1954 ‘Entombed’ Corvette Joins Museum Collection

November 7, 2019

Entombed CorvetteIt was 1954 and successful business man, Richard Sampson of Brunswick, Maine had just purchased a brand-new Corvette. After driving it for four years, he wanted to park it somewhere safe. Sampson was constructing new stores for his grocery chain and decided one of them would be the perfect structure to keep his car secure. A tomb was built inside the store – literally around his Corvette. Sampson specified in his will that the car was not to be taken out of the man-made ‘time-capsule’ until the year 2000. Although Sampson changed his wishes before he passed away in 1969, the car remained entombed for 27 years.

The story of the Corvette was not widely known until the early 1980s when a magazine article was published. In 1986, the building’s new owner (who purchased the store in 1982) released the Corvette into the hands of Sampson’s daughter Cynthia. Workers disassembled the tomb, brick-by-brick, for a spectacular reveal. Cynthia then took the car to her home in Daytona Beach, Florida where it remained in the middle of her living room for the next ten years. The car has changed hands a few times since then, but still has accumulated only 2,344 miles and remains in unrestored and original condition.

“The donors reached out to see if we would have an interest in the car,” said Derek E. Moore, Director of Collections / Curator. “We talked a little about the significance of it, as well as keeping it in original condition. We know we want to recreate the tomb in some fashion, a diorama or vignette setting. We’re excited to share this unique piece of history!”

The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, donated it to the National Corvette Museum to continue in the preservation of both the car and its amazing (and interesting!) story. Thank you to them and we can’t wait to share it with visitors!

 

SOURCE: National Corvette Museum

 

A look At The 1963 Grand Sport Corvette

With all the publicity about the new movie, “Ford VS Ferrari”, now is the time to talk about the legendary Corvette Grand Sport. When the Grand Sport Corvette first began its storied trek through history, hardly anyone had ever heard of a Grand Sport. In all honesty, even Zora Arkus-Duntov didn’t use the term to describe the cars his team hoped would dominate the world’s racing circuits.

General Motors entered into the Automobile Manufacturer Association’s (AMA) racing ban, which was a knee-jerk reaction to a horrible crash during the 1955 Le Mans race. The Mercedes, driven by French-driver Pierre Bouillin (who raced under the name Pierre Levegh), crashed and went into the grandstands, killing 83 spectators and injuring 180 others. It is considered the most catastrophic crash in automobile racing.

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  • John Fitch, at the wheel of the Chevrolet Corvette Special during the 12-Hours of Sebring, March 24, 1956. (Photo: Registry of Corvette Race Cars/Facebook)

The crash was so catastrophic, Mercedes-Benz pulled out of racing for more than three decades. Pierre’s co-driver in the Mercedes was none other than Corvette superstar, John Fitch. Mr. Fitch continued to participate in racing and made it his life’s work to improve automotive safety — both on and off the track. In 1955, he was picked by Ed Cole, Chevrolet’s chief engineer, to head up the new Corvette Racing team for the following two years.

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  • The Corvette that John Fitch wielded around the twisting Sebring course also competed for speed earlier on the sands of Daytona Beach wearing a high wing and air diffusers over the headlights. The (Photo: General Motors LLC)

Corvette’s assault on the competition under John’s direction in 1957 is legendary. After setting a new class land-speed record on the sands of Daytona, Corvette Racing continued to turn the racing world on its ear as the team struggled its way to the front of the pack during the grueling 12-Hours of Sebring race. The world was put on notice, and no one knew that more than Chevrolet’s racer-gone-engineer, Zora Duntov.

Built For Speed

With the new body style introduced in 1963, Corvette also introduced the high-performance (even for Corvette) Z06. The purpose of the car was unmistakable. It was introduced with a 360 horsepower, 327 cubic-inch engine, Positraction rear differential, heavy-duty suspension, heavy-duty power brakes behind cast-aluminum knock-off wheels, and an oversized fuel tank that holds 36-gallons.

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  • The Corvette Z06 was designed for racing but was based on the production car. It was a 1/2-ton heavier than the lightweight Grand Sport. Note the ’63-only rear split window. Zora notoriously argued against this styling cue, stating that it hindered the driver’s rearward view. Interestingly, his race-only lightweights did not have this feature. (Photo: GM Archives)

Early in 1962, amid the AMA ban, Zora convinced then-head of Chevrolet, Bunkie Knudsen, that Corvette needed to be competitive against Ford’s Shelby-devised Cobras and the best way to do that, was to build special, lightweight Corvettes specifically for this goal. Mr. Knudsen agreed, and Zora’s team started a fresh-slate design of the newly-designed Corvette. The difference is this one would be race-specific, and built to dominate.

