offer the 8L90.

The full SAE paper will be available in April. Fortunately, before the SAE pulled it, someone at managed to preserve the text:

General Motors Rear Wheel Drive Eight Speed Automatic Transmission
Technical Paper
James Michael Hart, Tejinder Singh, William Goodrich

General Motors Rear Wheel Drive Eight Speed Automatic Transmission General Motors shall introduce a new rear wheel drive eight speed automatic transmission, known as the 8L90, in the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette. The rated turbine torque capacity is 1000 Nm. This transmission replaces the venerable 6L80 six speed automatic transmission. The objectives behind creation of this transmission are improved fuel economy, performance, and NVH. Packaging in the existing vehicle architecture and high mileage dependability are the givens. The architecture is required to offer low cost for a rear drive eight speed transmission while meeting the givens and objectives. An eight speed powerflow, invented by General Motors, was selected. This powerflow yields a 7.0 overall ratio spread, enabling improved launch capability because of a deeper first gear ratio and better fuel economy due to lower top gear N/V capability, relative to the 6L80. The eight speed ratios are generated using four simple planetary gearsets, two brake clutches and three rotating clutches. The resultant on-axis transmission architecture utilizes a squashed torque converter, an off-axis pump and four close coupled gearsets. The three rotating clutches have been located forward of the gearsets to minimize the length of oil feeds which provides for enhanced shift response and simplicity of turbine shaft manufacturing. The transmission architecture features a case with integral bell housing for enhanced powertrain stiffness. A unique pump drive design allows for off-axis packaging very low in the transmission. The pump is a binary vane type which effectively allows for two pumps in the packaging size of one. This design and packaging strategy not only enables low parasitic losses and optimum priming capability but also provides for ideal oil routing to the controls system, with the pump located in the valve body itself. The transmission controller is externally mounted, enabling packaging and powertrain integration flexibilities. The controller makes use of three speed sensors which provide for enhanced shift response and accuracy. Utilization of aluminum and magnesium components throughout the transmission yields competitive mass. The dedicated compensator feed circuit, used in GM six speed designs, was supplanted by a lube-fed design in order to simplify oil routing and enhance shift response. Packaging is within that of the GM 6L80 design, allowing for ease of application integration. The overall result is a robust, compact, and cost effective transmission which offers significant fuel economy and performance benefit, over its six speed counterpart, and shall provide an attractive balance of overall metrics in the automatic transmission market.


]]> 18
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.

]]> 44
And Now, Here’s That C7 vs. GT500 Street Racing Video For Which You’ve Been Hoping Wed, 06 Nov 2013 00:17:07 +0000

Your humble E-I-C has already driven the new C7 in anger around a road course (of sorts), and I’ve also driven the current-gen GT500. The C7 is just brilliant, but at least four out of the five times I consider the issue I think I’d rather have the Mustang. Now we have the two cars going head-to-head where it really matters: the streets, yo.

Compared to the stuff our friends in the auto media have been hyping-up lately, this is pretty tame, but I wish to reiterate that TTAC does not support street racing and that most of us retired from street racing years ago. ‘Cause we went legit, homie. Why’s the race go down the way it does? It’s simple. The Vette has an automatic transmission and more tire underneath it, so it isn’t until aero and horsepower start to become really critical that the Shelby pulls it back. This race is probably a bit longer than a standard quarter-mile, but look for both cars to easily turn elevens in the hands of skilled operators.

]]> 24
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.

02 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Chevrolet Corvette Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 108
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.

]]> 19
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?

]]> 152
“Official” Performance Figures For The C7 Stingray Are Here… And They’re Grand Thu, 20 Jun 2013 19:15:00 +0000 Picture courtesy GM

The first source of performance numbers for the new C7 Corvette is, not surprisingly in this day and age, GM itself. Some of the numbers are extremely useful, others less so.

First, the basics. The C7 Stingray, when equipped with the Z51 Performance Package, turns a quarter-mile of 12.0@119. If you’re interested in comparing the C7 to the Dodge Omni Miser or something like that, the completely irrelevant 0-60 number is 3.8 seconds. Slightly more interesting, the 60-0 is 107 feet.

