Illustrated Corvette Series No. 170 – Corvette Stingray Concept
C7 Sneak-Peek, Or Just the Latest Corvette Concept Car?
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Intro: Not since the Mako Shark II hit the nation’s car shows has a concept car caused as much excitement within the Corvette community as the Corvette Stingray Concept. It’s been two years since the low-slung, sexy silver Stingray hit the automotive press and fans right between the eyes. And thanks to fans with excellent Photoshop skills, there has been a steady stream of images that look, well, like real cars! What the panting public has been short on are details about the car – what’s it made of, what about that unusual front suspension, and what’s really under the car’s engine covers that say, “Hybrid Stingray”? Chevrolet was long on generalities and short on red meat details. When I decided to cover the new concept car in my VETTE Magazine column, I knew I would need some inside help. Thanks to VETTE’s senior associate editor Christopher Phillip, I had an interesting series of conversations with a few GM insiders. After reassuring the gatekeepers that I was NOT trolling for C7 details, I was able to get a phone audience with Corvette chief designer, Tom Peters to discuss what they were thinking when designing the concept car. So, special thanks to David North, David Caldwell, Nichole Carrier, and Tom Peters for their assistance with the story. – Scott
Like blood in a pool of sharks, there’s nearly a fever pitch of anticipation and speculation over the upcoming C7 Corvette. If you Google search the term “C7 Corvette” you’ll get nearly 600,000 results. Whenever I post a C7-related story at CorvetteReport.com, the page hits take a spike. C7 fever began in mid-’07 with reports of a possible mid-engine C7. From there, nearly every possible “what if” concept was pinned on the the C7. Unlike previous “future Corvette” times, computer-generated images only added to the confusion because some looked like real prototype cars!
Then in February 2009, Chevrolet blew everyone out of the water at the Chicago Auto Show with the Corvette Stingray Concept car. Plus, once again, a Corvette would be a movie star, playing good-guy “Sideswipe” in the film “Transformers II.” There’s no mistaking the car for anything BUT a Corvette. It screams “CORVETTE!” And like previous Corvette concept cars, the Stingray has a swirl of controversy. But first, lets be clear, according to Corvette chief designer, Tom Peters (designer of the current C6 and Camaro), the Corvette Stingray Concept car is NOT the C7, period! What we see here is strictly a “concept car.” Perhaps some “what if” fun for the designers for a job well done on the C6.
The two elements that seem to polarize fans are the front and rear gills, and the split rear window. I added a poll feature to a recent blog post asking, “yea or nay” on the split-window, and got a 50/50 response. That aside, Tom Peters and his design team borrowed styling cues going back to the ‘59 Stingray Racer. The split-window that’s been called, “the original American Idol” is most obvious. The front and rear fender humps are a blend of C3 Shark styling with a hint of the C2 Sting Ray look. The roof has a more pronounced double-hump shape from the C5 and C6. The side cove air extractors and hood bulge, although more exaggerated, are right off the C6. The concept car is longer, lower, and wider, measuring 3.1-inches longer, 6.6-inches wider, and 5-inches lower than a stock C6. Most subtle of all is the crispness of the surface plane changes. Chief of GM Styling legend, Bill Mitchell, was famous for his “crisp” approach to styling. His theory was that a successful man always wears cloths that are pressed with crisp lines on the pants, shirt, and jacket. “Crisp” is a very good adjective to describe the overall look that Peters and his team created.
The Corvette Stingray Concept car is a “wish list” of features built with existing and hand-fabricated parts. The wish list for the body includes composite materials, however the actual concept car is all fiberglass because it’s so easy to fabricate, while the chassis structure is a production C6. With the clamshell hood up, the first thing one sees is the Formula 1-inspired, bell-crank suspension with bright red coil over shocks. We’ll have to wait and see if this makes it into the C7, but it sure looks cool. The rear suspension is stock C6 with modified wishbones and ZR1 disc brakes. The wheel/tire combo on the car is enormous. Up front the car is shod with 275/30/20 tires on 20×9.5 wheels. The back end is wearing 355/30/21 tires on 21×13 wheels.
The car’s engine is a little confusing. While the engine cover says, “Hybrid Stingray” under the cover is a stock LS3. What’s suggested isn’t a Volt-like hybrid system, but rather a collection of technologies including cylinder deactivation and possibly electric/battery assist for around town driving. Don’t go apoplectic, it’s just a concept. The automatic transmission in the car is straight off the current assembly line. It’s funny how the use of one word, “Hybrid” caused a flood of speculation.
The car’s interior shows us that the Corvette designers ARE listening to the complaints about the C6’s interior. Just after the C6 came out, several other high-end performance cars arrived with gorgeous interiors that made the Corvette’s cabin look dull in comparison. If the Corvette Stingray Concept’s interior is a sneak peek of the C7 interior, potshots at the C7 Corvette interior will be a thing of the past. The dual cockpit layout features seats with substantial side bolsters, lots of carbon fiber and chrome trim with interesting LED lighting, navigation system, and media connectivity. Lets hope most of this translates into the C7.
As of this date, the body has not been wind tunnel tested, although heavily planed surfaces can be very tricky to get aerodynamically right. As it is just a concept car, it’s never been driven over 80-MPH. And with stylized tires with hand-cut treads, no one really wants to “see what this baby will do.” Aside from the production parts, everything else is untested, that’s why it’s considered a “concept car.” Some have mistakenly assumed that the egg-crate grille came from the current Camaro. The initial design sketches for the Corvette Stingray Concept were worked out before the retro Camaro was created.
On May 4, 2011 GM North American president, Mark Reuss not only officially announced that GM would be investing $131 million in the Bowling Green assembly plant, but that the C7 Corvette will probably be a ‘14 model. So, all we have to do is sit tight and wait for a possible early introduction. What’s certain is that the 60th Anniversary Corvette will be a C6. Might there be a 50th Anniversary Sting Ray Special Edition? With the Corvette product planning team, you never know until your do. Stay tuned!
PS – Full-color prints of this story are available HERE.
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