Losing weight was the primary concern, and the car’s design focused on achieving this goal by utilizing an entirely new, lightweight body and chassis. Initially powered by the same 360 horsepower, fuel-injected V8 as the Z06, the body and chassis mods carried the car across the scales at around 1,000 pounds lighter.

Intending to build 125 cars to meet homologation rules, only five cars were built before GM’s Chairman, Frederic Donner, found out about the program. He immediately ordered the lightweight Corvette racing program dismantled. From that point, you could say the front door to the lightweight Corvette racing program was welded shut. But, the back door’s hinges were well oiled. Even still, Zora was notorious for getting things done and having someone within GM pay for it, whether they knew it or not.

As far as I’m concerned, if any driver ever says that he had complete control of that car, he’s a liar. – Delmo Johnson, Grand Sport driver

Two cars were delivered to race-team owners, Illinois Chevy-dealer, Dick Doane, and Gulf Oil research-executive Grady Davis. They quickly began confounding the competition in their somewhat-stock-appearing lightweight Corvettes. Zora continued to gather information about his secret solution to Shelby’s Cobras, and late in 1963, the cars were recalled back to Zora’s stables of speed for updating, in preparation for Nassau Speed Week that year.

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  • As soon as they were unloaded off of the cargo ship, the lightweight cars hit the sandy, Nassau ground running. Many outside the halls of Chevrolet knew it would be bringing something special. A few insiders didn’t have a clue. (Photo: General Motors LLC)

When the cars hit the docks of Nassau, a crowd surrounded them in anticipation. It was now quite obvious these cars were not factory production models, and even Carroll Shelby stopped by to gather some intel about this perceived competition.

The cars now sported a more aggressive hood, wider front and rear fenders, wider Goodyear tires, and Halibrand wheels. There were also additional cooling ducts for the brakes. The biggest factor of note in the new design was the lightweight 377 cubic-inch, all-aluminum small-block that reportedly made 555 horsepower. A full house of Weber carburetors on a cross-ram style intake replaced the previous fuel injection.

Fast And Fiesty!

Chevrolet’s commitment to dominance was evident in the lineup of drivers for its newest creation. Renowned hot-shoes Augie Pabst, Roger Penske, Dick Thompson, and Jim Hall would take on the world. The cars’ potential — and Achilles’ heel — became evident during its stay on the little island off the Florida coast. Jim Hall summed up his time behind the wheel. “That car was damn fast,” recalls Hall. “But, the rearend wasn’t any good in the car that I drove, and it didn’t last very long in the only race that I drove it in at Nassau.”

All of the lightweight cars succumbed to overheating differentials. Coincidentally, a vacationing Chevrolet engineer just happened to have some differential coolers in his luggage. Between races at the Nassau event, modifications were added, including coolers to help keep the rear differentials from overheating. During races, various issues plagued the factory lightweight Corvettes, but one thing was certain, the cars were wildly fast.

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  • In preparation for the Nassau event, the cars had the recently-completed, 377-cubic inch, all-aluminum small-block engines added. Webers replaced the fuel-injection units used on the previous engines. (Photo: Registry of Corvette Race Cars/Facebook)

Delmo Johnson is quoted in David Friedman’s Corvette Thunder: 50 Years of Corvette Racing 1953-2003, saying, “As far as I’m concerned, if any driver ever says that he had complete control of that car, he’s a liar.” You can check out this video of Grand Sport chassis number 004 at speed during the 2013 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and make your own conclusions.

Fame can be a blessing and a curse. While the rigors of racing were sorting out the weak points on Zora’s lightweight Corvettes, the cars still placed better than the Cobras, which was the main reason for their existence. Once the cars were back on native soil, everyone’s eyes focused on the upcoming events at Sebring, Daytona, and Le Mans.

Everyone except the folks on GM’s 14th floor, where Frederic Donner spent most of his time.

Perhaps it was the publicity from the cars’ visit to Nassau, or maybe Zora’s internal memo sent out on December 16, 1963, that put the non-factory Corvettes under the hot lights of corporate GM. In his memo, Zora praised the lightweight Corvette’s performance against the Shelby Cobras during the Nassau event. He went on to say, “Since the news of Corvette participating was known to Ford four or more weeks in advance…”

Imagine finding out the project you ordered dismantled was recently competing in full force, in front of everyone. And, the competition across town knew about it for a month or more! A perfect example of, “Think before you hit the ‘Send’ button!”

