04
Nov
08

History of the Corvette part 7: Why?

When we started this series on the history of the Corvette, we asked you, the reader, to name a car that’s had the lasting power of the Corvette.  Although some of you may have tried, the truth is that you can’t–there has never been a model in the short history of the automobile that has achieved such fame for so long.  Even the venerable Ferrari, whose entry-level models are often compared to the ‘Vette, is barely older.  That’s right, the entire Ferrari corporation was conceived just a few years before the Corvette.

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With that first question answered, it’s time to ask another question:  why?

Why has the Corvette become the definition of a North American sportscar?  Why does it still turn heads, arouse dreams, and make gearhead’s hearts flutter every time one drives by?

One reason might be the big engine.  Ever since GM ditched the Blue Flame inline-6, the Corvette has been synonymous with oversized motors.  From the infamous 427 of the 70’s to the new 630 horsepower ZR-1, the Corvette, like America, is about “hot, nasty, badass speed.”  But if its big motor is what makes it so famous, why aren’t other big-engined rides even more famous?  The “Blastolene Special” currently owned by Jay Leno has a Volkswagen Beetle sized V-12 engine from a 1950’s Patton-class tank.  It was recently retrofitted with a custom fuel injection system, bringing it up to 800+ horsepower and over 1,500 ft-lbs. of torque.  So then why does the one-off Blastolene Special only have a single Wikipedia page, compared to the multiple, lengthy pages for each generation of Corvette?

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Is it the high technology going into each and every one?  It’s not easy for any major manufacturer to develop new bells and whistles to make one car more space-age than the other.  That said, The General has done a wicked good job bringing the future to the Corvette, with every fancy new doodad possible wired in somehow.  But if technology is what makes an automobile famous, why does the all-electric Tesla Roadster–possibly the world’s most technologically advanced sportscar–only have one fan club?

But what about the racing legacy?  Sure, the Corvette has won some prestigious races in the past, but racing legacy didn’t do much for the McLaren F1.  The McLaren Group, a British race car manufacturer pisses excellence when it comes to Formula One, but they still only squeezed a 6-year, 107-car production run out of their first road going car.

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So what is it then, that’s given the rock star of sportscars such a great run?  It’s not the engines, although I’m sure that helped.  It’s not the technology, or the racing legacy, even though it probably had some impact.  It’s probably not the fibreglass body-face it, who cares about fibreglass?

How about this:  The average rock band usually has a lifespan of three to four albums at the most.  The debut album gets your attention, and the sound is perfected on the second album.  By the third album, the music hits a “sophmore slump” leading to a “greatest hits” fourth album, cashing in before everyone forgets who the artist was in the first place.  However, there are a select few rock stars who carefully build a loyal following, who stick with them through thick and thin, leading to platinum record after platinum record.

The Corvette is that rock star.

Doing a Google search for Corvette turns up 37,200,000 websites, 4,560,000 images, and 2,600 news articles-fifteen million more web sites than Elvis Presley.  The Idaho Corvette Page lists over a hundred Corvette clubs, including some in countries that drive on the wrong side of the road.  Even the Corvette Club of Manitoba (a province of less than one million people) can attract over 40 specimens from across several provinces just to attend a backyard BBQ in Winnipeg.  The Corvette museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is several times bigger than the Beatles’ museum in Liverpool.  And although both museums enjoy millions of visitors per year, a good percentage of the visitors through the Liverpool facility had other reasons to visit Liverpool.  Bowling Green?  Meh, not so much.

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So in the end, that’s why the Corvette has been the world’s longest lasting automotive marquee.  Just like a quality rock star, it provided its fans with something that gave pleasure, enjoyment, and in some cases a sense of belonging amongst fellow fans.  In return, the fans gave back their passion, their energy, and their willingness to believe in something that began as a car, but became so much more.

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, we also have T-shirts and mugs ready to be printed with your favourite picture 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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