Unveiling the C6 Corvette
text and images by David Harned
It was the night of January 4, 2004 and the Detroit Opera House was the backdrop for the evening. Terrible weather was beating down on the Motor City as General Motors was preparing to release their next Corvette, a car that had been speculated about since the C5 had hit the roads seven years ago as a 1997 model.
I had caught a cab over to the Opera House after arriving late to the Cobo center to get my credentials. I was sweaty and winded but after waiting in the crowd for a few minutes I realized that everyone here was in good spirits and the mood was friendly, although a little bit anxious. You could feel the tension. Everyone there was excited.
There had been pictures of camouflaged C6 Corvettes floating around the web for months. The magazines had all speculated with their own renderings. Pictures of the uncovered car had been shooting through email systems and getting posted to fan sites for the last few weeks. Very few people had actually been close enough to touch the next Corvette. We were all going to have our opportunity to do so tonight.
About an hour before the 7:00 PM curtain the doors opened. The Media poured into the Opera House like a dam had been broken. Everyone with a tripod headed for a good view upstairs in a box seat. Everyone else hurried to get a seat close to the stage on the ground floor.
Once I got inside, I was instantly distracted by the cocktail area. It lit the center of the room with a soft glow. I remarked to the man sitting next to me that I wondered if they were going to turn off the bar before the event started. He smiled. From upstairs I looked down at the floor.
There were servers moving around the ground floor. They were moving quickly through the mass of people that had descended on the Opera House that night. Their moves were practiced and they appeared relaxed within the crowd. Some had elegant finger foods while some had champagne. All of them wore a shirt with the name of the car on the front that had brought us all to the event.
There were nice couches, chairs and ottomans which were fresh, new and white. Everyone looked comfortable. There were memorable images of Corvettes from the past 50 years cycling on the large screen in front of us. All of this had created a nice atmosphere; the planners of this event had done a nice job of setting a mood.
While waiting so for everyone to arrive, a trio of musicians began playing. They were fronted by an electric guitar player. The music was rock and roll with a southern flair. The band gained more applause from the attendees with each number. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Then the lights went out. The background music started.
A spotlight went on and we were greeted by Ed Welburn, Vice President GM Design North America. His name and title faded in and moved slowly across the screen behind him. He proceeded to walk us through the design evolution of the Corvette. He detailed how Harley Earls Polo White roadster was introduced to the public in January 1953. Then he referenced Bill Mitchells distinctive four round tail lamp design. He moved through the life of the Corvette, all the way to the lightest bodied, powerful and innovative fifth generation Corvette which had the longest wheelbase to date.
The spotlight faded on Ed Welburn and a new one shone on Dave Hill, Vehicle Line Executive, GM Performance Cars. Dave introduced us to Zora Arkus Duntov who had said that the Corvette was the most beautiful car he had ever seen. He taught us how Zora helped the Corvette evolve into the powerful sports car that it is today. Dave Hill told us that although manufacturers where not allowed to race their own cars at the time, Zora had always made sure that anyone who wanted a racing Corvette - could buy one.
Next was Brent Dewar, Chevrolet General Manager, who went on to tell us how Corvette has become an American icon. From Route 66 fame to the subject of many pop songs, no other car symbolizes freedom, independence and American driving like Corvette. With clubs celebrating Corvette in 48 states, and internet searches bringing back nearly two million references to Corvette, no other sports car in the world is more celebrated.
Tom Stephens, Group Vice President, GM Powertrain, reviewed the lineage of the engines that have been in Corvette throughout the cars history. Of course focus was given to the Chevrolet small block V8, the engine that has made the most significant impact in the cars history and the engine that even powers the Corvette today.
To date, over 90 million small block V8 engines have been manufactured for this car. Tom then introduced the newer, more powerful, more lightweight LS2 that powers the 2005 Corvette. The LS2 is yet another step towards elegant simplicity that has always been the goal. His final question to us all was - Whats next?
The spotlight came back on Ed Welburn and he introduced us to the design of the 2005 Corvette. With detailed stills on the screen behind him he explained that the newest Corvette design evokes even more passion. Much of the design effort being hand sculpted, like Corvettes before it, instead of completely digitally created as many cars are today. This car was born of the digital and the physical.
Dave Hill appeared again to explain that a passion for precision was the key to the new Corvette, which was architected on the C5 foundation which was actually patented for its innovations. This car is an attempt to perfect the formula. The interior is upscale with a premium appearance. Every closure has been perfected. Of course better handling and touring capabilities are all part of the new car.
The Corvettes success in racing speaks for itself. Brent Dewar appeared under the spotlight again to highlight the wins that the Corvette Racing team has been able to share with the Corvette Production team. This has been done in Zoras legacy. Passion, Precision and Power are the DNA to the Corvette.
The lights went out again. The screen on the stage came to life. A grainy video of the 2005 Corvette blazed into motion, driven by an aggressive rock soundtrack. Carving through the curves and ripping down the straightaways, the new Corvette images were intoxicating. Headlights appeared through the screen and it slowly began to rise.
As the screen rose the newest piece of automotive history was revealed to the world. Here was the 2005 Chevrolet Corvette we had all been waiting to see. In a stunning red, the strobe effect of the flashes from every camera lit the car like a dance floor at a techno rave party. The sleek machine drove forward and stopped on the turntable. It slowly spun two 360 degree turns, lit by a barrage of flashing lights. The car stopped facing to the left of the stage.
The drivers door opened and Rick Wagoner, General Motors Chairman and CEO stepped out. Rick Wagoner introduced everyone in the Opera House to the next generation Corvette. He again summarized that Power, Passion and Precision are the hallmarks that had driven the development of this next generation car. He stated that Corvette is a symbol that has sustained General Motors through highs and lows for over 50 years, adding that there is a little bit of Corvette in everything we do at General Motors. Then he invited everyone to come up and get a closer look.
The Opera House roared with applause.
Once I was down on the stage with the shining mechanical marvel I saw Bob Lutz surrounded by reporters. Since he had not been in the presentation, I hadnt realized he was there at the premier. I was introduced to Dave Hill. Dave explained to me that General Motors will be utilizing Corvette in more of a flagship role moving forward. The quality, performance and design all show what General Motors is capable of and are going to be better utilized to enhance the Chevrolet and GM brands.
Dave Hill introduced me to Tom Peters, the man who headed the design team that created the skin of the new Corvette. It must have been a thrill to be involved in such a tremendous project. We shook hands, smiled for a few photos, and everyone separated in the frenzy of activity.
I was dreading heading back out into the worst winter storm we had seen so far this year, but I was excited to get all of the photos loaded on my machine. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved in such an important part of the Corvettes history.