After Nassau — and Bunkie Knudsen’s long walk up to the 14th floor — the cars were turned over to privateers such as Delmo Johnson, John Mecom, and Jim Hall. Zora originally envisioned building more than 100 of the lightweight Corvettes. He would only provide five: three coupes and two roadsters. He had the roof of cars number 001 and 002 removed, and a small windscreen installed thinking the lower profile would benefit the cars on tracks such as Daytona.

The cars continued to compete through the 1966 and ’67 seasons but were becoming less technologically advanced, as more modern chassis and power systems were implemented. The final race for a Grand Sport was the 1967 Daytona 24-Hour race at the hands of Jim White, Tony Denman, and Bob Brown. The car ran against Ford GTs and Ferraris in the prototype class, since it was never homologated, and had a hard time competing with this class of race car.

The colorful history surrounding the 1963 Grand Sport Corvettes — both inside and outside of GM — is part of what makes them so attractive to enthusiasts and valuable to Corvette historians. All of the cars are now prized items in collections, and their value encompasses more zeros than most calculators can fathom.

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  • 1963 Corvette Grand Sport coupe at Sebring. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Interestingly, while Zora risked the ire of the suits within the corporation where he gathered his livelihood, his thoughts after the fact hint that it was all in a day’s work. In Jerry Burton’s book, Zora Arkus-Duntov: The Legend Behind Corvette, he quotes Zora’s statements about the Grand Sport program as, “a quick-and-dirty sledgehammer project, of which I am not particularly proud.”

Perhaps it’s Zora’s European upbringing by which he feels the factory lightweight program didn’t have the proper polish to be considered significant. For everyone else, it’s the Grand Sport’s brash, hard-hitting persona, and the way it bucks conforming to dictates, which resonate so well with the American psyche.

We made tea in the Boston harbor, we put footprints on the moon, and we built a hand-full of stupid-fast race cars that dominated the competition at a time when GM wasn’t even interested in doing anything that involved racing. If there was ever a subtle, single-finger salute from those who get things done to those who don’t see the value, the 1963 Grand Sport project would easily suffice. The fact that it comes to you in a package that is 1,000 pounds lighter than the factory offering is just icing on the cake.

SOURCE: Bolig

Corvette Club Corner November 2019

H&H IS HAPPY TO PROVIDE A LIST OF EVENTS PUT ON BY CORVETTE GROUPS IN THE METRO!

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Cornhusker Corvette Club:

MidwestEarly

Midwest Early Corvette Club:

Dec 14: Christmas Party – Omaha, NE

 


RiverValley

River Valley Corvette Club:

Contact Club Members for event ideas!

 

NE Corvette Association

Nebraska Corvette Association – Lincoln, NE

Visit us at: nebraskacorvette.com

Dec 14: NCA Christmas Party – Lincoln, NE

 

National Corvette Museum logo

Add your car show to our calendar, request goody bags and more! Click here.

Upcoming Museum Events

High Wing Now Available with Museum Delivery

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The genuine Corvette accessory, high wing spoiler kit option can now be included on your R8C Museum Delivery optioned Corvette. In addition to the seemingly popular high wing, the Museum can now also install the ground effects and rocker panel extension options as well. A full list of options with codes is below:

· Ground Effects Kit in Carbon Fiber Painted Carbon Flash Metallic (5W8)

· Ground Effects Kit in Visible Carbon Fiber (5VM)

· Ground Effects Kit, Molded in Color (5V7)

· High Wing Spoiler in Arctic White, Torch Red, Black and Shadow Gray (5ZU)

· High Wing Spoiler in Carbon Flash Metallic (5ZZ)

· Rocker Panel Extensions in Carbon Fiber Painted Carbon Flash Metallic (SJI)

· Rocker Panel Extensions in Visible Carbon Fiber (S6S)

· Rocker Panel Extensions, Molded in Color (STI)

“The installs can now be completed as part of the Museum’s PDI process,” said Shane Webb, Manager of the Museum Delivery Department. “Training for our team is a collaborative effort between Bowling Green Assembly Plant and the National Corvette Museum. We are excited to be able to offer this to our customers and appreciate General Motors for working with us to make it happen.”

Customers who already have a 2020 Stingray on order may contact their dealer to make a modification, adding Museum Delivery to an existing high wing Corvette, or adding the high wing and/or ground effects options to their existing R8C optioned car.

