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Corvette celebrates 60 years with high power

Sixty years ago (if we measure time in model years), Chevrolet introduced a legend to the world. A response to the success of European sports cars, the first Corvettes were breathtakingly beautiful - pure-white confections of chrome and fibreglass.

Sixty years ago (if we measure time in model years), Chevrolet introduced a legend to the world. A response to the success of European sports cars, the first Corvettes were breathtakingly beautiful - pure-white confections of chrome and fibreglass. They were also kinda slow.

Powered by a 150hp inline-six, the original '53 'vette had a two-speed automatic transmission and a solid rear axle.

Performance? Well, 0-100km/h would take you a leisurely eleven seconds or so; not bad for the time, but any ex-G.I. with a hopped-up Deuce coupe would blow your doors off.

Six decades later, here we have a car boasting a seven litre V-8 engine cranking out a whopping 505hp: with carbon-fibre body panels keeping the weight down, it'll blitz to 100 klicks in under four seconds, run down the quarter-mile in the mid-11-second range and keep on going until it cracks 300km/h, or until your head falls off.

Clearly, some improvements have been made in the intervening six generations of Corvette-building. As a last of the breed for the "C6", GM has rolled out this special-edition convertible - the 427 Convertible Collector edition.


As part of the 60th anniversary package - which will be available on any 2013 'vette - Arctic White exterior paint will be wrapped around a Blue Diamond interior, with special anniversary badging and available Pearl Silver Blue stripes, including tonal striping for the blue convertible roof. Fancy.

Never mind all the paint codes, my reaction upon first casting eyes upon my tester was: holy Christmas, what an aggressive-looking machine! It's like they clipped the wings off an F-14 Tomcat, bolted on some staggered 19" and 20" alloys and turned it into a convertible.

From afar, it's a low, long and lean silhouette, be-gilled by cooling vents and with a bulging hood that seems to be struggling to contain that whopping V-8 engine.

If the '50s original is a sort of swoopy Jetsons take on a sportscar, this machine looks like it'd be perfectly at home on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Aside from the 60th anniversary badges festooning this special-edition 'vette, the three digits atop the hood merit a brief explanation.

Sometime after figuring out that the first slowpoke Corvettes were a great deal improved by shoe-horning a Chevy V8 under the hood, the first 427-cubic-inch powerplants appeared.

These late '60s cars were perhaps more directly related to this modern rocketship, what with up to 430 horses (and that figure was probably underrated as well). 427 cubic inches is slightly under seven litres, so GM has rounded things down a tad in favour of shining a spotlight on their heritage.


One day, Chevrolet will get the interior of their top-of-the-line machine right, and then we autowriters will have nothing to complain about. Just not today.

Make no mistake, if you think of the 427 convertible as a sort of speedboat for the street, then perhaps the plasticky, water-proof-style inside makes sense.

If, on the other hand, you expect your $114,190 supercar to have a nicer interior than your average high-spec Kia, then you will not be a happy camper.

Here's what works inside the 'vette: the suede-covering on the shifter and steering wheel help deal with sweaty palms (and hoo-boy will you have those), the pedalplacement is perfect for heel-toe heroics.

The heads-up display is a bit old-fashioned compared to next-gen systems like that on the Cadillac ATS, but is uncluttered and helps you keep your eyes on the road.

However, the seats are still not well-bolstered enough, especially given the force with which the 'vette can fling you around. The navigation system is clunky.

The stereo is completely counter-intuitive. The convertible top occasionally didn't want to retract, and the manual latch for it required a bit of wiggling.

But let me be very clear: any thought of these minor niggles evaporates instantly as soon as you press the starter, slot the six-speed manual in first gear and press the accelerator. Piece of advice though? Brace yourself.


There are plenty of high-powered cars these days. You could argue that we're practically choking on horsepower, what with twin-turbo motors in big, fast, German sedans like the Mercedes-Benz E63, or hugely powerful SUVs like the BMW X5M.

Forget all about that. Not only does the 427 Corvette have deliciously old-school motivational power in the form of threeand-a-half Honda-Civic'sworth of engine displacement, it's also much lighter than the competition.

At just 1,522 kilograms, all that carbon-fibre has slimmed the Corvette down to the point where its stonking 505hp engine is hauling around so little, it has a better power-toweight ratio than almost any other performance convertible on the market.

It's slightly ahead of drop-top performance benchmarks like the 911 Turbo S, and shames even the Ferrari California.

Of course, there is little of the refinement of those big-ticket competitors, and quite frankly, thank goodness for that.

We are coddled by driving aids, chaperoned by electronic nannies, wrapped up tight in a safety-blanket by car manufacturers to the point where you'd feel safe lapping the fabled Nürburgring at high speed while texting your mom, getting a high score on Angry Birds and eating a large plate of spaghetti Bolognese.

The 427 'vette slaps the smart-phone out of your hands from the very first, squirming sideways under throttle like a horse fighting the reins. Keep your foot in, and electronic exhaust baffles snap open, freeing the seven-litre beast to bellow: suddenly the through bred's a Tyrannosaur.

Fast? The word is completely inadequate.

And it's not just a straight-line rail-rocket either: equipped with GM's Magna-Ride magnetically-controlled suspension and with a racebred chassis, the Corvette's cornering limits are really only safely explored at the racetrack.

Although, it'd be a bit incongruous there. This convertible is not really a track-special like the Z06 coupe. Instead, it's a really fast cruiser, just as much fun to drive slowly as it is to blitz the on-ramp.


The Gran Sport Corvette convertible starts at just $76,600, so there's a laundry-list of options to be added in order to get to the 427's price-tag. Preferred equipment (which includes the Navigation and BOSE audio) is a fairly whopping $12,810. Then again, those stripes are $890.

Fuel economy figures - you're brave to enquire - are actually pretty good. Not all the time, obviously: once the instant-readout indicated a consumption-rate of 50L/100kms!

Cruise along more gently, and you'll see somewhere in the 1620L/100kms range - not bad considering the enormous motor.

Green light: we'vejumped-to-plaid acceleration; stupendous grip; ferocious noise; old-school charm. Stop sign: plasticky interior; some electronic niggles; doesn't feel like it'll last the next sixty years


Audi R8 5.2 Spyder ($187,000)

When Audi revealed their stunning (from most angles) R8 to the world back in 2008, everyone oohed and aahed. Then we wondered when they'd take a tin-opener to it.

Well, they did, and the result is the gorgeous R8 Spyder. With a 5.2L V10 that's essentially a Lamborghini heart-transplant, the R8 has power to spare, and it comes with a clever version of Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system - most of the power will always go to the rear wheels for maximum handling.

Drawbacks? It's $187,000.

Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet ($170,000)

There's no denying that the 911 is a much more practical car than the 'vette, with full-time allwheel-drive and rear seats that are mostly useless, but can be used in a pinch. It's also much less of a handful, and still extremely fast.

On the other hand, it's just another 911, and with 16 different ways to buy the Porsche sportscar, you'll have a heck of a time trying to explain to a non-enthusiast why yours cost twice as much as the base model. It's also very buttoned down at speed - competent yes, but maybe not quite as much of a laugh.