Assumptions have a nasty habit of becoming facts. Russell Howard is funny. The French like Piat D’Or. American sports cars are rubbish.
Now this last assumption does carry some credence. Show your average Firebird a bend and it’ll show you a Firebird shaped hedge. America has a lot of straight roads and it is in a straight line that most American cars sport their wares.
However, in a country the size of America there are inevitably a few twisty roads and a sizeable part of the sizeable population who don’t mind spilling their 32 ounce Sprite in the interests of enjoying them.
For these people Chevrolet made the Corvette Stingray. Haha, you sneer. That ain’t no sports car, says you, cocking your metaphorical stetson. That’s a sports car for Miami boulevards, not British B-roads. And it is true that Chevrolet did an excellent job of speccing the stylish Corvette to appeal to the sort of man who roles up his jacket sleeves in a manner he assumes is nonchalant but which is actually silly.
The latest addition to our fleet, a Corvette C3 Stingray, was probably bought new by just such a man. It is white with a red leather interior. Its last owner was a double glazing salesman. And I absolutely love it. If you want a Corvette in a subtle colour combination you don’t want a Corvette. You want a Mondeo.
The Corvette’s design divides opinion but few walk away untouched by its sharp Coke Bottle curves and sharknose snout. This is a well designed car, neatly detailed and as singular of purpose as an E Type. Big truck tyres dominate the massive arches and the integrated TVR-esque doorhandles keep the lines uncluttered.
The interior is less distinctive, despite the red trim, but is still a cocooning place to be. The very low dash is reverse racked like a Mk3 Cortina, the stubby gearstick juts out of a sloping console in front of a suitably comprehensive bank of dials. Electric power rules – seats, windows, locks. The seats are space age and very comfortable – behind them a stowage area, the car’s only boot space.
Twist the key and the 5.7 litre v8 jumps into life. By the time of this 1980 model Federal laws had strangled power to just 220 bhp and forced a speedo with an 85 mph maximum on Corvette buyers.
It doesn’t matter. The Corvette has massive grunt. Power is instant and constant – from idle right to the red line if you wish. But you’d expect that from an American car. Here’s the surprise – it really handles. The steering is well weighted and sharp and the car is nicely balanced, helped by the engine being located back in the chassis behind the front axle (just like a 928). You sit low with a view out front dominated by twin razor sharp wingtops and E-Type like bonnet cowl. There is a ridiculous amount of car in front of you but the Corvette doesn’t feel intimidating. It may be big but it is so controllable thanks to firm suspension, direct steering and decent chassis and wheel feedback.
Perhaps due to its sheer size you may not wish to explore the outer reaches of the Corvette on a typical B-road but find a wider, sweeping A-road and the car feels at home.
Few cars have the sheer drama of a Corvette Stingray, whether you’re cruising on Broadway, NYC or in Broadway, UK. That this car also rewards the sports car fan is its real coup de grace.
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