Even so, prioritizing the driver’s needs in service of those twin masters of comfort and performance requires far more than merely putting in a smaller 14.1-inch rim, adding more bolster support, or making sure the lines of sight are clear. Let alone addressing issues such as meeting federal safety standards, keeping manufacturing costs palatable, and creating a compelling style. The level of engineering involved is both comprehensive and considerable, demanding as much effort and expertise as the exterior and aerodynamics—or perhaps more, since it hits you where you live.
All things considered, it should not come as a surprise that that the inside actually precedes the exterior in terms of the design timeline. “We have to nail down interior design earlier for a safety evaluation,” explains Vaughan.
05 | No molded plastic, here: If it looks like carbon, that’s what it is; ditto for leathe
Even though interior development is a half-step ahead, it still has to be done in concert with the adjacent body shapers. “We’re right across the hall from them,” Vaughan notes. That’s important because, “The overall design effort needs to be a cohesive whole…with a good vision of where we want to go.”
In this case, the goal was in part to win over other sports-car owners to the Corvette camp. Achieving that would require some time away from sketch pads and clay models. As part of their work on the C7, “All designers [drove] the C6 on the racetrack,” Vaughan says. “When all their concentration is on driving the car, it becomes really clear that designers have to enable that.”
In addition to factoring in road-course realities, various computer tools were employed to analyze ergonomics. That process used to involve a dummy named “Oscar,” but it’s been replaced by RAMSIS, basically a digital mannequin. A wide variety of functions can be assessed with RAMSIS, including spatial parameters for arm and leg clearance, pedal and steering-wheel adjustment, and posture-contingent pressure areas.
Also used is a virtual-reality enclosure, called a VR cave, which involves wearing a pair of goggles that display simulations of the interior, akin to a sophisticated version of a 3D movie. In essence, these technologies provide a far more precise way to evaluate the cabin than the old-school “butt test.”
The combination of driver focus with computer-designed ergonomics converged on the instrument cluster as well. Although mechanical units are employed for the Stingray’s speedo, fuel gauge, and engine-temp display, at the center is a high-def screen with three customizable modes: Touring, Sport, and Track. Obviously, having a large and legible tach readout that’s located front and center is essential for performance driving.
What was the most difficult aspect of creating a new cabin design? “The seats were a huge challenge,” Vaughan admits. “It was double the work, in a really tight package.” That’s because two seat options are available—GT and Competition Sport, the latter furnishing more-pronounced side supports.
06 | The result of all this effort is shown here. The C6 seats are simply placeholders.07 and 08 | To create a more dramatic, expressive interior, the Corvette design team chose Corvette-exclusive colors and materials. Besides basic black, available hues include Adrenalin Red and a caramel color called Kalahari. And instead of mass-production molded parts, materials are hand-fitted over a substrate.
Both have a light yet strong magnesium (instead of steel) frame and a hard-shell molded-polymer back. That’s one of the few molded components in the cabin, however, as the interior designers decided to go for a custom-fabricated look by using a cut-and-sew “wrapped” approach that entailed fitting and hand-stretching materials on a substrate. The Corvette’s interior designers found this an added challenge, as they had to work closely with an outside supplier to ensure the stitching and seams aligned properly. “It’s tough to get right,” Vaughan allows.
Moreover, “There’s nothing fake about the interior materials,” he adds. “The aluminum is real aluminum, the carbon fiber is real carbon fiber, and the leather is real leather.” During final assembly in Bowling Green, line workers can fine-tune certain components as well, such as adjusting the position of the armrests on the door panel before locking them in place.
All of which means the C7 clearly qualifies as a “handcrafted production car.” And one with a compelling cabin treatment that any Corvette enthusiast will find to be not merely comfortable, but also functionally optimized for performance duty.