If you have placed a 2020 Corvette order that is already at 3000 status, your dealership may tell you that it’s too late to add R8C Museum Delivery to your order. If your dealership is unable to change your order, contact Shane Webb, NCM Delivery Department Manager, directly at (270) 777-4505. Shane is working with GM to assist in adding R8C to orders already at 3000 status.

“We have been rolling out the red carpet to Corvette owners through our Delivery program since September 1, 1995, and in that time welcomed over 12,000 Corvettes through option R8C,” added Shane. “The program offers a true hands-on experience and allows the owner an immersive visit to the home of Corvette. We appreciate all the enthusiasts who decide to spend their special delivery day with us.”

Museum Delivery is a $995 option and includes a guided V.I.P. tour of the Museum where their car is displayed, and GM Corvette Assembly Plant (when available), followed by an orientation and presentation of their new vehicle. The customer receives the opportunity to drive an NCM Motorsports Park owned Corvette on the 3.15-mile road course, or a voucher for touring laps in their Corvette during a future visit. Other perks include a one-year individual membership to the Museum, a unique gold decal on the inside of the driver’s door jamb, and a commemorative wall plaque (with customer’s name, date of delivery and VIN) is ordered.

For customers with children or grandchildren, the Glazer Family Delivery program is available as part of Museum Delivery, encouraging youth to participate, encouraging a love for Corvette in the younger generation. The program includes a unique readerboard, special mat on display with the Corvette, certificate for complimentary ice cream for each child from the Corvette Café, camera flash card for Corvettes with PDR option, delivery photo with child/grandchild, Museum t-shirt for participating child, and delivery plaque for the child to commemorate the experience. The program is at no additional cost to Delivery customers thanks to Ed and Shari Glazer.

Learn more about the Museum Delivery Program, and Glazer Family Delivery add-on on the Museum’s website at https://www.corvettemuseum.org/visit/delivery-programs/r8c-museum-delivery/.

SOURCE: National Corvette Museum

FINAL C7 STINGRAY CORVETTE DELIVERED AT MUSEUM

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The National Corvette Museum was created as a facility to house the history of the iconic American sports car, and a part of the car’s recent history has joined the Museum’s collections. On Wednesday, November 20 the final C7 Stingray to roll off the GM Bowling Green Assembly line was officially delivered at the Museum.

“As a company, from General Motors, the Plant and the Museum – we all try to work together to do everything we can to preserve the history of this car,” said Kai Spande, GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant Manager. “During the planning of the final production units, GM and Harlan Charles asked if there was an interest from the Museum in getting one of the last cars.”

Museum President and CEO Dr. Sean Preston was thrilled to have the opportunity for the Museum to own such an important piece of history. “GM offered the opportunity to purchase the car to us. The Corvette is an iconic car in and of itself, and the last Stingray Coupe with front engine and manual transmission is an iconic car itself as well.”

The car was spec’d out with a purpose – a white exterior and red interior just like the very first 1953 Corvettes. “I think it’s important that the Museum have the last front engine Stingray in the collection because it’s truly a milestone in Corvette history,” said Derek E. Moore, Director of Collections / Curator for the Museum. “The Stingray nameplate holds such significance in Corvette history with the first Stingray Racer, followed by the first production Stingray in the second generation, and though we still see the Stingray nameplate in the eighth generation cars, it’s a momentous time where we are moving from the front engine design to a much more advanced design of a mid-engine. We at the Museum want to capture that history when such a significant change happens.”

The Museum owns several Stingrays, from early models to the more modern generation, but Moore said having this one as a ‘bookend’ to that collection is important history. The next step for the Museum was raising funds to purchase the Corvette.

“We have many Museum supporters and donors, but one came to mind with regard to passion for Corvette history, education and the Museum,” said Moore.

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Ivan Schrodt began his relationship with the Museum as a regular member, and like many others, began attending events and getting to know people at the Museum and other enthusiasts. Eventually he became a Lifetime Member and was later asked to join the Museum’s Board of Directors, serving a five-year term. “I really believe in the Museum and what it does to preserve the history of the Corvette, and serve the enthusiasts of the Corvette,” said Schrodt. “I became a supporter and donor over the years because I think it is important to preserve historic cars. It’s nice when the Museum can have some of those one-of-a-kind cars in their collection. This is the last front engine Stingray Corvette with manual transmission that will ever be made. It’s a lot of lasts of its kind.”

Schrodt shared what an amazing car the C7 is, owning a 2016 Z06 himself. “It’s an incredible car. Having a car that’s an absolutely fantastic car, but the last of its kind, I think that’s a great thing to have in the Museum.”

