The Truth About Cars » Corvette The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:21:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Corvette 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.

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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!



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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?

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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.

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

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.”

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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.

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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.


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

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

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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.

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

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.

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

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“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?

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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.

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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.

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First Crashed Corvette C7 Pictures Wed, 13 Feb 2013 01:50:16 +0000

This one’s for commenter LarryP2 whining about how we gave positive coverage to the Alfa 4C while apparently criticizing the C7 Corvette’s power output. As far as I can recall, nobody took issue with the LT1, just the godawful styling. Eat your heart out, Larry. Now I’m off to browse the classifieds for a nice C6 Z06.

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Ken Lingenfelter: New LT1 Engine A Challenge for Tuners Mon, 11 Feb 2013 13:30:02 +0000 Elteeone - photo courtesy of Cars In Depth

General Motors’ powertrain engineers have undoubtedly demonstrated with the LS family of V8 engines that pushrods still have a place in the 21st century. As successful and popular as the LS has been, I don’t think it’s much of stretch to assume that the new LT1 V8 in the all new seventh generation Corvette will eventually replace the LS engine in its various permutations and applications. The LT1, still a cam in block engine, and still with Ed Cole’s 4.40 inch bore centers, adds direct injection to the Small Block Chevy heritage. The LS family has also been popular as crate motors, used by customizers and high performance enthusiasts as well as with a small industry of companies that specialize in high performance GM products. While you can buy a LS from General Motors with up to 638 horsepower, if that just doesn’t satisfy your need for speed, companies like Callaway, Lingenfelter and Hennessey have shown that the LS engine’s basic architecture is capable of putting out almost twice that power. After talking with Ken Lingenfelter about the new Corvette, I wonder, though, just how tuner-friendly the new LT1 will be.

I ran into Lingenfelter in front of the Classic Car Club of America’s display at the Chicago Auto Show. Ken’s a noted collector of Corvettes and other performance cars who took over Lingenfelter Performance Engineering when his cousin, John, who started LPE, was killed in a car wreck. Ken’s a car guy’s car guy and I see him at tons of car events around the Detroit area, as an exhibitor, as a vendor and as an attendee.  A while back he graciously gave me access to shoot 3D photos and video of his collection. He was in Chicago to show some LPE massaged cars, including a very nicely done ’67ish StingRay body on a C6 Corvette chassis with Lingenfelter power, built by Karls Kustom Corvette .

Alex Dykes’ posted some nice pics of the cutaways at the Chicago Auto Show. They’re fine photographs but you haven’t seen cutaways until you’ve seen them in 3D. Talk about engine porn! To view in 3D without glasses, cross your eyes slightly so that your right eye is looking at the left image and vice versa. Then relax your eyes similar to when using a pair of binoculars, and a stable third, 3D image will fuse in the middle of the other two images. You might have to move closer or farther from the screen for the ideal distance

When I asked Lingenfelter if LPE has had a chance to work on the LT1 yet, he told me that GM’s been rather close to the vest with the new engine. He also said since the LT1 is the first time that GM has used direct injection in their V8 engine family, there’s going to be a learning curve for the tuners. One thing he said, though, may not bode well for 1,000+ HP LTs. Lingenfelter said that engines are designed with performance limits. Think of the way that Formula One used to use “hand grenade” qualifying engines, motors built to make crazy power but not last longer than a few laps. According to Lingenfelter, the production versions of the LS engine still leave a lot of room for performance improvement, they’re nowhere near the limits of the performance envelope. From what he’s learned about the new LT1, Lingenfelter fears that the motor, which has the highest specific output of any GM engine ever, 450 HP and 450 lb-ft of torque from 6.2 liters of displacement, may be closer to the limits of its performance envelope in production form than the LS. No doubt the LT1′s architecture can handle the 600 or 700 HP that the eventual ZR1 edition of the C7 will have, but 700 HP is commonplace in the LS tuning world and Lingenfelter is concerned that they may not be able to wring much more than that out of the new Corvette engine.

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

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NAIAS 2013: Everyone’s Most Favorite-ist Car Exec Saves Least Favorite-ist Electric Car…With A 6.2-liter LT1 V8! Mon, 14 Jan 2013 14:09:24 +0000

It isn’t often one of the biggest news items coming out of NAIAS 2013 is from a tuning house … especially a tuning house nobody has ever heard of before. Attach the name Bob Lutz to a car, along with a brand new, fire breathing, tire shredding 6.2L LT1 V8 from the new Corvette, you are bound to turn some heads. Oh, and they wedged it into a Fisker Karma.

