Today, I’m going to confess two of my most deeply held, darkest secrets: 1) For the past two decades, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time at my local bagel shop; and 2) I’ve never been a fan of the Corvette.
I know! I know! It’s not right. How could I? Look, I love a doughy, whole-wheat bagel (I gave up cinnamon-raisin bagels as a concession to healthier eating), plus this morning ritual is my time to slow down, drink too much coffee and read that old-timey contraption…the newspaper. Huh? You weren’t bothered by my morning ritual so much as my apathy for Corvettes? Stay with me.
So having spent numerous mornings a week, for 20 years, at the same bagel shop, one way or the other, you get to know the locals. For some time, I’ve been friends with a guy that also spends an inordinate amount of time there and, as fate would have it, our kids went to the same college, etc. Anyway, after years of casual conversation, a month or so ago, he excitedly started asking me about the new mid-engine, C8 Corvette coming out. Because he’s not really a “car guy” I was a little surprised by his level of enthusiasm for the new Vette.
Then a week ago, I thought his head was going to explode when he heard the new C8 was going to be revealed (a very loose term here, since the C8 is probably the worst kept secret in automotive history) just down the road from us, in Tustin, California. The night of the big reveal, I sent him a handful of “leaked” photos of the car and the next morning at the bagel shop, he wanted to know what I thought of it. I have to admit that our discussion surprised me on several levels.
I prefaced our conversation by disclosing up front, that while I’ve test driven some exceptional Corvettes (ex-Cunningham Le Mans car and the Scaglietti-bodied Corvette Italia, to name just two), I’ve never really been a big fan of the Corvette. Gasp! The problem is that I automotively came of age in the 1970s and early ’80s. The Corvette was not at its zenith then and was usually characterized—or castigated—as a “plastic tractor.” As a kid, weaned on the mother’s milk of Ferraris and Porsches, the Corvette seemed crass and unsophisticated to me. That was the pimple-faced teen me talking.
However, I was more than a little surprised when the older, bagel-loving, Geritol-taking me began to hold forth on the new C8’s styling, I found that I really liked it. My friend mentioned that he did too, but that he was kind of sorry that it had lost that long front-end look that was so emblematic of the most recent, late-model Corvettes. Quite out of thin air, I remarked that the new C8 actually looked much more like the new Acura NSX, than it did the C7 Corvette. And the more I thought about it, the more I believed I was right. I went on to hypothesize that its resemblance to the NSX—and quite frankly, most of the current crop of “supercars”—was arguably a nod to the changing tastes of today’s up-and-coming enthusiasts. For decades, Chevrolet has been subtlety updating the front-engined Corvette to appeal to a very specific—older—audience of enthusiasts, but the new C8 seems to be a clean break from that. Agreeing with that, my friend wondered why they didn’t just launch it as a completely new model/namelplate. But I told him, why would you throw away 65 years of branding and start from scratch? The cost to market it would be extraordinary and look at the amount of free publicity and hype they’ve received by this long-running roll out. Even if they resurrected an old nameplate, the unveiling of a mid-engined Chevrolet Corvair would not have garnered the same attention.
In our previous conversations about the Corvette, I had conceded that the most recent spate of Corvettes are a lot of car for the money. In fact, I usually tell people that, dollar for dollar, the Corvette is the most performance you can get for the least amount of money. So when our bagel-fueled conversation turned to the price of the new C8, I was again kind of shocked to tell my friend that these were slated to start at under $60,000! Now, I warned him that you’ll probably not find a base model available anywhere at that price—at least not for the first year or so—but still, that really is a lot of car for the money. Considering the list price for a new Acura NSX is $157,500, you could buy a fleet of C8 Corvettes and have money left over for floor mats.
But the more we talked about the new styling, geared for a younger audience, and the more we talked about the value proposition of how much car this would be for the money, the more I got a strange feeling. At first I thought it might have been the three medium coffees I had slugged down that morning before we started our conversation, but I soon realized, no, it was a sense of dysphoria stemming from the fact that for all intents and purposes…the new C8 was making me a Corvette fan.
Quite frankly, I’ve always been a little embarrassed about my ambivalence towards the Corvette, so I welcome this newfound zeal for America’s sports car. Just don’t expect me to give up the bagels any time soon.