Car culture

Kicked to the curb by my favorite car: a Corvette

 

I am a paunchy, balding, middle-aged Corvette lover. As such, I am leery of Chevrolet’s ballyhooed redesign of the car.

rdymond@Bradenton.com

Dave Hill was chief engineer of General Motors’ Chevrolet Corvette sports car from 1993 until his retirement in 2006.

Hill is the man who led a GM engineering team that in 1997 nervously created the fifth-generation Corvette — which not only probably saved the brand but also saved the world for cradle-to-grave Corvette lovers like myself.

Hill swept in with the verve of Batman and masterminded the vastly improved fifth and sixth generations, known to aficionados as C5s and C6s.

I owned a 2000 blue C5 hardtop that gorgeous women flocked around even though I was in my mid-50s, bald and had a paunch.

Dave Hill became my hero. We talked for three minutes at a Corvette reunion at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., in the mid-2000s.

So, what would my hero think of the C7, the seventh-generation Corvette (also named Stingray), scheduled to be manufactured at the Bowling Green, Ky., GM plant in August or September and due in Chevy showrooms in the last quarter of 2013?

I, for one, am concerned that the 2014 Corvette may no longer be a magnet that attracts the opposite sex to middle-aged boomers like myself (making it the quintessential Florida car).

I am afraid that younger men (and women) will want to buy this car. And that they, not old-timers like myself, will reap the attention.

I haven’t been able to reach Hill to talk about this, nor am I even sure he wants to talk to me.

Let’s face it, with millions and millions of dollars riding on whether Corvette Nation, the unofficial club made up of car lovers like me, accepts the new $50,000-plus car that replaces his artful versions, Hill is too smart and too loyal to GM to give an honest back-of-the-bar-after-a-few-Diet Cokes assessment.

Maybe if I write him a letter and promise not to publish his reply until the C8 comes along he would respond with candor about the C7.

Here goes:

Dear Dave,

I’m certain you remember me. I’m the pudgy bald guy in his early 50s wearing the Corvette crossed-flags-emblem hat you met in Bowling Green in the mid-2000s. We talked about my blue 2000 Corvette.

So, what do you think of the C7? Did you see what they did with our beloved round tail lights?

They replaced them with a quartet of squared-off lights.

Dave, it looks like a Chevy Camaro from the back.

Now I’ve got nothing against the Camaro, but our beloved Corvette is now a car a teenager or 20-something would lust after. Dave, that thing has “kid’s car” written all over it.

I say that’s not a car for a grown man like me who just had his monthly testosterone shot, picked up some testosterone cream at the pharmacy and whose prostate levels are good.

Do you like all the new creases, vents and front fascia? It looks like a Ferrari from the front to me. I liked the simple tradition of the C5 and C6, kind of like a smooth-jazz sax riff from Kenny G.

Dave, I’m going to reserve total judgment until I see one in person, but I will tell you I’m stressed.

The small-block engine is still there with a good old pushrod V-8 in the standard model without supercharging or turbo-charging, and it makes 450 horsepower and goes from zero to 60 in fewer than four seconds.

But now, Dave, “cylinder deactivation” is standard, a term meaning four of the cylinders shut down while you are cruising on the highway, I guess to save money, as if, as if — even with the manual transmission.. Not in my Great American Sports Car! They will have to pry my gas card out of my cold, dead hands.

They say it will best your C6’s 26-mile-a-gallon EPA estimate.

Dave, they cut off four cylinders! I’m glad I am out of Corvette now that they have “cylinder deactivation.” You probably are as well.

By the way, Dave, you are probably wondering about my blue Corvette, which I called Baby.

Since I last talked with you, my fortunes have taken a plummet. I guess I borrowed too much and used too much credit. Life became hard, I have to confess. I didn’t have the little extra to keep my Corvette up to the standard.

It’s hard for me to tell you this, Dave, but I got to the point where I went days between washes and without using detail spray, which is like $6 a can.

The original steel wheels you designed got dirty, and you know how bad my back is because I mentioned it. I stopped going out there with my little footstool to clean the wheels, and I didn’t have extra money for someone to do it.

I stopped buying Tire Black, Dave.

The tire pressure sensors went out, and the tires got bad. Those tires are around $600 each.

I didn’t have the money, Dave.

I sold it. I sold it.

The car went to a doctor. I think he will maintain it. That is my only solace.

Thanks, Dave, for weighing in on this important matter.

Richard Dymond

P.S. Dave, do you know someone who would buy some freelance writing? I guess I would like to get the new Corvette. But this time, Dave, I promise I am going to keep on a budget.

Richard Dymond, 61, a reporter-turned-car-salesman-turned-reporter, covers the crime beat at The Bradenton Herald. He has owned four Corvettes, including a 1965 blue Stingray convertible that was partially wrecked and missing an engine, which Dymond never did restore before selling at a loss in 1978; a 1976 silver Stingray coupe whose mufflers fell off on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania; a 1978 white removable roof with manual shift that rattled like crazy, and, without question, the best of the lot, a 2000 blue hardtop, known as a C5, that seemed to appeal to the opposite sex, which Dymond rarely did. Dymond currently does not own a Corvette and is frustrated by it.

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