Elaborating on the dynamics of this development process, he adds that, "We also work closely with the race team. We share our data with them, and they modify it for competition."

In the dialog between these two camps, the converse is true as well, in line with that old saying about competition improving the breed. We can't help but draw historical comparisons to the Cobra-skinning '63 Grand Sport, which started life as a typical Sting Ray, yet clearly became a whole 'nuther creature that in turn influenced further developments on production cars that continue even to this day. (Take one look at the hood louvers and cooling ducts on a Grand Sport, and you'll see modernized versions of them on the C7, among other similarities.)

Not long after reworking the cooling system, the entire C7 design program kicked off, with a call for concept renderings going out to all 10 of GM's design studios located in the far corners of the planet. Referred to as a "global sketch blitz," this was literally a world-class effort in both scope and vision. Nothing less would do, as Corvettes typically don't go through a standard three-year design cycle, but instead only change their look once every decade or so.

Noting the import of it all, Bennion observed that, "Any time you work on a Corvette, any Corvette, it's a big honor and a challenge. When you think about what Corvette represents and what our customers and racers do with it, we design the most optimal performance car."

Some 300 sketches poured into the studio. From there, eight different digital versions were created, and then just as many one-third-scale models, each receiving several weeks of digital and hand-sculpted refinements.

Wind-tunnel testing played a significant role in the early stages, in order to evaluate the aerodynamics. Those initial eight models were then whittled down to five unique themes, and computer analysis determined if each one hit the aero target. Commenting on this preliminary work studying the Computational Flow Dynamics (CFD), Bennion points out that, "It's a huge enabler, and there's a big learning bandwidth." Since this aspect is an involved subject on its own merit, with a high degree of technical precision, we'll be covering it in a separate feature. So for now we'll be focusing more on activities that took place inside the Corvette studio.

Transferring those initial renderings to 3D models became an acid test from a visual standpoint as well. What looks good on paper or a computer screen also has to work well in clay. In some cases, slightly different design themes were applied to each side of a model (called "clown suiting"), which allowed for quick visual comparisons. At this point, the design team evaluates the model by asking, "Does it have strength?"

In other words, does it meet the design goals? These included creating more drama in the front end, along with a bolder, more expressive side feature that would integrate with the overall sculptural form. And the back end would be markedly different from the previous generation as well.

Before digging into those details, though, the design team's first priority was to change the upper graphic. "We've had the same removable top, upright B-pillar and full-glass backlight ‘basket handle' since 1978," Bennion observes. Changing that was essential to creating a stronger, more compelling design."

It's no secret that the design team kept an eye on the competition (note that in North America, Corvette is Number 1 in its segment, while the Porsche 911 is Number 2). At a recent Corvette presentation at the Petersen Automotive Museum, where we met with Bennion, he pointed out that the team reviewed the shapes and overall dimensions of similarly sized sports cars. In particular, one image showed an overlay of the C7's outline on that of a Porsche 911.