Also from Issue 82
- The Last C6: 2013 427 Convertible
- Interview: Dave Tatman
- 2002 Z06
- Buyer’s Guide: C5
- Amelia Island Sting Ray Salute
- Profile: Dave McLellan
- 1962 Restomod
- Corvette Racing: Data Acquisition
The European Question
If Kirk Bennion throws around terms like “emotional gesture” in reference to the 2014 Corvette’s design cues, he’s earned the right. Art was always his best class, and he studied at Cleveland Institute of Art. An audience with Bennion reveals the obvious sensitivity one would expect of an artist. His refined countenance, clear blue eyes and soft voice confirmed that he belongs in a studio, not on an oil rig. But make no mistake, he is a bona fide car guy, with a 1970 1/2 Camaro Z/28 in his garage.
We were particularly interested in hearing Bennion’s reaction to commentary that describes the C7 as “European.” Does it mean anything to him? “I’m not bothered by that,” he says. “It was, in fact, one of our goals: that the car be able to conquer continents. We have real strong sales here, but we’re not as strong in Europe.”
He explains that people are responding, as might be hoped, to the design team’s emphasis on details. For example, the use of molded-in color is kept to a minimum, whereas carbon-flash metallic is broadly applied. “It’s very rich-looking,” he says.
Black chrome for the surround to the exhaust outlets, as well as polished exhaust tips, also represent the team’s strategy. Note as well the bright Corvette badges, with anodized inserts. LED technology “done in a new, different way” supplies yet another element to work with.
“We really wanted to play up the premium finishes and details,” Bennion says, as a publicist approaches with her clipboard and a list of his other appointments. Before he departs, though, he illuminates us further, showing the larger picture, one that wipes out any complaint about the design.
“When people say it looks European, I think what they’re saying is it looks more upscale, more like a European product—which was our intent all along. That’s where we want to be. We want to park next to an Aston Martin, a 911, and have our customers feel like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a car I can be proud of.’”—Ronald Ahrens
For the first time in Corvette history, the new Stingray’s top is fully electric, meaning there is no mechanical latch for the driver to physically release; the top can be raised or lowered in 21 seconds by pushing a button to the left of the steering or via the key fob. And there’s a new trick: These operations can be performed at speeds of up to 30 mph.
Supplied by the Haartz Corporation of Acton, Massachusetts, the top features three-ply construction that has been optimized for sound insulation and all-weather protection. The outer layer is an acrylic twill (available in black, gray, blue and a tan called Kalahari), the inner layer is rubber and the interior lining is a polyester fabric. Says Juechter, “The top is extremely well sealed and quiet, so the driving experience—including the chassis tuning and everything else associated with the driving experience—is the same whether you’re driving a coupe or a convertible.”
The shape of the top is similar to that of the C6 convertible’s, with a rectangular, glass rear window; the Stingray coupe’s rear quarter windows did not make the transition to the convertible layout. The coupe’s rear fender-mounted air inlets, which feed automatic transmission and electronic limited-slip differential coolers, were also lost in translation. Automatic and Z51 Performance Package-equipped convertibles will still have the heat exchangers, but they will draw cooling air from the bottom of the car.
Reflecting the Stingray’s sharply creased styling, the headrest fairings on the rigid tonneau cover now have a much more angular design—the C6’s rounded humps are gone. In addition, the fairings now sport black accent panels. The “waterfall,” the cockpit panel between the seats that flows from the tonneau, has been preserved. As before, it bears the Corvette crossed-flag emblem, albeit the new V-shaped one.
The last time Chevrolet offered a Stingray convertible was 1975—nearly four decades ago. That’s a long time, but this 2014 version looks to be worth the wait.