We’re happy to report that GM’s Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant has overcome the debilitating UAW strike and the crippling COVID-19 pandemic to resume C8 Corvette production. Assembly operations restarted at the end of May with workers toiling 10 hours a day, five days a week. Approximately 5000 new Stingray coupes have been built thus far, with convertibles likely to roll next month and the 2021 model year slated to begin in November. As soon as suppliers are able to meet Bowling Green’s rising needs, a second shift will be added.
One anomaly: The number of C8s that have made their way to a two-block stretch of my suburban-Detroit neighborhood. No less than three 2020 Corvettes have already been shipped from Bowling Green in response to orders from this micro-locale, with a fourth due here next year.
I began the order process for my Stingray two years ago with a deposit at a local dealer who had no idea the mid-engine C8 was coming. That car arrived three weeks ago, and my thumbnail review of it is at the end of this article. Respecting my neighbors’ privacy, their names have been changed for this account.
A pampered 2017 C7 Grand Sport coupe lives next door. Shortly after owner Bob got a good look at my Shadow Gray Metallic C8, he felt the itch to call his dealer and investigate trading up. Bob’s only tactical error was checking with his wife. Apparently, the strides made relocating the Corvette’s engine were lost on her: the word on our street is that Bob’s better half said no. I’m guessing that the give-take negotiations are well underway.
Bob’s next-door neighbor Les is the proud owner of a 1978 Silver Anniversary Corvette. While he’s not in the market for a 2020 upgrade, Les is interested in selling his bought-new, stick-shift pride and joy for $14,000. The odometer reads only 38,000 miles and two engines are part of the deal. The anemic (220-hp) L82 V-8 was upgraded ages ago with a more enthusiastic 350-hp small-block that currently powers this Corvette. After the factory silver exterior faded, Les had his car fastidiously repainted; the original black leather interior is in excellent condition. (Leave a comment with us if you’re interested in contacting Les.)
Pizza man Jim lives across the street from Les. Earlier this year, he ordered a Rapid Blue C8 from the Chevy dealer nearest his pizza parlor. Unfortunately, delays ensued and Jim’s car missed the 2020 cut. He’s hoping for his Corvette to arrive sometime next year.
My pal Harry, who is certifiably speed mad, lives three houses down the street from Jim. More than a decade ago, he and I rented access to two Michigan test tracks in a concerted effort to top 200 mph in his C6 ZR1 for Automobile magazine. When we fell 3 mph short, Harry raised his supercharger boost to muscle up what was already one of the fastest cars on the planet. When he heard a hotter C8 was under development, Harry sold his ZR1 to a close friend.
Last Friday, Harry and I picked up his aptly named Accelerate Yellow C8 at Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, Michigan. This car’s option load—2LT trim, Z51 performance package, magnetic dampers, and the high wing—bumped the sticker more than $84,000. Before his joyful first ride home, Harry had already begun the search for a shop capable of fitting a twin-turbo upgrade.
Tom, who lives at the end of our two-block street, is the exception to my “Everybody lusts for a C8” rule. Anticipating a trade of his 2014 C7 coupe for a new Stingray, he placed an early order with the same Dearborn dealer mentioned above. Unfortunately, the process was scrambled by personnel changes, resulting in the late arrival of a car with specs drastically different from what Tom wanted. Instead of the Blade Silver Metallic paint he preferred, Tom’s Corvette arrived painted Long Beach Red Metallic. Sitting in the car, he was unimpressed by what he calls the TV screen on the dash. And, in contrast to Harry, Tom is a law-abiding driver only mildly interested in C8’s heightened speed and performance.
After a day pondering his situation, Tom decided to scotch his deal. Even though flipping new Corvettes—registering a new one, then tacking on $10,000 or more to resell it—is now common practice, Tom had no interest in going through that rigmarole. Stanford immediately sold this C8 to the next eager customer in line for a reported $12,500 over sticker.
Which brings this report to the third-week anniversary of my C8’s arrival. Thus far I’ve enjoyed one excursion to Michigan’s west coast with my wife and countless quick show-and-tell drives. Cutting to the chase, I’m totally satisfied with the $63,295 (plus tax and plates) I spent on this car, thrilled with how it drives, and quite satisfied with the modest optional equipment I selected.
Lapping a track in this car is an eventual likelihood but not a priority. With that in mind, investing $5000 for the Z51 performance package would have been ludicrous. I don’t consider the stouter brakes, summer performance radials, and tighter suspension calibrations essential to enjoying a few cautious hot laps. The Brembo brakes on my car are surely adequate as long as care is exercised to avoid fade. The all-season Michelin radials will allow me to enjoy my toy early in the spring and late in the fall, in contrast to the Z51 summer tires, which are unsuitable for driving in temperatures below 40-degrees F.
The $1195 I spent for the performance exhaust option adds a useful 5 hp, extra snarl, and four sparkling pipe tips. The 1LT leather upholstery is gorgeous and durable looking. The base seats fit me nicely and are beautifully designed.
The Adrenaline Red upholstery I selected cost not one penny extra, while the $395 Torch Red seat belts coordinate nicely. I picked Shadow Gray Metallic paint because it blends well with the countless black scoops and grilles that route cooling air into and out of the Corvette’s exterior. Add to that $995 for the split-spoke black-painted rims and $595 for red brake calipers to enliven the wheel wells. Thus far, I’ve received universal adulation for my Corvette’s color combo, sort of a contemporary update of my ’67 Corvette roadster’s red and black theme.
The dual-clutch automatic is more entertaining and easier to live with than I imagined. Full-throttle upshifts at the redline sound and feel like a firearm’s recoil. The shift paddles work perfectly, and the entire driveline serves better than a professional butler when left in automatic mode.
Sifting through 400 pages of owner’s manuals, I’ve discovered interesting ways to tailor operating modes and the display cluster to my liking. Clocking 0–60 sprints is easy, and there are two distinct means of measuring g-forces.
I am gratified that my wife loves driving and riding in our new family member. It rides remarkably well over Michigan’s fissured pavement and is comfortably relaxing during long hours on the freeway. The trip meter reported more than 30 mpg while averaging 75 mph during our recent round trip to Lake Michigan. Stashing the roof is a one-man exercise, and there’s no cockpit buffeting below 80 mph.
Fifty years in the review business has honed my ability to whine about flaws I discover in cars. In this case, I harbor but one gripe: C8’s foot-thick doors and broad shoulders slow the garage parking procedure and inflict pain during entry and egress. Let’s hope an hour of yoga this evening helps ease those contortions.