THE NEW CORVETTE.
Monday, July 22, 2019 at 10:56AM
Editor

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. The new Corvette Stingray was revealed last Thursday evening in L.A., but I intentionally waited until this week to comment on it. Why? I understand the frantic urgency that defines the 24/7 Internet we live with today, but rushing to judgment on such a momentous occasion as the reveal of a new Corvette seemed premature. The new machine and the True Believers who worked long and hard on it deserved more than that from my perspective. 

First of all, to say that I have been immersed in the Corvette and Corvette lore from a very early age is an understatement. Longtime readers are well aware of this after countless columns on the subject over the years. (Peter’s column on his experiences with Bill Mitchell is still one of the most requested in the 20 years of Ujian-nasional.info -WG)

(GM images)

The 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer.

Having ridden in every Corvette concept from the late 50s and early 60s including my favorite – the 1959 Sting Ray racer – (all with Bill Mitchell at the wheel), to riding in countless hot Corvettes with my brother Tony, to personally driving a 1969 L88 Corvette on the street, all the way through the competition years when my brother’s Owens/Corning Corvette Racing Team set new standards for the Corvette in competition, I humbly bring real perspective to the subject.

Let me be clear – the Corvette isn’t just a car. It’s a machine that has stirred emotions since its introduction in 1953. And even though that first one was hardly a performance icon, the Corvette has grown into being “America’s Sports Car” ever since. Yes, there have definitely been down years in its history, but the Corvette over the last decade at least has been a formidable competitor on the street and the track.

But this Corvette, the eighth generation, is something special and altogether different. It’s the first mid-engine production Corvette in history; this after the True Believers who’ve worked on the Corvette have been designing and building mid-engine Corvette concepts for decades. You could even say that the CERV I and CERV II (’61-’64) laid the groundwork for all of the mid-engine Corvette concepts since. 

The 1960 Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle I (CERV I). This was Zora Arkus-Duntov’s vision for a mid-engine Corvette-powered machine for the Indianapolis 500. And that's him driving it on the five-mile circle at the GM Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan.

The 1964 CERV II was Zora’s concept for a mid-engine, all-wheel-drive Corvette-powered machine to take on the Ford GT and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It achieved a top speed of 204 mph at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds. Here are a group of True Believers from GM Engineering standing proudly next to the machine at the GM Tech Center in 1963.

The 1976 Aerovette mid-engine Corvette concept is still stunning to this day.

The idea of a mid-engine Corvette for the street has taken on mythic proportions over the years. The questions were always there and percolating. Was it really happening? And when? Then, of course, it always wasn’t. In fact, however, it came extremely close to becoming a reality eleven years ago, then the GM bankruptcy hit and it was gone in the vapor trail of corporate cutbacks. 

And now, here we are. Why now, you might ask? Because GM wasn’t going to do a new mid-engine Corvette if they couldn’t execute it within reasonable costs as compared to the current seventh-generation car. In other words, they weren’t going to shut out their loyal True Believer Corvette enthusiasts with a $200,000 supercar – that would have pretty much destroyed the brand overnight. For years the Corvette has been described as “a great sports car for the money.” It was approachable for a broader enthusiast base and that was critically important. It’s only over the last half-decade or so that the Corvette has assumed the mantle of “great sports car” period. Especially given its stellar record in international competition. But it was still attainable for the most part, and GM was never going to forget that fact when designing the new Corvette.

So, when Mark Reuss, GM’s President and True Believer in Chief, announced a base price for the new Corvette of just under $60,000 last Thursday night, jaws dropped. And even though I wasn’t privy to seeing the car beforehand, I was in the know about the pricing strategy. GM engineers and designers had learned a lot about the blending of multiple lightweight materials to accomplish weight saving while controlling costs during the development of the Cadillac CT6, and they put that knowledge to good if not flat-out spectacular use in the new Corvette.

And what about the new Corvette? Overall the car is compelling to look at, recognizing the fact, of course, that certain proportional aspects of the machine are dictated by the fundamental parameters of a mid-engine layout. Please understand, I have not seen the new Corvette in person (I wasn’t invited to the Big Show, no surprise), but I expect I will soon, so, my comments are based on pouring over every image I could get my hands on and studying them thoroughly. And I mean, thoroughly.

Given the task of designing a new Corvette is one of the most prestigious assignments an automotive designer can be given. Once upon a time back in Bill Mitchell’s day, when a young designer sketched an unauthorized idea for a Corvette, he famously said, “Don’t flatter yourself, kid, I do the Corvette around here.” So, make no mistake, it was an honor and a privilege for the handpicked designers to work on this new Corvette Stingray. 

First of all, does it look like a Corvette? Unequivocally, yes. Coming at you on the street there will be no mistaking what car it is. And that’s a very good thing. It’s also very clear to me that GM designers were cautioned to take into account a new generation of buyers and prospective buyers. This new Corvette bristles with surface details, body cuts and different shapes and angles that juxtapose with each other, and there’s a reason for that. It’s what all young designers are doing these days, according to one respected veteran designer I know, and it’s what younger, moneyed buyers will find appealing as well.

Do I find it appealing? Overall, yes, but there are many parts of it that I find too busy and too complicated. And just too much. Sometimes less is more in the design business, and in the new Corvette’s case that perspective has been exceeded, especially in the detailing on the front and the side of the car. There are creases and indents that seem to exist for no reason whatsoever, which detract from the impact of the overall design. (Thank goodness the wheels are outstanding.)

The overhead rear view of the car is outstanding, I have absolutely no complaints here.

And the same goes for the interior too. I think it’s well executed and first rate in design, materials and layout, and the detailing is superb. But here’s a question for the haters out there on the Internet who roundly condemned and made fun of the myriad buttons on the new Corvette. Why is it okay for the Porsche Panamera to be overly laden with buttons – even brilliantly so, according to some – while in the Corvette it is for some reason egregiously not cool? This just in: Give it a rest.

But here’s the view of the new Corvette Sting Ray where it all comes apart for me and that I cannot abide. I think the design of the rear of the car is too busy, and everything about it is too gimmicky and relentlessly unappealing. On top of that it is contrived and underwhelming. I can (sort of) forget the business on the rest of the car, but the back end of the car is a huge turnoff. And too bad.

In summary, my negative comments about the rear of the car can’t take away from the fact that I think this new Corvette is an incredible achievement and a testament to the True Believers at GM Design, Engineering and Product Development. And even though there are quite a few hardcore Corvette traditionalists out there who decry the loss of the old front engine configuration, this is a spectacular machine by every measure: visual appeal, performance, engineering detail and outstanding value. And it will appeal to owners of competitive makes - including Porsche, with its skyrocketing prices - for the first time.

Until further notice, the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the most seductive combination of design, performance and value available in the market. 

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

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