Other commentators have noticed close similarities of the profile with that of certain Ferrari forms, in particular the 599 GTO. Looking at the timing of various vehicle debuts raises questions as to which design actually came first. In any case, it's obvious that many sports cars echo familiar favorite themes, as there are certain evergreen elements that never lose appeal.

Yet there was a clear effort to create "form vocabulary"—design-speak for a fresh approach to sculpturing the shape. "We do have inspirational objects of study, like the YF-22 [fighter jet], which is very edgy, but is very full in its sections. You can see that on the body side of the Corvette," says Bennion.

Whatever the inspirations that might (or might not) have come into play with the new C7, one particular influence on earlier Corvettes would not be employed to the same extent: customer focus groups. Why so? When GM solicited input from Corvette owners back in 2000 and 2001 during the development of the C6, this approach initially had some merit, but there was one big drawback: information leaks. "The Internet has become too powerful," Bennion acknowledges.

To avoid the premature release of images of confidential concepts, internal clinics are now employed to keep a tight lid of security on these fresh design elements. (That said, Bennion adds that the design team does attend a full calendar of events each year, to ensure they stay closely connected with Corvette owners and enthusiasts.)

Getting back to those specifics, there was some fine tuning of the overall proportions, making the C7 a half-inch wider and lower than the C6, while keeping the wheels tight to the corners. The top edge of the windshield is also a tad lower (50 mm) without reducing headroom, and the trailing edge of the hood is slightly taller as well.

How about the exotic tail-end treatment that detractors criticized as being too busy or looking too different from earlier Corvettes? "We knew we'd run into some objections," Bennion admits. His response to them? "We wanted it to be more unique than anything you see on the road. You don't mistake it for any another car."

Getting down to even finer details, the structural architecture surrounding the hatch was modified. Also, premium exterior components include Carbon Flash black-metallic- painted bezels on the hood, black-chrome bezels for both headlight and exhaust, LED lamps, and bright-chrome inserts in the grille. Even the fascia badge and logo came under close design scrutiny.

Stepping back from the project, we asked Bennion which single design element he's most proud of. Surprisingly it isn't the aggressive front end, or the upper graphic and side cove, or even the rear fascia. (Though he finds the successful cohesiveness of all of them to be his favorite quality overall.) Rather, he points to those carefully crafted ducts in the rear quarters. That's partly because they drew the most attention as the last design element to be finished. Also, a great deal of effort went into ensuring a high volume of air flowed smoothly through them (an aspect we will address in our following feature on aerodynamics).

Through all the iterations and refinements, there was a pressing concern to ensure the new Stingray would live up to the Corvette name and legacy. Commenting on the early development phases, Bennion said the team was resolute: "We're not going to call it a C7 until we've earned that." At what point did the team feel they had? During each internal review by upper management—specifically, Ed Welburn and his GM Design leadership team—the momentum and energy grew steadily. Upon seeing the "wow factor" on people's faces, they knew they were close.

Yet even after the final fullsize clay model rolled out in late 2011 with the C7 appellation, close to being finalized, "...the design team was still was self-critical," Bennion says. "Design is never cut and dry."

Indeed, as Michelangelo once noted in a letter from 1549, sculpture is the art of "taking away" not that of "adding on." His many unfinished statues clearly show this groundbreaking process of taking away, or carving, as he labored to free the figure born in his mind from the confines of the marble block.

In contrast, the new Stingray embodies not only artistic form, but also performance function, these two aspects operating together to create a dynamic machine with both style and substance—one that works and feels as good as it looks. Yet the car clearly has one thing in common with Michelangelo's sculptural approach: As the clay was applied, any impediments to performance were taken away as well. The result is a melding of art and engineering into a striking new Stingray.