Editorial: Don't You Call That Thing A Z06
Oh, GM. You really did it. You gave in to the perfectly understandable desire to create what’s best described as a C7-V, or maybe a ZR0.9. Don’t blame you, Mr. Reuss likes these kinds of battlewagons and you guys are so good at supercharging that small-block I’m surprised there isn’t some sort of weird Silverado variant out there for the hat-without-cattle crowd. The car’s going to be great, it will be fast, it will be the winner of Motor Trend tests for sure and maybe even some of the others.
But you shouldn’t have called a Z06, and I’m surprised you don’t know why.
Let me introduce myself to you, by the way, just in case we haven’t met. I’m Jack Baruth. 42 years old, divorced, one child, with the occasional excess dollar rattling around in my pocket. Strictly speaking, I’ve never quite lined up with the Corvette owner profile; I got my first 911 when I was thirty and I went straight to the German super-sedans after that, with minor diversions into Panthers/bubble wagons/Boxsters/Saabs/whatevs. But right now, in the autumn of my life, you and I are as close to having a Corvette conversation as we’re ever going to be.
I’m not a total idiot, so I know that the Corvette’s been a performance and racetrack leader since 1984. I also know that the tired old chest-hair-and-gold-chain stereotypes associated with the Vette haven’t had a widespread basis in reality since about 1980. But I have a genuine problem buying a Corvette, because a Corvette is a car for old men. I am an old man, which is why it’s important to me that I not buy a car for old men.
There’s a world that’s been built around the Corvette. Bloomington Gold. Quaker Steak&Lube. The Harley-and-Corvette nights you see so many bars put on between the cherished coasts. You see hundreds of guys at these events. They’re all driving automatic-transmission convertibles. They’re all fifty-five, the age that frightens me more than the prospect of an early PTCA. They’re bald, or stringy-haired, and they dress like Jimmy Buffet.
Intellectually, I respect their enthusiasm and I’m glad they’re enjoying a great lifestyle built around a great automobile. Emotionally, I’d rather deep-throat a Smith 29 than be mistaken for one of them. The minute my younger friends or the (somewhat) younger women I’m dating can peg me as one of those guys, I might as well stay at home Saturday night and watch HGTV. The age signals, the educational signals, the cultural signals — all 100% wrong for me, brother. The BMW M3 might have an equally loathsome customer base but I’d rather be mistaken for a tribal-tatted Russian senior gangster than friendly Mr. Johnson from the old drywall company down on I Made My Money The Manual Labor Way.
Bottom line is this: you’re not going to catch me dead in a Corvette. Forget about it.
Starting in 1999 with the FRC, and in 2001 with the Z06, you did something different. You made a Corvette that was
- more hardcore
- immediately identifiable as such
and the best part was that, by buying that Corvette, I had a justification for having one. “Oh yeah, this isn’t a regular Corvette, it’s manual only, no convertible, fewer options, more dangerous and tricky to drive…” Sure, the 28-year-old barista at Starbucks didn’t understand, but the 24-year-old guy cleaning the toilets there did understand and his pure desire for the car would eventually filter into Miss Triple Latte’s consciousness and stamp the car with not totally for old people.
For twelve years, the Z06 badge hasn’t just meant “a faster Corvette”. Who cares about that? It means a different Corvette. It means “one that the old guys don’t like”. Let me it make it more plain. You know what a Les Paul is? It’s the classic Gibson guitar that can be had in “R9 Custom” form so it’s just like the guitar played by Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers and Peter Green and Michael Bloomfield and all the guys old men love. I have, well, let’s just say I have at least one. Here it is.
Now, let me show you this.
Looks kind of the same, right? This is a Gibson BFG Gator. What does BFG mean? It means (Something) Fuckin’ Guitar. It has a cutoff switch for A7X tunes. (Don’t worry about A7X right now.) It’s deliberately raw, unfinished, scuzzy, a middle finger to the idea of vintage restored perfection in the first picture.
I have one of these as well, and when young people come to my studio, they will run past $100,000 worth of guitars to pick up the BFG Gator and jam on it. What’s important to them is that
Do you feel me now? The Z06 was your BFG Gator. It was a Corvette where the hardcore parts were mandatory. When you rolled up behind a Z06 you knew this wasn’t an automatic or a droptop or a special-stitching edition. This was an altar on which the bloody sacrificial ritual of speed could be performed. The Z06 badge meant I AM NOT SOME OLD MAN GOING TO THE ICE CREAM STORE.
And the C6 Z06? With the special frame? And the big motor? And the notoriously tricky handling? Even better. Now it was even more offensive to traditional Corvette drivers. And that makes people like me, who live in mortal fear of being identified as such, want one even more.
When the 427 droptop came out, you guys had the good sense not to call it a Z06 Convertible. You knew, then, that the name was important. It still is.
The new Z06 is a pavement-rippling monster and blah blah blah but I don’t want it in the slightest and the reason is, frankly, because it will no longer identify me as the punk rocker of Corvette owners. Maybe in ten years I’ll be more comfortable with advancing middle age and that eight-speed auto will sound relaxing and the pop-off top will be fun in the sun. But in the meantime, GM, you’ve changed that badge. From one that meant “our kind of Corvette owner” to “another Corvette owner with money for the upgrade.”
Take care — jb
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