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There's a problem with the C5-it just keeps getting better. After spending a day in the Kentucky sun with the new 1998 convertible, preceded by eight years of watching the Corvette team develop the C5, I'm beginning to wonder if there's a limit to how good this car can be. And I'm not a convertible guy.

My own 1997 C5, picked up in mid-April at a dealer in Detroit, had 11,000 miles on the odometer by August 1. It had been to Oregon, Bloomington Gold, and Black Hills, plus it's my daily driver. Before mid-September, with the long cross-country trip to and from Utah to Carlisle, followed by a trip to the Mid-America shindig three weeks later, it'll be pushing 20,000 miles. The C5 is no museum car or garage queen. It's meant to be driven and I do.

Mine has had zero problems, unless you count backing into a boulder dropped into the middle of Utah street by person or persons unknown, and scuffing the rear fascia slightly. A problem-free C5 is frustrating. I hear about some engines that won't develop full power, about fuel pump whine, about interior door panels rejected at the plant and delaying deliveries. My car is perfect. I have everybody's phone number, from Dave Hill to the guy who tests tires, and no reason to call with a complaint.

The convertible is the car that rag-top lovers have been waiting for. We started out from the National Corvette Museum on a long drive that covered interstate highways and rambling Kentucky side roads.

From the first, running up to (hmmph, ahem) mph on the interstate with the top up, the car was remarkably quiet. My shotgun passenger and I talked in normal tones about the rag top that didn't shake or shimmy, about the back glass that didn't vibrate about the "waterfall" between the two seats that is an integral design feature of the tonneau.

We didn't need to mention the full-size trunk behind the tonneau. It'll carry the standard two sets of golf clubs, enough luggage for a two-week vacation, or more groceries than you can buy in a single supermarket trip. All it held now was my briefcase and that seemed lost in the trunk volume.

At the first driver change, I moved from the six-speed car to the automatic and we put the top down. It was a matter of opening a couple of windshield latches, reaching under the tonneau to find the release button, lifting the tonneau with one hand and folding its rear, then dropping the top and closing the tonneau. Anybody, male or female, who can't do the whole job is under 15 seconds just hasn't had enough practice. Keep at it, and your times will drop like a C5 running quarter miles against a C4.

Top down, we changed into the countryside. And a strange thing happened. There was virtually no wind trying to grab away my cap. The car's aerodynamics takes the air flow smoothly over the top of the windshield and sends it on its way with nary a burble or a bubble dropping into the cockpit. And even with top down, most of the cargo space remained free and accessible. C5 convertible owners will be able to take those long trips with more than a toothbrush and a Dopp kit.

Was it stable? You bet. The shimmy and shake on rough roads that made the C4 convertible both adorable and barley endurable are gone. The convertible frame is stiff, those sudden air gaps between the door and the A-pillar no longer appear, and the comfort level-at least from the driver's seat- is phenomenal.

Later in the day, I reluctantly rode in the right seat for a few miles. It's also smooth and comfortable.

But it can't compare to driving the C5 convertible.       - Jim Schefter

James Schefter is the author of the Best Selling Book "All Corvettes Are Red" and a friend of the C5 Registry. This article, originally printed in "Corvette Capers" the Newsletter of The Corvette Club Of America was reprinted with Mr. Schefter's permission. There are two New Special Editions of "All Corvettes Are Red" now available. Check out the web site at:

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