Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chevy Flexes Its Muscle Car; Corvette's Back, and Better

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chevy Flexes Its Muscle Car; Corvette's Back, and Better

Article excerpt

It's the story of an American icon - that almost wasn't.

Chevrolet's new Corvette took eight years to develop after General Motors shelved it, then restarted it at least four times, making the previous Corvette the longest-running variation in the sports car's history.

Hundreds of thousands of the world's most devoted car fans faced disappointment. Corvette has more than 6,000 fan clubs worldwide. Of the 1.2 million made since 1953, more than 1 million are still on the road. But Corvette enthusiasts finally awoke to a new dream machine. And they've been buying them as fast as dealers can order. The latest Corvette targets more than just avid fans. An all-new frame allows for a 3-1/2-inch lower doorsill plus an extra inch in the roofline. So getting in and out is no longer an acrobatic feat. For the first time since the introduction of dual air bags, the car has a glove box. For that matter, the passenger-side footwell is now wide enough for real feet. Chevy officials like to brag that the Corvette now holds two golf bags in the luggage compartment, which says a bit about the buyers. At $38,000 each, young drag racers are left at the gate. Middle-aged hot rodders fit the bill now: 90 percent male, many of them recently divorced. After all these years, Corvette is still the only world-class sports car being made in America. And it still costs much less than the European competition. The '97 model lists for $37,495 - 26 grand less than the least expensive Porsche 911, and $89,000 less than any Ferrari. Both are 'Vette competitors on the racetrack. In the '90s, however, the big competition has come from the other side of the globe. Japanese companies began building ever faster and better sports cars that cost less than the Corvette. With the new car, Chevrolet hopes to win back customers who had drifted over to Toyota Supras and Nissan 300ZXs - customers accustomed to more reliability and better quality. The styling takes some cues from earlier Corvettes, but from the front and sides it looks almost Japanese. …

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