“I personally believe that this is just another example of the symbiotic relationship we have between the factory, the program team and the Museum,” added Spande. “We work together for the benefit of our customers, the benefit of the Museum and the overall history of the car, which is what the Museum is here for. We’re very excited that this car will stay in Bowling Green and it will be in the Museum forever.”

The ‘bookend’ to the seventh generation Corvette was presented in a ceremony at the Museum on Corvette Boulevard, which included a finishing touch of autographs on the engine cover by representatives of GM Corvette Assembly and Schrodt. The car was driven down the Boulevard and Victory Lane by Preston and Schrodt before being placed on display as part of the ‘Generations’ exhibit in the Museum’s Skydome. Thank to Ivan and his wife, Mary, for their continued support of the Museum, history and education of Corvette!

Visitors to the Museum can see the car on display seven days a week, from 8am until 5pm CT. The Museum is located at I-65, Exit 28 in Bowling Green. More information is available at corvettemuseum.org.

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SOURCE: Corvette National Museum

This is the final C7 Corvette to leave Bowling Green

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November 14th, 2019 marked the final day of production for the seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette, making this Z06 the last front-mid-engine Corvette ever built. Chevrolet’s Bowling Green assembly facility, where every Corvette has been built since 1981, will now make the transition to building the long-awaited rear-mid-engine 2020 Stingray.

This particular car, a black Z06 with a seven-speed manual, was sold by Barrett-Jackson more than four months ago. It brought $2.7 million at auction as part of GM’s work with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation that helps fallen first responders, injured service members, and gold star families.

The end of C7 production, as well as the start of C8 production, has been delayed due to a now-resolved six-week UAW strike that halted GM production nationwide.

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Chevrolet has a lot of C8s to crank out as the anticipation for its move to a new mid-rear-engine architecture that has been brewing for decades. In fact, Chevy added 400 workers and a second shift at Bowling Green to deal with the increase in demand, as pre-orders may have already totaled more than their first-year production capacity.

The mid-engine era is nearly upon us, people.

 

SOURCE: Hagerty

Tadge Juechter Brings C8 Convertible To Jay Leno’s Garage

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It’s no secret that Jay Leno has some great connections with GM. He’s a real car guy and the folks who care for his collection will tell you that they ALL need to be in drivable condition. Three-dimensional posters need not apply. Jay drives his cars. Jay also likes to drive other cars, such as the mid-engine Corvette.

In this video, the car in question being the newly-released Corvette C8 convertible that he and Corvette Chief Engineer, Tadge Juechter take for a spin around Jay’s home stomping grounds. The video was shot the week following the reveal of the C8 convertible at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Tadge admits that Jay is the first person outside of GM to drive the all-new, mid-engine convertible.

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  • Jay and Tadge enjoy a drive around in the new C8 convertible. Jay is the first person outside of GM to drive the all-new car.

Jay has a lot of experience with cars of all makes and models and begins grilling Tadge about the change from front to mid-engine. As most of us know, Corvette’s first head engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, wanted a mid-engine Corvette decades ago. Tadge admits that it was never in the cards previously, but despite some initial criticism, physics finally forced Chevrolet’s hand to get more performance from the Corvette.

Designing the new car with such a divergence from the norm dictated that the C8 be a completely clean sheet of paper from the start. One thing that previous generations HAVE taught the folks at GM is that if you are going to make both coupe and convertible versions, it’s best to design the car as a convertible from the start, rather than adding in strengthening components to compensate for the lack of a roof. Can I get an “AMEN!” from the C4 Corvette crowd?!!!

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  • The top drops in around 16 seconds and up to speeds of 30 mph. Jay looks on as the top’s mechanism twists its way into the engine compartment.

In this case, since the top is removable on both the coupe and convertible, even the coupe is considered a convertible by the regulators. In Tadge’s words, they, “needed to design both VERY tightly together.” Of course, now both pop- and drop-top versions have a hard shell over the occupants. The self-powered, hard-top convertible system is a very sophisticated mechanism, adding about 80-pounds to the car. Chevy engineers thought about doing a soft-top, but the C8’s competition is all using hard-tops. Tadge admits that it is harder to stuff a hard top than it is a foldable soft top, especially when you keep it in the engine compartment.

Beyond hard- or soft-shell concerns, other items that make it difficult to keep the top over the engine come from storing painted surfaces, weather-stripping, and suede panels just inches away from hot engine surfaces. Various bulkheads and heat shielding help isolate the top’s materials from the engine heat.

