The Truth About Cars » vette The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:00:27 +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 » vette 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.

]]> 91
Ice Ice Baby! Mon, 23 Jul 2012 16:07:47 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Did The High Plains Chevette-O-Rama leave you hungry for more ‘Vette action? Of course it did. TTAC delivers with this YouTube video of Chevettes in mortal combat. Find out more here. And yes, your humble author will be trying to buy a seat in the 2013 winter season!

]]> 18
Curbside Classic: GM’s Deadly Sin #9 – 1990 Corvette Fri, 30 Apr 2010 15:03:16 +0000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More New Curbside Classics Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More New Curbside Classics Here

]]> 32