Honoring an Enthusiast with a Corvette

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Patrick Hespen is a name you may not have heard of, but his enthusiasm for automobiles is something we all should respect and admire. He died late last year after suffering from a rare form of bile duct cancer, but his impact while he was alive reached far and wide. Recently, I was honored to participate in a road rally to celebrate his love of cars, and General Motors was kind enough to loan me a C7 Stingray convertible for the journey.

We started the day on Woodward Avenue, a holy place for car enthusiasts that draws in passionate fans even when the dream cruise isn’t going on. Patrick worked for FCA, but spent time at both Volkswagen and Ford. He made friends across all the OEMs, and they all set aside their rivalry for a day to bring out some of their latest high-end performance vehicles for the drive to Cleveland.

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All of the usual players were there. There was both a Charger and a Challenger Hellcat. GM also had an ATS-v present. There was a Gotta Have It Green Boss 302. BMW was even represented with their i8. There were even Jeeps, Miatas, and a motorcycle. It was a unique mix of vehicles, to be certain.

This was my first longer term loan in a new Corvette, and this drive proved how darn livable this car is day-to-day. Barreling south out of Detroit towards Toledo, the Corvette just ate up the miles on I75. That stretch of interstate isn’t known to be in the best shape, but the Corvette was comfortable. My version didn’t even have the magnetorheological dampers.

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It turned out to be a nice and sunny day as we entered Toledo and heading towards our route along the south end of Lake Erie. Yes, I’m sure the coupe would’ve been just as enjoyable to drive, but the convertible Corvette was really just magical that afternoon. Keep to the lower gears and the exhaust sounded great as the car burbled along.

Like it or hate it, the 8-speed automatic transmission is pretty good. Yes, I’d still order the manual, but the speed in which the automatic shifts is impressive, especially when you’re going for it. The only real downer on this automatic was the time it took from pressing the steering-wheel mounted paddle to the time the transmission actually decided to execute the shift.

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To honor Patrick, the official SiriusXM channel to listen to was Hair Nation, which sounded surprisingly well from the Corvette’s Bose stereo. Normally, satellite radio doesn’t really sound the greatest, because it’s super compressed, but the Bose system from General Motors seems to really fix a lot of the issues.

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While on this journey I wasn’t striving for fuel economy, but on my drive to Michigan to start the rally, I had the car in Eco model and had nearly 32 miles per gallon over the 100 mile trip. That is better than many midsize sedans, and down right impressive.

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We all went out separate ways after a nice lunch in Cleveland, vowing to do this event next year. It was a great event, sponsored by great people, and a load of great cars helped get us there. I was honored to be able to participate.

To learn more about the Hespen Rally and bile duct cancer, click here.

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Rally photos by Steven Pham Photo, and used with permission.

Chad Kirchner is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other auto sites.

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