A Kentucky Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Also from Issue 79

  • 2014 LT1 V8 Engine
  • Buyer’s Guide: $15K
  • 1992 Z07 Coupe
  • 1963 Coupe
  • Supercharged 2010 Grand Sport
  • 1969 Coupe
  • Tech: C5 Diagnostics
  • Corvette Racing's Oliver Gavin
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It’s not just the inconvenience of having so few authorized Corvette garages that annoys Lynch, but the quality of the service some of them provide. “When Stratstone looked after my Z06, their service was absolutely atrocious,” he says. “With my Audis and Bentleys I was really looked after, but with Corvette you aren’t. We’ve got ex-Saab dealers looking after the cars, which is mad. It’s not good enough, and it’s why Corvette [sales] won’t really take off in the UK, I think the new C7 will have a hell of a time getting sold over here. It will be an expensive car that’s left-hand drive with no dealer franchise. It’s a dead duck.”

So what’s it like driving a wide, 638-horsepower, left-hand-drive Corvette on the crowded little isle that is England, with narrow city streets and a badly maintained road network that was largely designed for horse and cart? “It’s awesome!” says Lynch, “I still haven’t got used to it. You have to be very careful and give it a lot of respect, unlike my Audi R8 V10, which was rock steady. On motorways and smooth A-roads, the ZR1 is wonderful, but you can’t take liberties down a narrow, bumpy road. You have to concentrate 100 percent because the steering wheel is constantly moving around.”

I asked Lynch how the ZR1 stacks up against his previous Corvette. “Compared with my Z06, the ZR1 is much more powerful but is a more refined drive with a more linear power delivery,” he says. “The ZR1 has a better ride than the Z06 but still jars badly on our poor road surfaces, and that’s on the softer Tour setting. The hard Sport setting is so ridiculously hard you can’t use it on our roads. You can in France, where the roads are like glass. The front spoiler on the ZR1 is set a bit higher than the Z06’s, which makes it less likely to ground out on sleeping policemen [speed bumps], but it’s still low. The thing that used to worry me with the Z06 was being caught in the rain as it would float about all over the place, even at 60 mph. I know two people who have written off their Z06s in the rain. The ZR1 doesn’t float about at all; it is very secure, even in torrential rain.”

I then asked Lynch if there was anything he didn’t like about the ZR1. He replied, “Top gear is too low. There not much of a gap between fifth and sixth, so it’s revving a bit too high on motorways, which doesn’t help fuel consumption. It only averages 14 mpg and less than 10 mpg when you boot it. With petrol at over £6 a gallon, that’s not funny. But the biggest criticism is the interior, which is dreadful. It’s cheap, with poor-quality plastics and the switch gear is like 1970s Datsun, but it does the job. The seats are not supportive enough and nowhere near as comfortable as the old C5’s, and the seat backs are really flimsy. Having said all that, I still love it.”

Lynch kindly offered to let me drive his yellow peril. Rather than go for a motorway blast, we threaded our way down country lanes heading towards Windsor Castle. The clutch is surprisingly light and cogs can be swapped with the merest flick of the wrist. You don’t need to be a body builder to drive this baby. However, give it some throttle and it’s a different story: It takes off like a rocket, so fast that it can catch you unawares and leave your brain lagging behind. You really need to have your wits about you. Huge, torquey power is available on demand at any speed with no lag from the supercharger.

On heavily cambered, potholed roads, the steering wheel kicks back and forth quite hard, and with its rock-hard suspension the car bucks and leaps around a fair bit. You have to grab this Corvette by the scruff of its neck, otherwise you feel it could turn around and bite you. It’s a highly entertaining and engaging drive. It actually reminded me of some of the wild, white-knuckle rides I had trying to tame my wayward, unruly C4, only much faster and more controllable. My own more softly sprung C5 is better suited to these roads.

It doesn’t take long to become accustomed to driving a left hooker in the UK, and most of the time it’s not a problem. One major drawback, however, is trying to overtake on two-lane roads. If you get up close to the vehicle in front, you can’t see oncoming traffic, and if you hang back, you need a much longer gap in order to overtake. Having a powerful car like the ZR1 helps, of course.

Once in Windsor, which was heaving with tourists, we wormed our way around the narrow, cobbled back streets looking for a photo opportunity by the castle. The Corvette is docile and tractable at low speeds, but cobbles and ZR1 suspension don’t mix. In addition, we had to be careful where we parked. All our streets have parallel parking, and great care has to be taken not to “curb” the wheels or scrape the doors on the sidewalk. Our shopping centers and multi-story car parks have very narrow bays and sixth-gen Corvettes have very wide doors; I’ve heard of owners actually being boxed in and not being able to get back into their cars. But these are small prices to pay for having a car with such massive performance.

To put it another way, Lynch doesn’t miss his Audi R8. “I wanted a loud color and a loud car,” he says. “The ZR1 gives me a big grin every time I walk up to it. It’s a very special car. I don’t want to drive it all the time because I want it to remain a special experience. People have said to me, ‘What do you want with all that power?’ If they ask that, they just don’t understand, do they?”