So far, so good. This is a properly quick car that appears to have a slight edge on the C5 Z06 and base C6. And to show what great guys they are, the GM Performance crew ran the car around VIR. But, as has been the case with some of their other Corvette testing, they ran the “Grand Course”. To understand what the “Grand Course” is, check the VIR website.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but Grand Course times are chickenshit stuff. The number of open-lapping days that use the Grand Course can be counted on a single hand in any given year. Races rarely occur on the Grand Course, because putting a race on the Grand Course requires one zillion flaggers and it increases the length of the lap by almost a minute. Thousands of driver/car combinations set VIR Full Course times every year, as I did with the Shelby GT500. By using a Grand Course time, Chevrolet’s insulated the car from any comparisons other than with Car and Driver’s “Lightning Lap”. I could also go on at length about the increasing difficulties in consistency you get when you add something like twisty the VIR Patriot Course to any laptime (the “Grand” is “Full” plus “Patriot”), but I won’t bother to do it.

So Chevrolet’s given us a meaningless laptime. I suppose we should be grateful for whatever we get. On the day when the first C7 is available, perhaps they’ll let me run it around VIR Full, maybe in conjunction with a tuned-up C5 Z06 or something, and we can get a number that every bench racer in America can properly pick apart, right?

]]> 49
Vellum Venom Vignette: Ridin’ Spinners (Part II) Thu, 04 Apr 2013 16:01:54 +0000 I’d be a day late and a dollar short if I cared about being professional automotive journalist. To wit, we recently discussed how the digitally rendered C7 Stingray droptop Vette’s 5-spoke wheels look like a last-minute “virtual” hackjob for a looming deadline. The nice folks at Corvetteblogger show otherwise during their visit to the New York Auto Show: these hoops made production spinning the wrong way.

This is a new Corvette from the New GM, son. But this ain’t right.

We assume that the new, invigorated, not-beancounted General Motors does everything possible to make the C7 a credible threat to “le package totale” of sports cars, the Porsche 911. We know the stunning chassis and brutally elegant power train gets the job done. LT1-FTW? Obviously. And the styling might be beautiful in the real world. Hard to know on this thing called the Internet.


Except when the wheels are spinning the wrong frickin’ way on the passenger side!

I suspect that computer assisted rendering makes left/right directional wheels an easier cost to stomach, but The General still forks over big cash for extra work on the production/inventory management side.  But these (according to Corvetteblogger) are optional, not part of the appealing, easy-to-market base price.

So what is the incremental cost for two different castings? An extra $50 per car, MSRP? Even if it was quadruple, don’t you think Corvette buyers–folks that gladly pay extra for Museum delivery–would fork that cheddar over in…wait for it…a heartbeat?

The Corvette is a halo car; a Flagship for the entire company.  And it’s the real damn deal: the quintessential Vulgar Ass-kicking American ever since the uber-wedge, Z51-equipped 1984 Corvette put down Porsche stomping numbers.  Ferrari scaring numbers, at the least.  All for a fraction of the price. But cheap for a reason.

Instead of being (maybe) 20% cheaper than a baseline Porsche 911, why can’t the C7 be (maybe) 15% cheaper with better design and superior attention to detail? Flagships deserve better, even if the numbers aren’t ideal for a balance sheet.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

]]> 51
Little Red Corvette For Less Green Fri, 15 Mar 2013 13:33:42 +0000

With discretionary funds increasingly decreasing, low-cost (or make that “approachable”) cars are all the rage. Before the 2014 Corvette Stingray, the first new Corvette in nine years, is going on sale in summer, there already is talk of a little less expensive model.

GM is planning to build an entry-level Corvette, unnamed sources told Reuters. It’s not a new car, but a de-contented Corvette: It would have al 5.3-liter V8 engine instead of the 6.2 L, and will have to shed a bunch of amenities, such as automatic climate control. It would be offered only as a coupe.

Sales of the Corvette have dwindled from a peak of 42,571 in 1977 to 14,132 last year.  The car has become a toy of balding empty nesters.

]]> 37