That’s Maximum to the Bob.

The supposed soon-to-be production ready boutique supercar is called the VL Automotive Destino. While the fossil-fuel burning horsepower generator and its choice of automatic or manual transmissions is an addition, the rest is a story of subtraction. Gone is the weird polarizing Fisker Karma face for a more Ferrari-esque affair. Chuck out the batteries and their added risk of fiery death. Oh, and that EcoTec? That’ll just get in the way of its bigger brother.

Everything else is pretty much as it was when it left Finland.

Want one? They say toward the end of the year you’ll be able to buy one. The price? If you’re asking, chances are you won’t be able to buy one.

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Worthy Of The Name? Mon, 14 Jan 2013 00:12:43 +0000


Chevy’s revived both the LT1 and the Stingray name for the C7 Vette. Apparently it’s got a better power/weight ratio than the Porsche 911 or Audi R8, though GM didn’t say what the car weighs. Personally, I think the C6 is gorgeous, so I’ll have to reserve judgement until I see this thing in the flesh tomorrow. Right now, I’m not so sure I’d take this one over a C6, crappy interior and all…

Among the key features:

-5 Driving modes including “Eco”

- A 7-speed manual with skip shift and active rev matching

- A digital display

-Lots more carbon fiber

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 2014-Corvette-stingray-vents 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 2014-Corvette-stingray-side 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 2014-Corvette-stingray-red 2014-Corvette-stingray-red. Photo courtesy 2014-Corvette-stingray-rear 2014-Corvette-stingray-mode-selector 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 2014-Corvette-stingray-badge 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ]]> 176
GEN V Small Block Chevy = LT1-FTW? Wed, 24 Oct 2012 17:20:14 +0000 There’s a new small block in town, baby: keeping the spirit of the original 1949 Kettering OHV V8 alive. Piston Slap says the new name is sad: mediocre memories of the Optispark munching, reverse flow coolin’ LT-1 is not a fitting successor to the sheer splendiferousness that was the LSX.  Vellum Venom says that the 2006 Ford F-150 called, asking for its fender emblem back.  But what’s the real story?

All snark aside, the GEN V small block is a stunning piece of engineering on paper.  The LT1′s (no dash) forged crank and connecting rods are pure hot-rod porn.  Plus, gadgets found elsewhere:  direct injection, variable valve timing and…wait for it…another try at displacement on demand for a V8.  Third time is the charm, perhaps, and the promise of 26MPG from Six-Point-Two liters of engine sends the Porsche 911′s puny boxer motor packing.  And this is the beginning, you know there will be hotter (LT4, anyone?) version with even more power. With the “Kettering factor” present in the compact, low center of gravity LT1, this must be the lightest production V8 @ 465lbs**: let’s put one in a new BMW M5, compare the cost, ease of repair, road course performance (even with 100 less ponies), etc just to prove a point.  And then do more LT1 swaps on the competition.  That would make a statement!

Or just put it in the Cadillac ATS (optional) and CTS (standard) and call it a day. That won’t happen, but kudos to GM Powertrain for another motor that will be The One To Have in your next engine swap fantasy.

And to that idiotic rumor of Chevy putting a twin-turbo V6 in the Corvette?  Oh please: LT1-FTW, SON!

 **dave504 corrected me, the normally-injected Ford Coyote is lighter.  My bad.

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New or Used: First World Problems! Fri, 12 Oct 2012 17:32:36 +0000

Travis writes:

This might seem a little frivolous, but this is a genuine dilemma that I’m currently facing right now. I’ve been looking to replace a 2006 Pontiac GTO that I’ve had for 4 years. It’s been fun, comfortable, and mildly expensive to maintain in the last year with random small but non-typical GM parts-bin stuff falling apart. I got into an accident a few days ago which pushed around the engine enough to declare the car a total loss. Lucky me me for being safe, also lucky me for not having to sell my car while also getting partial refunds on the $2700 that’s been dropped into it in the past 3 months.

I was planning on replacing it with a low mileage 2011 Mustang GT with the Brembo package. A smallish loan would cover the distance between the two cars pricewise, and I’d have a fun newer car that fulfilled everything the old one did while still being under bumper to bumper warranty.

