21
Oct
08

History of the Corvette part 5: Giving a middle finger to the competition

One of the most celebrated aspects of American heroes is the way they’ve given the middle finger to their antagonists.  It started before they were even a country, when the Yanks gave Britain the middle finger over unfair taxation in the form of the “Boston Tea Party.”  Sometimes it even takes on literal meaning, like the infamous “Bush flips the bird” video that made its way around the internet a few years back.

So it’s no surprise that Chevy’s fifth generation 1997 Corvette did just that to the competition.  The venerable supercar was designed from the ground up to be a solid convertible, with the option to put a roof on it.  As a result, all the Corvettes had remarkably rigid bodies and weren’t susceptable to the squeaks and creaks that the C4 became known for.  It also made a solid platform for the ridiculously huge engines that were to come.

The first of those engines was the all-new LS1 5.7-litre V8, debuting at 345 horsepower.  By 1998, the mechanical Gun Show was increased to 350 h.p., a full fifty horsepower over the last base-model C4 engine.  To give you some idea of the increase in size, that’s the same as adding a VW Super Beetle and four lawnmowers to the previous LT-1.

However, the increased power didn’t come at the cost of efficiency.  The 1998 ‘Vette had an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 19 mpg, the same as that year’s Chevy Venture minivan.  Compare this to the Ferrari 355 at 11 miles per gallon, the same as my old man’s John Deere model 1830 tractor.  Score one for American power (not including the tractor).

 

In 2001, General Motor’s vice-president of flipping off the competition started working overtime to come up with the ultimate motorized middle finger:  the Z06 package.  The stock LS1 was squeezed to get more power out, eventually reaching 405 horses.  Although this was still less power than the Porsche 911 Turbo at the time, they could both reach 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.

The General’s middle finger was not yet fully extended; rather, he was just saving it for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004.  Despite losing the year before, the Corvette factory team beat out the perenial favourite Prodrive Ferrari team, taking a 1-2 victory for their class.  To celebrate, GM released a special “24 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition,” with an exclusive blue and grey paint job, shale grey leather interior, and carbon-fibre hood.  Score one more for the Corvette, and none for any sucker who tried to race against it.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Corvette production run if there weren’t umpteen special editions.  There was the 50th Anniversary model, with standard Magnetic Selective Ride Control, painted aluminum rims, embroidered trim, special badging, and the exclusive “Anniversary Red Metallic” colour.  There were also several short runs of exclusive cars to commemorate the retirement of GM execs, as well as high-performance limited editions by third party companies such as Lingenfelter and Callaway.

The most memorable of these special editions was the 1998 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car replica, known for being the “ugliest Corvette in history.”  Even though it was a great car in the mechanical sense, it only came in one colour scheme–Barney the Dinosaur Purple with bright yellow wheels and yellow leather interior.  The oddly coloured ‘Vette supposedly had a small but loyal fanbase (including famed rapper R. Kelley), but the following was too small to even move existing stock.  Dealerships allegedly had to change the wheels and re-paint the cars just to get them off the lot.  This slip of the paint gun was almost the first point Chevrolet handed to the competition, until this guy came along, inadvertently making it a draw.

There’s really not enough space here to truly compare the C5 and every European and Japanese sportscar that runs in the same sphere of performance.  And in all honesty, there’s lots of cars out there that beat the Corvette on individual statistics.  However, there’s one thing that the Corvette will always have over its competition:  it’s a Corvette.  No other car can match the combination of refined technology and handling with the “Git’R Done” brute mentality of that big V8.  And that’s why, no matter what the competition brings to the party, the Corvette will always be there waiting to show off its big, shiny middle finger.

Special thanks goes out to Wayne Blahut and Rob Bissett, owners of the red ’03 50th Anniversary Edition and the blue ’04 “24 hrs. of LeMans” Commemorative Edition respectively.  Wayne and Rob were kind enough to make time on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for this photo shoot just so you readers out there can get your eye candy fix with a pair of pristine supercars.

Like what you see?  stop by the shop and find out how to get prints made from any image on this website.  And if your walls are already full of pictures, we also have T-shirts and mugs ready to be printed with your favourite image from this site!

Want this unique content in your magazine, newspaper, newsletter or website?  Contact Jordan Morningstar at (204) 997.8827, or jordan.morningstar-at-gmail.com to find out about licensing images and text for your media outlet.

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1 Response to “History of the Corvette part 5: Giving a middle finger to the competition”


  1. March 14, 2009 at 6:23 am

    I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my IMHO, which could be wrong.
    p.s. You have a very good template . Where have you got it from?


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