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Corvette 1997: Announcing the death of Speculation

Announcing the Death of Speculation.


Of all the speculation about the new Corvette over the years, the biggest misconception was that it would be a sort of warmed-over C4.

This was because of the way we masked all of our prototypes to make them look like C4s.  We certainly didn’t try dispel this notion.

 In fact, we were so tight-lipped about the C5 all along that I think people just assumed we had nothing to say about the car.

When the reporters finally drove it, they were probably a little awestruck that the Corvette had been reinvented.  And, in fact, there are only a few holdover parts on the car; everything else is new.  But that was the intention all along, to make the new Corvette a big surprise, a revolution.


To Change a Classic.  The big dilemma right from the outset was how much change to incorporate into this new car.  The goal was to maintain the spirit and soul of past Corvettes.  We examined the weak points and turned them into strengths.  I like to say the things that were good, we made great, and things that were great are even better.

            In fact there was even some concern about making the car too civilized, and maybe people would lose their fascination with the Corvette.  when this was researched, we were all surprised to find that far more important than how this car looked—three times more important—was how good it was, how dependable and reliable.  This became our top priority.

Ride, Handling, Structure the performance numbers are impressive [175 miles-per-hour, 0-60 in 4.7 seconds (manual), 345 horsepower; speculation about all these numbers has been true], but it’s the ride and handling that really make the C5 a different car.

            The handling is easy, natural, and free of surprises; you wouldn’t have any hesitation about sending a friend out to drive this Corvette.  Even the most complete novice will feel the difference in ride quality.  You can go 500 miles or more in one sitting and still be in really good, alert shape, with a clear head and clear hearing, because the ride has been quite and easy.

            We had some people drive the car from Ohio down to Florida and Arizona.  They talked about how good they felt because the car is very kind.

            More than anything else, the improved ride is the result of increased rigidity.  Structurally, the C5 is 450 percent stiffer than its predecessor, and it shows.  This stiffer structure allows the new SLA (short-arm, long-arm) suspension to do its job properly.

            No other car has achieved the feeling of a very expensive touring sedan, even though it’s a high-performance sports car, and even though the roof is removed.  In fact, the C5 has the stiffest frame of any open-roof production sports car.  It’s solid; it communicates an unprecedented level of goodness because of its breakthrough, best-of-class kind of structural integrity.

            Entry, Egress, leg Room  Now the interior space is expanded due to the extended wheelbase and the new rear-mounted transmission and fuel system layout.  There’s more leg room, and we made entry and egress easier.

            No matter how much someone says that a sports car should be challenging, we found that while people will put up with minor inconveniences, they’d much rather not be hassled by a car.  Even sports car drivers want leg room, and they like to get in and out of their car easily.  Almost everyone we asked felt the same way, from average-size people to professional football players who attended a seminar we held in Chicago.

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