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Jay is very much a car guy and directs the conversation to the interior of the car. One of the joys of speaking with those responsible for designing and engineering something such as the C8, is you get a window into the mindset of what guides their pen. Case in point is the “squircle”. What’s a squircle, you ask? It’s the round tiller with the squared-off edges or the square with smooth corners found at the top of the steering column. Even the design of the squircle (our auto-correct is killing us right now) has a purpose, in that it allows for a more open view of the wide-screen instrument cluster.

Tadge explains that an automobile is one of the most complicated consumer products made in the world today, “and we make one every five minutes!” he says. While the C8 does have some options available currently, Tadge confides that even the base model isn’t basic. “It feels like a very good car,” he exclaims. With a 194 mph top-speed, this is the fastest standard Corvette Chevrolet has ever offered, but as Jay finds out, Chevrolet turned back the torque dial for the first 500 miles, to allow proper bedding of the necessary components during break-in. A fact that Jay highlights several times during the video.

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  • Easily-accessible, yet hidden buttons are used to open the storage compartments both front and rear. Tadge explains the benefits of two different areas of storage, “Beer in the front, pizza in the back!”

While many of us may never enjoy a drive with Jay Leno or Tadge Juechter in a C8 Corvette, we can enjoy this video of Jay AND Tadge enjoying a drive of the new 2020 Corvette convertible. Both men are true car guys and the video is much of their banter back and forth with the car as the main subject. While the video is slightly long, it does pass through very quickly and you’ll be asking for more as the credits roll by. Guaranteed you’ll learn something new about the all-new Corvette and, you’ll have a great time doing it.

 

SOURCE: LSX Mag

Mid-engine C8 Corvette production delayed until February

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 12.20.59 PM.pngCorvette evangelists have waited six decades for the mid-engine messiah to come, but the C8 Stingray is once again just out of reach. Chevrolet confirmed to that start of 2020 Corvette production will be delayed until February due to the recent United Auto Workers strike, adding a few months to the original timeline to start production by the end of 2019. We reported last month that the strike could affect the launch of the new Corvette, indicating that once a resolution was reached, the Bowling Green, Kentucky, facility would need to catch up on existing C7 orders before retooling the facility for the mid-engine C8. With Chevrolet now confirming a delay until February, it’s fair to infer that Corvette convertible production initially slated for late-first-quarter 2020 could be pushed forward until the second quarter.

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The new Corvette is a watershed moment for GM, which is broaching a whole new dimension of performance as it wades into modern mid-engine waters. Although initial feedback from the first round of media drives indicates a seriously capable car with sound road manners, we expect later Z06 and Grand Sport models to dispense with the Stingray’s more approachable personality and pursue more aggressive handling characteristics. With the 2020 Corvette just around the corner, a glorious new Shelby GT500 Mustang waiting in the wings, and ever-more Mopar madness from the Challenger, it’s a damn good time to be a fan of American performance.

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SOURCE: GM Hagerty

The Chevrolet Corvette is the 2020 MotorTrend Car of the Year

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Sometimes, a car comes along that leaves the automotive landscape different than before. In today’s Silicon Valley parlance, we’d be tempted to term such a car a “disrupter.” The last car to so radically shift the car world was the Tesla Model Sour 2013 Car of the Year.

This time around, our 2020 MotorTrend Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Corvette, fully scrambles the order of things. Simply put, never before has so much four-wheeled exoticism been attainable for so little money. Or I should say, so much good exoticism.

Chevrolet Performance did not phone in the first-ever production mid-engine Corvette. It dialed it, massaged it, honed it, crafted the new ‘Vette to the point of the nearly impossible. The eighth-generation car will bring people into dealerships who previously would never have come in. The mid-engine Corvette is a game changer, an inflection point, and a reminder that when Americans truly set our minds to a task, look out. For soon you’ll be standing on the moon—or driving the sports car equivalent thereof.

The father of the Chevrolet Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntov, began working on a mid-engine Corvette back in 1959. Called the 1960 CERV-I (for Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle), the single-seater located its 283-cubic-inch pushrod V-8 small-block just aft of the driver’s head. Subsequent CERV concepts only stoked the belief among MotorTrend editors that such a vehicle was not only possible but also likely.

Fast-forward to September 2019, and we finally get our greedy, grubby hands on the 10th-ever production mid-engine Corvette, an early-build, production-intent model with a VIN that ends in 000010. From our weeks of testing the Corvette against a field of formidable competitors, we can say Zora was onto something six decades ago.

“We’ve been waiting so long for this car that, climbing in, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning,” Detroit editor Alisa Priddle said. “I didn’t care if it was going to be good or bad, I just wanted to unwrap the present and drive it.”

