2020 Corvette Stingray Coupe
The American Legend Becomes a World Car
IN THE EARLY 1950S, WHEN CHEVROLET ANNOUNCED THAT IT WAS going to create the first American sports car, the rumor was that there were two models—a coupe, called a “Cor-vette” and a convertible, called a “Cor-vey.” Perhaps the rumor started since Corvette was a French word and Americans didn’t always know what to do with a French word with the letter “t” near the end: give it a had a hard or soft “T” ending. However, as Shakespeare might have said were he a Mad Man from the 1950s: “A sports car like this with any other name would go as fast.”Or maybe not.
You see, once we learned that there was only one name for the car and it had a hard “T” at the end, we also learned that it had a pretty puny engine. The engine in the inaugural Corvette, in 1953, was called the “Blue Flame” motor, but with six cylinders, 235 cubic inches, and 150HP, “Blue Flameout” was more appropriate. Coupling that six-banger to a 2-speed automatic that could motivate the Vette to 60MPH in about 11 seconds was a pretty unremarkable performance metric, even then. Only some 300 Corvettes were produced the first year, as Chevrolet wasn’t sure if the car would be a success. 1954 was slightly better for the Corvette, but not good enough. Chevrolet apparently even considered dropping the line, until Ford introduced the 2-seater Thunderbird sports car. The race for America’s heart (or male lust) was on. Corvette then upped the game in 1955, with a small V8, and even added fuel injection as a 1957 option. In 1958, Ford seemingly ceded the sports car competition to Chevrolet as the T-Bird that year was bigger, heavier, and had four seats.
A lifelong petrol-holic, mechanic (cars, motorcycles, boats), and automotive journalist since penning a column for his high school newspaper, internationally recognized attorney Tim Lappen is a partner at a major Los An-geles-based law firm, where he chairs the firm’s Family Office Group and its Luxury Home Group and is, of course, a member of its Motor Vehicle Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit LifeInTheFastLane.org
Through various iterations, and through the intervening almost 70 years and seven prior generations of the Corvette (“C1” through “C7”), the ’Vette has become more and more popular. Nevertheless, to people of a certain age, and especially during the years of the TV show Route 66 (1960-1964), which prominently featured two guys looking for America, the Corvette was the ticket to freedom, to explore the country, to heed the call of the open road, to be a man’s man––that was the promise of the Corvette.
Despite the many competitive incursions into America’s sports car love affair which were created mostly in Europe, Corvette remained steadfast: lots of power up front, driving only the rear wheels. A longish hood and a short tail. You know, Chevy is ’MERICAN! The “Heartbeat of America!” I mean, who drives a Ferrari to the levee? But rumors started flying again a few years ago that the Corvette would become a mid-engined car (the engine behind the driver, but in front of the rear axle) to provide other styling alternatives and make the car handle better. It wasn’t until the Corvette Stingray “C8” (the eighth generation Corvette) arrived that we were sure that it was going to happen. Although “going to the dark side” didn’t please everyone, I, for one, am glad to see the results of that metamorphosis.
The C8 Corvette has taken a giant leap into the new millennium (albeit two decades in), with a car that’s at once very American with deep roots in Italy and England (like many of us Americans). Many who see the new Stingray think it’s a Ferrari or a McLaren. They can be excused, as the styling cues certainly are similar. With the form-follows-function needed to attain great speed (0-60 in 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 194 mph for the Z51 base model!) and handling (over 1g on the skid-pad), one would think that you needed to source this car in Italy, Germany, or England but it comes from … Kentucky. (Corvettes have been made in Bowling Green, KY, since 1981.)
I was fortunate to spend a week with the new Corvette in July. “Mine” was “Elkhart Lake Blue Metallic” with “Jet Black” interior, and it was stunning, with or without the removable top panel in place. Of course, the quarantine orders created some challenges, but I loved my time with the car. It was amazing how the car drew a crowd wherever I went, and how so few people know what it was until seeing the Chevy “bowtie” badging.
Let’s talk about pricing first, as Chevy has done something unbelievable: the base price is $58,900. You may not see one at that price for a while, but, even with many options, the ’Vette is well below its European competitors. Mine had special sound system, front and rear cameras (the back camera drives a cool new TV screen rearview mirror), and more ($7,300): the “Z1 Performance Package” ($5,000) which includes upgrades to brakes, exhaust system, suspension, bigger wheels, upgraded bucket seats, painted brakes and more, adding a total of $18,175 in options. When all was said and done, it had a sticker of $78,170. What can you get that performs—goes and handles and stops—like this car? Nothing!
So, what’s it like? I am pleased to report that … it was perfection! It started up with a serious authority, not a “ka-boom” exactly, but enough throb to tell the local denizens that something wicked this way was coming. The sound portended great performance, and the ’Vette did not disappoint. With an unusual 40/60 weight distribution, well over half of the car’s heft was on the rear wheels, which no doubt allowed for 0-60 times which were unbelievable for an American car just a few years ago. Zero-to-60 in under three seconds puts the C8 in very rarified company!
Another surprising fact: the new Corvette is larger (longer and wider) than its predecessor. It didn’t look bigger to me, and it sure didn’t drive like it was. I had tested last year’s model and really enjoyed it, but the C8 feels and acts shorter. I assume that the seating position on the new car is closer to the center of the vehicle, but, whatever the reason, driving it in the canyons around Los Angeles was terrific.My time with the new Corvette came to an end too quickly (though I am promised the convertible variant soon—can’t wait!). Living with the C8 as my daily driver was a breeze, with ample storage fore and aft and eminent drivability. Docile when I just wanted to cruise and breathing fire when requested, the car is an all-around American success story.