My Generation: One-14-Fourteen

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by Rick Tavel
Special to Corvette Forum

? 3-27-2013 All rights reserved

I?ve got a problem.  As an avid Corvette enthusiast I have been somewhat distraught recently.  It just seems that ever since the introduction of the new Corvette C7 I have been on a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows.  I have been able to resolve most of the conflict I have experienced over my disappointment with certain styling issues on the new car, but I have not been able to resolve my most recent disillusion with the C7.  How do we come to resolve the issue that the 2014 Corvette Stingray will no longer be Chevrolet’s star performer and king of American performance cars.  Not since the infamous ?409? of the early 60′s has the Corvette not had the most potent of all Chevrolet engines.  The Corvette is and has always been Chevrolet’s, if not America’s, ultimate performance car. It was ?gospel?, something you could depend on, you could take it to the bank.  But as we learned on March 26th from Mark Reuss, President of GM North America, for 2014 there is a new top gun in town.  That title now belongs to the new Z28. 
Before the ?true believers? (and remember I’m perhaps the ?truest believer? of all) begin to throw rotten eggs and tomatoes in my direction, along with a few colorful comments about what you would do to or where you might put all and sundry objects into my anatomy, let’s look at some recently released engine option and performance data.   We were recently introduced to the new Camaro SS and the new Camaro Z28 and from what we saw and heard, Camaro enthusiasts probably now have a better understanding as to why Chevrolet saved the legendary ?Z28? moniker for the 2014 car just unveiled.  So at this point Chevrolet now offers a specific Camaro to meet every enthusiast’s performance need.  And at the top of the horsepower performance ladder is the impressive ZL1 at 586 HP.  
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But those who have driven both the ZL1 and the new Z28 give the overall performance nod to the incredible Z28 which is 300 pounds lighter than the ZL1.   Mark Reuss called the new Z28 the closest thing you can get to a street legal race car and he was not just spouting a mouthful of unsubstantiated corporate bullshit.  The new Z28 is just what Reuss said it was – the closest car you can get to a street legal racecar.  If you are still not a believer, you will be when you learn that the Program Engineering Manager for the new Z28 was Mark Stielo.  And if you are a serious Camaro enthusiast, you will recognize Stielo as the acclaimed builder of the ?Red Devil?, a 1969 modified Camaro, built in Mark’s garage, which convincingly outperformed the 2012 ZL1 in a head to head performance shootout on the track at Gingerman.  (link to Red Devil vs L1 shootout  http://vimeo.com/61405825 ).  Steilo’s history with the Camaro ?runs deep?.  As a young engineering intern, Stielo was an important member of the GM team that developed the now legendary 1LE RPO for the 1989 Camaro.   Having Mark Stielo as the PEM for the new Z28 guarantees its performance qualifications.   
If that’s not enough or if you are a ?numbers guy?, here’s a comparison to illustrate Chevrolet’s 2014 Horsepower rankings between the Corvette and Camaro.
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So I am sure you can see the source and severity of my consternation and why I have been crying myself to sleep at nights.  2014 will be the first time in a quarter of a century that as  Corvette owners  we will be NOT be able to drive the best performing car in America ? not unless we slide behind the wheel of a new Z28.  Being the King of the Hill of performance cars meant a lot to Corvette owners and to many was a major reason for choosing the car.  I’m sure the bean counters and analysts at GM considered the potential economic impact of dethroning the Corvette.  But the affect that has on Corvette sales may turn out to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  
What may turnout to be the bigger impact for GM is the affect dethroning their ?halo? car will have on sales of other Chevrolets.  It has taken sixty years to develop and defend the Corvette’s image and as a result GM has reaped the benefits of the Corvette as Chevrolet’s flagship, the car in their line-up that drew customers into the showroom, a brand enhancer, atheir ?halo? car.   You know, the guy who goes into the showroom to look at Chevy’s offering of new compact family sedan.   The guy has looked at similar cars from other manufacturers and is unsure whether to buy the new Chevy Cruze, the new Dodge Dart or the Ford Focus.  That is until he sees the new Cruze sitting next to the legendary red Corvette, the car that kicked the Dodge Viper and Ford Mustang’s butt on the track.  He knows what everyone else knows, the Corvette is the undisputed fastest American production car.   He buys the Cruze, not because it is clearly the better car but because he believes he is buying a Corvette offspring.   That is the immeasurable brand enhancing value that GM risks by dethroning the Corvette, even though the insurrection was spearheaded internally by the Chevrolet’s own Camaro.