Corvette, The Seduction of a Sports Car Enthusiast
By Mike Covello
|Do you like your sports cars big, powerful and heavy, or do you prefer light, nimble
and delicate? This is a question that divides the ranks of sportscar enthusiasts. I am not
saying that one school of thought is better than the other is, but few Mazda Miata buyers
are big-block Vette fans. When I was being indoctrinated into the world of automotive
wonders I always leaned towards the second group, despite the fact that most of my crowd
all had high-powered muscle cars.
This past April I had a chance to spend a week with a Porsche Boxster and a rainy day in a new Corvette. I came away with thoughts of how could I talk my wife into a trip to Germany for European delivery of Stuttgart's latest mid-engined wonder. My two opportunities to spend time in the new Vette all were crushed beneath the wheels of the scheduling gods. As October rolled around the gods gave me a crooked little smile and said, how about a trip from LA to San Francisco in a new Vette Convertible? I jumped at the chance.
The scene shifts to the Pacific Coast Highway. Al and I are tooling along with the top down in a Nassau Blue Corvette Convertible drinking in the sights and smells of the Pacific Ocean. Of course we immediately folded the canvas top beneath the hard tonneau cover, and there it stayed for the rest of the trip. Together we marveled at how well our four bags fit in the trunk. Now it's time to turn right off the PCH and head up Malibu Canyon road.
We stopped to take a few pictures, and I was able to pry Al's hands off the wheel for one of the brief moments on this adventure. I think that this must be where the seduction began. All thoughts of the previous 15 hours of travel-hell dissolved as the Corvette worked its magic. No trace of the former generation's rattles and creaks existed. The body felt as tight as a Mercedes sedan.
A clear passing zone appeared and the Vette leaped forward in response to a push on the fly-by-wire throttle. We were around the offending dawdler and back in our own lane in what seemed like only a car length. The standard automatic transmission means that the power-to-pass is there in a moment's notice. This was one of those automotive moments that you keep close to you for a long time.
Fast forward to November and we move back to Storrs, Connecticut. A 1998 Nassau Blue Corvette Coupe appears in my driveway and the spark is reignited. Local Corvette fans ogle and ah over the power, braking and handling, but give mixed reviews on the styling. I take in all their compliments and criticisms and make up my own mind. This car looks great! My hat's off to John Cafarno and his band of dedicated stylists.
You can forget about the debate on old Vette versus new Vette, and whether or not the styling is derivative. In person, this vehicle is a knockout. I was amazed at how many people yelled out their comments on the car. I felt that by November, the car was already seven months old, and most people would have seen it by now. But the number of strangers who approached me to ask, "Is this the new Corvette?" showed that sightings have been scarce.
So what about the nimbleness question? There is no way to deny that the Corvette still occupies a substantial piece of real estate. But Dave Hill and his team of engineers have made the C5 Corvette handle so well, that precision driving can be achieved by anyone who cares to slip behind the wheel. The new interior offers more space and proved to be as practical for around town errand running as it was for a 14-hour long rally.
I guess the point that I have been trying to make is that perhaps my own prejudices had blinded me to the magnetic attraction of owning a Corvette. (Insert your own fiberglass pun here.) I feel that with my upcoming road test of a Vette Convertible in the spring, I may have to lower the prancing horse weather vane and replace it with the crossed flags.
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