A very true statement, as we’ve had our eye on the mid-engine Corvette ever since we broke the story (yes, Virginia, it was us) back in August 2014. Half a decade is quite a lengthy waiting period, and if life teaches you anything, it is to be prepared for disappointment. Witness The Phantom Menace. All that anticipation, so much hope, so much good will, all destroyed by a terrible product.

Not here. I’m happy in the extreme to report that the 2020 Corvette delivers the goods, and does so in ways you wouldn’t think possible.

“The C8 represents the biggest step change since the original Acura NSX in terms of being a usable everyday mid-engine supercar,” international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie said. “It brings the Corvette closer to the Porsche 911 in terms of being an attainable and credible 24/7 supercar than any time since the ’60s.”

The C8 (referencing the eighth generation of the Corvette) still features a cam-in-block small-block V-8 right behind the passenger cabin, only it’s grown to 376 cubic inches, or 6.2 liters. But everything else is changed. The new Corvette is all about disruption.

“The first thing you notice when driving in town is the lack of road noise for a supercar,” said Chris Theodore, a perennial COTY guest judge as well as the engineer behind the second-generation Ford GT. “It’s not silent, but it’s much better than any other supercar I’ve driven.”

That’s right, a mid-engine, removable-roof car that hits 60 mph in 2.8 seconds is being praised for the quietness of its cabin. “This means that C8 engineers have done a good job in making the chassis attachment points stiff,” Theodore continued.

The new Corvette rides surprisingly well, too. “Behavior on the freeways was remarkable,” technical editor Frank Markus said. “In Tour mode it felt as comfortable as anything we’ve driven—including the dorky, tall-sidewall Nissan Leaf. And best of all, that ride quality didn’t disappear when we put it in Sport and Track modes.” We were collectively surprised by how smooth and polished the C8’s chassis is.

We were also equally surprised at the Corvette’s high-quality cabin. To be blunt: Corvette interiors have been nasty, low-quality dens of cheapness and weird smells since 1984. With always-terrible seats, too. That’s the truth. With history as my witness, I was expecting more of the same. To keep the price as low as Chevy has promised, you’d think corners would have to be cut, and this would be the place to cut them. Nope. “The interior actually has great build quality. What a miracle!” associate online editor Stefan Ogbac said. “Lots of good materials, and the seats are super comfortable and supportive.”

What impressed me most about the quality of the Corvette’s cabin were the gear and drive mode selectors. At first glance, the shifter looks similar to what you’d find in the Acura NSX. The Corvette’s gear selector is metal, about half the size, and feels like something off a high-end stereo. As does the well-weighted mode-selector puck. Think of a Marantz tuner from the 1970s, back when “American Made” was king.

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Everything is laid out well, too. “Not only is the interior clever, and attractive, the ergonomics are very good,” road test editor Chris Walton said, “but having a small screen, close to the driver, also enables you to rest your hand on top and thumb the touchscreen without the unsteadiness you’d have without the perch.”

I love the squared steering wheel (a few others did not) and the jet-age homage of its design, though there was debate about the cabin’s overall design. Some judges felt as if there was a bit too much bling, but others liked it. As for the stream of buttons that make up the HVAC controls and “puts up a wall,” to quote Walton, between the driver and the passenger/glove box, most judges felt that these controls are of the set-and-forget variety. Plus, you just don’t notice them from behind the wheel. You do notice a couple inexplicable cheap outs, especially if you’re our executive editor Mark Rechtin. He despises the plastic cupholders. “How much would improving them have cost Chevy? Five bucks a unit?”

If the new Corvette has a weakness, it’s the exterior design. The judges’ opinions ranged from harsh (MacKenzie: “Bill Mitchell would be spinning in his grave. “) to damning with faint praise (Walton: “Fine from 100 feet. “).

The main issue: As you get closer to the vehicle, you see tributaries of pointless lines going off in every direction. This sort of sloppy linework—folds and creases that exist for the sake of existence—first appeared on the previous generation. Did the Corvette design team want to link the two products, to maybe help convince current Corvette owners to trade up for the newer model? Perhaps. Whatever the reason, although the car’s shape is good, the details are not. However, that just means that Chevy has a real opportunity in a few years with the midcycle refresh. As our guest judge and former Jaguar design boss Ian Callum said, “Great car to drive. Shame about the styling.”

Right, driving. What will convince current Corvette owners to trade in their cars is the C8’s performance. In truth, the new ‘Vette’s numbers and capabilities might convince a few PorscheBMW, and AMG owners to do the same. Might convince more than a few, in fact.

