The last of its kind: Chevrolet Corvette C7

Once reputation is ruined ... even the epitome of the American sports car dream can mutate into a serious sports car despite anachronistic technology. And before the premiere of its own successor, it goes on another great ride.
Text Helmut Werb
Photo Richard Thompson

The last of its kind. An underrated dinosaur, equipped with a massive V8 engine of more than six liters of displacement. Chevrolet's Corvette is truly a powerhouse fossil from the age of muscle cars, an anachronistic rearing of a species on the brink of extinction. The Corvette is sometimes scolded as an ostentatious "neighborhood car" that serves American men in midlife crisis as an escape vehicle from their wives, with the 20-year-old secretary in the passenger seat. The car earned this reputation in 1963 at the latest with its second generation, when the compact roadster became a real sports car that was fast not only in a straight line … okay, the curves were not to be taken too fast. Its name: "Sting Ray" - spelled in two words at the time, it didn't become one word until 1968.

Unlike its predecessor, the Sting Ray was actually based on a GM race car, the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle, or CERV 1 for short. Which didn't necessarily help its image. Things got really bad last November when the British mainstream newspaper The Mail announced that Manchester United's highly paid soccer players didn't even want to touch the fifteen Corvettes provided free of charge by General Motors. But then that was really unfair. The Corvette of today didn't deserve that. Granted, the voluminous V8 engine-which is almost ironically called the small-block and has served as the Corvette's standard engine since 1955-is controlled by a single, central camshaft and valve lifters.

And it still sits up front, as was once appropriate for supercars. Despite modern electronics, the powered rear wheels often struggle with cohesive forward momentum that literally causes the rubber on the giant rollers to go up in smoke - something admittedly desired by a majority of Corvette drivers. The electronic differential lock, however, allows extremely fast cornering, although the rear suspension is still based on the leaf spring principle, regardless of whether the GM brochure elegantly calls it "transverse-mounted, composite springs" or not. On the other hand, the modern aerodynamics of the aluminum body put almost 160 kilos of downforce on the axles.

Despite modern electronics, the powered rear wheels often struggle with cohesive forward momentum that literally causes the rubber on the giant rollers to go up in smoke - something admittedly desired by a majority of Corvette drivers.

From this point of view, the car is an obvious choice for a sunrise chill-out after a night of partying in Las Vegas at the dry salt lake of El Mirage. The base model, the Stingray, puts around 460 hp on the road in the latest version, accelerates from zero to sixty miles (96.6 km/h) in less than four seconds and beats its power onto the asphalt with a maximum of 630 Newton meters. And all that at a price for which you could just about get a moderately equipped BMW 5 Series in Ohio and Texas. Such prices are a tradition; the first Stingray cost just over 4,000 U.S. dollars in 1963. Today, such a "split window" easily fetches prices well over a quarter of a million.

Back to today. The big brother of the Stingray, the Z06 Corvette, with its 650 hp, 880 Nm of torque and, despite leaf springs, terrific handling, easily passes for a Ferrari killer. Only the interior may not be able to keep up with the Lambos, Astons and Ferraris, the plastic paddle shifters just feel cheap - but the engine noise makes up for it, even in the milder version of the Stingray. On Highway 2 through the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, the ladies let their pulse race up curve after curve. Fun, fun and more fun is on the agenda, even with platform shoes. Or especially then.

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