Behind The C7 Stingray

Designing and building a new Corvette is a major undertaking, and it involves a huge team of decision makers to bring the final product to fruition. We had a chance to sit down and chat with some of these key players at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), where the C7 Stingray was formally introduced. Here’s what they had to say:

Mark Reuss
President, General Motors North America

VETTE Magazine: Why introduce an all-new Corvette now?

Mark Reuss: Sports cars attract a smaller segment of the buying public; however, Corvette continues to be the sales leader in this market. We have seen a tailing off of this lead as the C6 has aged, and that is why we decided to do a new Corvette.

VM: The C6 seemed to attract more “seasoned” buyers. Is that a concern?

MR: Corvette is somewhat unknown to some of the generations in North America. We think that the design, performance, and value will attract that segment of buyers. The feedback on the new Corvette is that is it very technical and progressive. We asked people in different age groups their opinion, and they told us it is very exotic looking. We think it will attract multiple age groups to make a purchasing decision.

Tadge Juechter
Executive Chief Engineer

VETTE Magazine: The outside rearview mirrors look smaller and feature a small crease in the middle. Can you tell us why?

Tadge Juechter: Yes, the mirrors are slightly smaller and are more aerodynamic. The rear cooling vents get their air from the heavy air that flows around the windshield and roof. The crease in the mirror helps deflect the mirror air down so it does not interfere with the rear cooling-vent air.

VM: Are the rear fender-top vents functional?

TJ: On the standard car, they are blocked off. On the Z51 Package they push air into the transmission and differential coolers. The hot air exits from vents on the outside part of the taillights.

VM: The new Corvette is still using transverse composite leaf springs. Did you ever consider going to coilover suspension on all four corners?

TJ: We always research the best way to improve the handling on Corvette. Our composite spring technology was first introduced to Corvette in 1981, and it continues to meet all of our ride and handling requirements. Each wheel responds crisply to any pavement changes with this spring, and the transverse design helps minimize body roll. Coupled with our Magnetic Ride Control, this suspension design is lightweight, cost effective, and meets all of our high-performance handling requirements.

Helen Emsley
Director of Interior Design

VETTE Magazine: The C6 received a lot of negative press about its interior design, but the C7 interior is first class. How were you able to create such a bold redesign?

Helen Emsley: When we were first given the C7 interior requirements, we all gasped. It was a big mountain to climb to put a premium interior into Corvette at its price point. Our goal was to have perfect fit and finish, and stitching needed to be at a premium-car level. Our interior team did an exceptional job, and we are very proud of our final product. The reaction in our consumer test labs has been extremely positive.

John Fitzpatrick
Marketing Manager, Performance

VETTE Magazine: Are the competition seats only available with the Z51 package?

John Fitzpatrick: The competition seats are available as an option in both the regular and Z51 packages. They are not standard with either car.

VM: What is included in the Z51 package?

JF: Magnetic Ride Control, bigger brakes, an electric locking differential, and transmission and differential coolers.

VM: Will you offer different rear-axle ratios?

JF: The new computer technology really offsets the need for multiple rear-axle ratios. The mode selector allows the driver to choose a variety of different driving conditions. It is a leap forward in driving choices. It includes settings for weather, eco, touring, sports, track, etc., and all of those choices change the driving dynamics of the car. The system makes a good driver into a great driver!

VM: Can you explain the purpose of the magnetic sensor that is located above the shift rod in the manual transmission?

JF: It “sees” what gear you are about to select, and makes engine-speed adjustments in advance of your shift. For example, you can move the shifter from Fourth to Third, and the tach will tell you if that shift will be within the allowable engine-rpm range. If the tach shows that the engine will be redlined, you can shift back into Fourth and carry on. It kind of gives you a little “cheat sheet.”

VM: Will you have a C7 at the Corvette Corral in Sebring?

JF: We are hoping to have a car at the Amelia Island Concours the week before Sebring, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ’63 Stingray. Sebring is one week later, so we will try to have one at that race.

VM: How soon will we have a convertible?

JF: That will be announced in the near future.

Kirk Bennion
Exterior Design Manager

VETTE Magazine: Can you tell us why the C7 radiator is forward facing?

Kirk Bennion: We started using rearward-slanting radiators in 1963, and they have been a trademark in every generation of Corvette. However, the C7 design opened up new packaging opportunities under the hood. We have learned from the racing program that moving radiator air up through the hood improves aerodynamics and engine cooling. The hood extractors are functional and help create downforce. The dry-sump oiling system is standard on all LT1 engines. This and the forward facing radiator have enabled us to lower the hood line for much better aero penetration.

VM: Going back to the C3 generation, many magazines have noted that Corvettes have a very low radar signature. It has been determined that the rearward-facing radiator is a leading contributor. Do you know how this new design will impact that radar signature?

KB: That was not part of our testing-and-development program for the new car. I do know that some owners have installed garage-warning sensors on the front of their Corvettes. These seem to provide them with a wide range of benefits, including keeping things from hitting the front of their cars.

The buzz surrounding the new Corvette at the NAIAS was positively electric, with large crowds hovering around the C7 and its various displays for much of the event. When we asked Bennion if first-production production volume would be limited, as in years past, he replied, “We will build 40,000 if they are ordered!” Based on the early buzz, that outcome seems like a distinct possibility.

—Walt Thurn