We mentioned the 0-60 time previously, but to contextualize that number, the 755-horsepower C7 Corvette ZR1 hits 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. The 789-horsepower Ferrari 812 Superfast hits 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. Remember, the C8 with the Z51 Performance package makes “only” 495 horsepower. I won’t even point out the $377,000 price gap with Ferrari. Whoops, I just did.

Much of the credit is due to the quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Big takeaway: We’ve yet to test a quicker naturally aspirated, rear-drive production car to 60 mph, price be damned. The C8 did great in the quarter mile, too, covering 1,320 feet in 11.1 seconds at 123.2 mph. That beats the direct competitor Porsche 911 Carrera S by 0.1 second. A win, however, is a win; the Corvette is quicker than the Porsche.

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Braking from 60 mph takes place in 97 feet, which is world class. The C8’s figure-eight time of 23.3 seconds is quick but behind the aforementioned Porsche (22.7 seconds) and stuff like the Chevy Camaro SS 1LE (22.9 seconds). I’ll go ahead and blame the awkward brake-by-wire system. We all agreed there’s more work to do here. “It’s near-impossible to accurately modulate the braking effort in Track mode, the system defaulting to instant-on ABS intervention at pedal speeds and weights a steel-braked 911 would shrug off,” MacKenzie said.

But those are modest complaints. The C8 wins our top award on the strength of how it drives. “Phenomenal performance,” news editor Alex Nishimoto said. He’s right. While conducting limit testing of the entire field at the Hyundai Motor Group California Proving Ground, I knew the Corvette deserved to be a finalist—but my mind remained open to other vehicles taking the top spot.

It was after cruising the twists and turns of Cameron Road on our finalist loop near Tehachapi that I became convinced the mid-engine Corvette had to be our winner. “It’s so easy to drive,” editor-in-chief Ed Loh said. That’s perhaps the No. 1 big change from behind the wheel of the C8 compared to the C7. You can just go for it and attack a road with abandon. I loved how potent, aggressive, and in control I felt. Total confidence.

Many judges mentioned that there’s a touch of understeer. Note, I did not say complained about said phenomenon, just mentioned that it’s there. Loh noted that dialing in some understeer is a “sensible strategy,” as this will be many owners’ first time driving a mid-engine car, and understeer keeps the nose pointing in a straight line when you push the throttle farther than your skills allow. Let me stress that we’re talking a skosh, a pinch, a tiny amount of understeer. We’re just saying the car isn’t tail happy. “The genius of this Corvette is it feels benign to beginners,” MacKenzie said, “but it’s not boring for experts.”

As a group of experts, we collectively loved driving the thing. “The sound is just thrilling when you accelerate, punctuating each shift change, sounding and feeling fabulous,” Priddle said. Theodore agreed: “The C8 is very easy to drive, with very high capabilities that most owners will not reach.” Nishimoto added, “Happiness is having a small-block V-8 rumbling behind you.” Rechtin called the C8 “something that can be driven very fast, all day, but you emerge completely rested and relaxed.” And MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said, “Finally, a Corvette that I enjoy driving.”

To become a MotorTrend Car of the Year, you have to punch hard against our six key criteria. To quickly break it down, the new Corvette fares worst in terms of advancement of design. However, as a car’s interior is included in this metric, the C8 did OK.

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The 2020 Corvette’s engineering excellence is through the removable roof; it features world-class performance combined with shockingly good ride comfort and noise levels. Chevy’s top dog also scores big in terms of performance of intended function, assuming that intended function is to be a daily-driven supercar.

Safety is trickier with the Corvette, as neither IIHS nor NHTSA have or will crash-test it, but based on safety scores for GM’s other recent offerings, we’ll give Chevrolet the benefit of the doubt here. As for efficiency, the small-block has cylinder deactivation to loaf along while powered by just four cylinders.

Value is where the C8 goes off the charts. Why would you buy a BMW M4 for the same money? Why would you spend half again as much for an equivalent 911? Besides a badge, what does a Ferrari give you? And just wait until the more powerful Corvette iterations show up.

Few cars change the automotive landscape, forcing other manufacturers to react, as the status quo will no longer do. It’s déjà vu all over again, again, folks. Chevy is selling a supercar for sports car prices. As I told a wealthy supercar collector friend of mine, “If I were you, I’d buy three.” Or as MacKenzie put it, “Hallelujah! A real, honest-to-god, mid-engine supercar for the price of a Corvette.” Great job, Chevrolet.

 

SOURCE: MotorTrend