A Star is Born

Also from Issue 87

  • Supercharged C6 Convertible
  • 1981 Coupe/Late-Model C3 Buying Tips
  • Larry Shinoda
  • 1988 Coupe
  • 1999 Hardtop
  • Tech: Stingray Seats
  • 1964 Small-Block Coupe
  • Racing: C6.R Retrospective
Buy Corvette-magazine-87-cover
A Star is Born 1
A Star is Born 2
A Star is Born 3
A Star is Born 4
A Star is Born 5
A Star is Born 6
A Star is Born 7
A Star is Born 8
A Star is Born 9

Same goes for the paint flaws I discovered. The inside trailing edge of the hatch had wavy paint lines resulting from what appeared to be a bad tape job. Another paint blemish was located on the rear bumper just below the rear license place. I don’t want to jump to conclusions based on a the close examination of a single vehicle, and I know that Bowling Green has stepped up not only its assembly techniques but its inspection process. But still, such flaws are troubling for a company trying to prove itself against the world’s best.

Out on the road, these shortcomings quickly faded from my consciousness. The driving experience was just too good and the Stingray was generating too much excitement. In my 15 years as an automotive journalist—including eight years as editor of Sports Car International magazine, a position that allowed me to regularly drive home in flashy high-performance machines—I’ve never had a car turn as many heads as this one. Moreover, people were excited about the C7 in a nearly unanimously positive way. No scowls of disgust, no heads wagged, no birds flown. It was pretty much all thumbs up.

The fact that the test car was painted Velocity Yellow had something to do with the attention it received—and the black wheels and optional unpainted carbon-fiber roof made the exterior color pop that much more—but it was clear the C7’s edgy new styling was the main draw. The vented hood and rear fender top-mounted air intakes give it the purposeful focus of a race car, while the four cannon-like exhaust tips make it look downright lethal. Low, wide and swoopy, the new Corvette has the presence of an exotic supercar, and people respond accordingly.

The C7 even brought out the inner car lover among notoriously auto-averse San Franciscans. One of them left a note on the windshield. “Sexy Car!” the person wrote. I won’t divulge his or her exotic-sounding name, but I will share with you the parenthetical phrase that followed: “young musician.” Yet again, score one for Chevrolet’s marketing department.

Wherever I went, the Stingray generated responses—sometimes from the most unlikely of people. Obviously, dudes in muscle cars felt obliged to, well, flex their muscles when the C7 hove into view, but I didn’t expect a middle-aged woman in Toyota Camry to gape or college girls in a Mini Cooper to point excitedly. I couldn’t believe how many drivers whipped out their phones and started filming.

Shortly before sunset one evening, I parked the car out in the Marin Headlands and went for a brief walk. Upon returning, I saw a man in his 60s hovering near the C7. Wearing hiking shoes, a daypack and a baggy pair of khakis, he had the appearance of a dedicated Sierra Club member. Instead of chastising me for driving a gas-guzzling sports car, he provided yet another informed assessment of the car’s attributes. He said that he had owned BMWs and Porsches in the past, and had never been particularly drawn to Corvettes—but this Stingray had definitely grabbed his attention. Interestingly, he said the appeal was not the fact that the 2014 model was more refined or better balanced, it was simply that the car looked so, in his words, “bad ass.”

The Stingray summoned particularly emotional responses from people. They seemed to be genuinely moved—and not just by its eye-popping appearance, but by the fact that it was built by an American automaker that just five years ago was teetering on the precipice of insolvency. At one point, while we were photographing the car in a beautiful redwood forest near Mount Tamalpais, a 50-something cyclist rode up and immediately declared, without equivocation, his appraisal of the C7: “The Best American car design in 40 years!” This and other displays of pride were not merely a matter of rooting for the home team, but a realization that Chevrolet had just hit a home run.

And indeed, it has.