Corvette versus Corvette
July 1, 2008
By Scott Lewis
I apologies. Right up front, I did not have anything to put in this month's column. I have a few ideas rolling around in my head, but I have not had time to put them down into words. In fact, this is the first time I have typed an article directly into Expression Web (the tool I use to maintain this site). I normally keep notes in text files and write the content of articles in Notepad. It is easy and works well for me. I can keep a few topics going in my text file. Then I copy and paste the content here and proof read it.
Corvette versus Corvette. I have been toying with this idea for a couple of months. A friend at work (our new DBA, who was the DBA that trained me back in 2001... talk about coming full circle) has a 2001 Corvette Z06 (I may be wrong on the year). It is the one that had 375 hp from the factory. He has modified it and put it on a chassis dyno and it is now making about 425 hp at the rear wheels. It is loud. Too loud for my tastes.
Another friend at work just bought a brand new Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200C. Him and his wife took a riding class, and it didn't take him long to pass the new Harley on to her and he bought a slightly used (under 3K miles) Harley Softail. I have yet another friend at work that is a long time Harley fanatic. He knows a lot about them. I am getting very interested.
It will be a few years, but my wife has eluded to the fact that she might get me a Harley or a Vette for my 50th birthday. What to do? If I could pick what Vette I want, which Corvette model would want to get. If I could pick a Harley, again which would it be.
This month we will look at the Vettes I like and why. If I have time before this article goes to press I will look for some examples online. I may have to save that for another month as it is June 28th, a Saturday, and I have to publish this article on Tuesday night. I don't know how much time I have to do research over the weekend, and will need Monday to proof and Tuesday to get everything together for all three article to publish.
Old versus New
This is my biggest dilemma. I I love old cars, as you can tell from my Classic Car Watch column. I also love the latest Corvette. Let's start with a modern Corvette.
I have come to the conclusion that I do not like my friend's Z06. It is too loud and too uncomfortable for driving to work. If I get a Vette it has to work as a car to get me to work at least once or twice a week. My friend's Z06 is not stock. The exhaust is far from stock, so I don't think that should matter to me. His is also lowered and is very firm riding. I am not impressed.
I also realize that I don't need more than 400 hp. Yes, more than 400 hp would be welcome, but I am not going to go broke trying to get it. It is hard enough to use all of the 300 hp in my 335i on a daily commute, no less 400 hp in a Vette.
So I don't need a Z06 edition Corvette. If I had to choose a newer model I would go for a 2008 or newer Corvette coupe with the full leather interior. The full leather interior is new for 2008. It brings the Vette's interior up to world class standards, to match its world class performance. I could live with a convertible (I have before) but I know from past experience that I would not drive a convertible with the top down that much. The coupe is the way to go for me. Hey, the coupe comes with a removable roof panel. I can do that for the occasional wind-in-the-hair ride.
What about old Corvettes. I am a total sucker for the Mako Shark styling of the 68-72 "chrome bumper" Corvettes. There is not a lot of mechanical difference between the 63-67 Corvette and the 68-82. However, the 63-67 are fetching a lot more money. To be affordable I would stay with the early C3. In 1973 they lost the front chrome bumper, but still had the rear. In 1974 the rear bumper went away.
1973 - 1982 are probably the best years for affordable Corvettes if you want a classic (at least 25 years old). But you have to be willing to put up with some serious drawbacks. Some of those early plastic bumpers did not wear well. Also, the emissions of the time were terrible and totally choked performance. Most of these cars can be modified and possibly be exempt from emissions testing in some areas. If you want a project car that you know you will modify then these years can be quite rewarding in terms of performance gains for modest investments.
For all the reason the 73-82 are desirable as project cars I would love to do the same thing to a 68-72. They are more collectible, so you have to be careful with modifications. Only bolt on modifications would be acceptable to me. I would save all the original parts so the car could be returned to stock.
If you want a more modern project car I would be torn. The LT1 engine used form 92-96 sucks. I had this engine in my 93 Z28. The engine performs just fine, but the Opti-Spark ignition system is a royal pain. Plus this is a very short run for a Chevy V8, so it will always see less performance parts that the more popular LS1 that came out in the Vette in 1997 with the C5 (fifth generation). The 97 & up cars should make great modern performance project cars, but this is no longer an old versus new issue. 97 is not old enough to be even close to a classic. My personal problem with them is the interior. There are a lot of parts bin components in there. The stereo is straight out of the 1999 Suburban we used to have.
If I was going to get a Vette as new as 97, I would prefer the C6 version that came out in 2005. But the full leather interior didn't show up until 2008. O.K. Back to the old Corvettes.
My first choice would be a 68-72 chrome bumper car. Second would probably be a late 70's model with the L-82 engine. Even though the late 70's cars were not very good performance cars, the L-82 engine still had the right parts. It had a forged steel crankshaft and 4 bolt mains, as well as the strong connecting rods. In other words, change the heads and cam to modern performance parts and the short block can handle the extra horsepower.
I would probably avoid the C4 Corvette (1984-1991). There is nothing inherently wrong with them, but they have the least style in my opinion of any of the Vettes.
There you have it. For an old Vette it would be a 68-72, for a newer Corvette I would go with a 2008 or coupe with the full leather interior. In upcoming articles I will search for cars and try to see where my wife should put our money. I will also cover what little I know about Harley-Davidson motorcycles and try to narrow it down to the model I would pick.