Insurance is giving me more than I had expected and I have the option to buy back the GTO and sell it to a salvage yard if the price difference is worth the hassle. With the extra cash, the reimbursement of repairs, and possible profit on the vehicle itself, with that same loan I’d be taking out, I could afford a new 2013 GT with the Brembos and have at least a grand or two left over. Being able to comfortably afford a nice new vehicle is not something I’ve ever really had the option of in my life. My family is big on hand-me-downs, and when I got the GTO I took it over the option of getting something reasonable like a new Honda Fit. In 3 or 4 years, I’ll be inheriting a 2011 Corvette Grand Sport from the father. I know these are first world problems, and I can just imagine the jokes already but I’m seriously at a bit of a loss. The practical side of me is saying get a 2011 and don’t take out a real loan, find cash elsewhere to make up the small difference. The fun side of me is saying spoil yourself with something new that you can afford and don’t worry about anything falling off and eating your wallet for years to come. The super-sensible side of me is saying get a slightly used Malibu LTZ with a 2.4, pocket a load of cash, don’t take out a loan, and don’t enjoy driving for 3 or 4 years until you get a free corvette. What say you two?

Also, the Corvette is an automatic.

Steve answers:

Two recommendations for you.

The first is to do a little research. In the salvage auction business, there are two companies that are the 800 pound gorillas. Copart and Insurance Auto Auctions.

I would go to their web sites, call up the local branches, and see if you can get a good general idea of the vehicle’s worth. Then I would arrange the vehicle sold at one of their auctions. That way you have a large group of salvage yards, rebuilders and exporters bidding on the vehicle instead of just one.

The second is to wait for the Corvette. I would find a vehicle that satisfies your fun-o-meter while giving you a bit more practicality for whatever future needs, unexpected or otherwise, may arise. A three old sport/luxury vehicle with low miles that still comes with a healthy CPO warranty would be a pretty strong consideration.

The brands and models are endless. Audi, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo. You may even like a Lincoln or a Saab. I would shop around a bit and find yourself a ride worth keeping for at least the next three to five years.

Sajeev answers:

I’d buy what you want now, and immediately sell Dad’s slushbox Corvette when you get it…especially if it doesn’t have Magnaride.

Or buy some beater for 3-4 years, get Dad’s Vette and sell ‘em both for a Z06/ZR1 with Magnaride. But that’s just me.

Sure, these are total #firstworldproblems. No biggie: we do this all the time.  When it comes to money and non-appliance issues, you really need to decide what you want to drive.  Mustangs are great all-around machine on the street, but a Corvette is better elsewhere.  It’s time to buckle down and decide what sporting machine you’d actually want to part with your money for.  That’s a decision for you.

That said, off to you Best and Brightest!



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

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

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

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

General Motors Performance Build Center floor plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Question Of The Day: Will There Ever Be A Successful Two Seat Commuter Car? Fri, 07 Sep 2012 14:29:39 +0000

The first generation Insight was a commercial failure. Eight years yielded fewer than 20,000 unit sold and a lingering doubt about the genuine interest in two seat commuter cars.

Honda tried again with the CR-Z, and apparently George Orwell’s early Animal Farm analogy about ‘four being better than two’ may be all too true for the American automotive marketplace.

Nobody wants an uber-frugal commuter car with two seats. It’s either four or no sale.

A lot of other two-seat vehicles have been unqualified failures as well. Chevette Scooters. Metro Convertibles. The Suzuki X-90 and the Pontiac Fiero. I’m sure that nearly every mainstream automaker has tried to sell some type of two seat commuter car with nary an Escort of sorts to be had.

This isn’t the only market where the fewer than four seat idea is struggling. Pickups have gone from three across as a near universal standard to an increasing exception. The Mazda Miata, a car that fetched price premiums and dozens of awards over the years, has experienced an avalanche of declining sales since the glory days of the early 90′s and now only averages about 10,000 units a year. In fact, last month it was one of the ten worst selling models in the United States… with the CR-Z performing even worse.

Even sporty icons like the Corvette and Nissan Z have little more than the crumbs of consumers past. The exotic and high end sports car markets may always have enough of a market to sustain themselves. But how about everyone else?

Is the two seat commuter car destined to be a historical footnote of automotive history? Will the Miata and Corvette ever be successful again? What says you?


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Capsule Review: 2013 Corvette 427 Tue, 04 Sep 2012 12:30:47 +0000
Neil Armstrong died on August 25th of this year and the nation mourned, doubly so. First for the man, and second for what he stood for: hero, explorer, icon of a time when all that was best in America rose up on a pillar of smoke and flame to dance among the heavens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because it’s a God-damn rocketship.

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