Heated Debates: Chevrolet Corvette

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, yesterday
  • | by Daniel Bevis & Chris Pollitt

It’s been a while, but our resident duelling car buffs have healed up for another bout of automotive arguing.

This time it’s the American icon the Chevrolet Corvette that falls under the radar. Dan gets it, but Chris simply can’t get his head around why the muscular brute still exists.

Gentlemen, keep it clean...

CP: Right, before you go all misty eyed about the Corvette, here’s the reality: it’s money for old rope. It’s a technological recluse, hiding away from the modern technology which would improve it immeasurably.

DB: No, you’ve missed the point. The fact that they still belligerently use 'old' technology like pushrods and leaf springs is a knowing nod to the fans: unlike with other retro-styled modern cars – Mini, Beetle, 500 and so forth – you can trace a direct bloodline from the new Corvette right back to its 1953 roots. It’s Detroit’s answer to the Porsche 911.

The fact that it’s competitive in 2014 despite this old tech is testament to their ingenuity in engineering their way around these hurdles, no?


CP: No! And while I accept your premise of cars having a ‘bloodline’, I choose to ignore it because the Corvette’s lineage is all over the shop.

It was great when it appeared in ’54. But then it all went to pot in the ‘70s. As for the ‘80s? Well, don’t get me started.

Basically, it doesn’t have a bloodline of constant improvement; it has one filled with questionable design choices and terrible traits.

Park a new Ford Mustang next to an old one and it makes sense. Park a new ’Vette alongside a ’54 and you’d have no idea they were related.

It should have been retired a long time ago, but unfortunately General Motors has never been clever – or brave – enough to do it.


DB: Ha! You, sir, are talking through your hat.

The original '50s Corvette had a relatively lightweight, all-fibreglass body – an innovative move for the American market, with a clear focus on the performance gains. Every single Corvette since then has had a composite-material body.

But it’s far more than a stylistic exercise, it’s a cohesive performance machine, and that’s something that resonates throughout the Corvette’s history.

“It should have been retired a long time ago?” That’s nonsense. It’s selling in big numbers, and always has done.

Chevrolet Corvette

CP: I’m aware of the Corvette’s construction. The point I was trying to make is that the design has wavered so much over the years that it's lost track. The current cars mimic the design of the ’80s cars, because the ’70s cars were utterly dreadful.

As such, the ’50s and ’60s cars have become a distant memory, not something to be considered now, so it seems.

Yes, it’s blisteringly fast now, but that wasn’t always the case. It was an ugly, slow, flaccid car in the ‘70s, at which point it should have been killed off.

By all means Chevrolet should have a fast car in its line-up, but it shouldn’t wear the Corvette name. For me, the damage done by the ’70s cars was irreparable.

Image of old Corvette

DB: Sometimes I just don’t understand you. You’re talking about the C3 Corvette, yes? The one they built between 1967 and 1982? They were magnificent. Certainly not ugly, but aggressive and slinky. And slow? Blimey, if you consider 300bhp from a whacking great V8 ‘slow’, you need to readjust your priorities.

CP: To paraphrase Daphne and Celeste, U. G. L. Y, you ain’t got no alibi, it’s ugly. Ugly as sin actually and sloppy to drive  - and, yes, I have driven one -  as well as being generally unpleasant.

How did they go from the C2 to that monstrosity?

As for the hopelessness of the C3, don’t get me started. I’m baffled you can’t see my point here. I sense this is a losing battle, despite my solid and inspired observations.

Image of old Corvette

DB: All right, Captain Buzzkill, you’re sounding like a stuck record.

Rather than focusing on these perceived negatives, consider this: the Corvette is, and always has been, about providing brutal thrills with uncomplicated mechanicals, offering cheap(ish) muscle car performance to the average American. It’s an icon because it’s been such a ubiquitous presence for generations.

Of course, it moves with the times – the ‘70s ones were strangled by smog emission regulations, and the modern ones are chasing European performance stats because we’re sharing information more freely now.

If social media is buzzing with Nurburgring lap times, then that’s where Chevy develops the latest Corvette.

What I’m getting at is that the Corvette has always been relevant to contemporary American lifestyles. That’s its purpose.


CP: Damn it man, I hate you sometimes. Now you’ve made it all make sense to me. I guess I was looking at it as a Brit all along, rather than putting on my metaphorical 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots and looking at it as an American.

I still don’t like it. But at least I understand why it exists.

DB: Ha! I knew it, you folded faster than Superman on laundry day.

Yes, the Corvette has always seemed a little odd in the UK. America’s idea of performance has always been informed by a different approach to fuel pricing, and it’s just so big that our little country roads seem wholly inadequate.

But it’s just a scale issue.  And the latest Corvette is deliberately trying to make itself alluring on a world scale – there’s a hint of Ferrari about the nose, a whiff of Nissan GT-R along the windowline, it’s more lithe and compact… it’s more of an appropriate fit in the marketplace.

Your arguments may, in part, have been valid for previous generations… I guess the new Corvette Stingray is the first one to not have been designed solely for Americans.

Also… does this mean that I’ve finally won one of these? Hurrah!

CP: Yes, you’re right. I give in. Well done. Enjoy your smugness.