- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2003

Age hasn’t diminished the enjoyment and performance of the Chevrolet Corvette. In fact, it’s just the opposite; this sleek two-passenger sports coupe is more exciting than ever.

I recall viewing this car as a passing fancy when it was introduced in 1953. “Only two seats and a fiberglass body,” I scoffed, “It will never sell.”

Then came short-lived competition from the two-seat Ford Thunderbird followed by the controversial Stingray model, more powerful engines, better performance and handling, and on and on. Today, I view the Corvette as General Motors’ greatest achievement.

Corvette has thousands of adoring fans as was evident last month in Nashville, Tenn., where its 50th anniversary was celebrated. Even the sale of related merchandise is like nothing ever seen before for any automobile.

These were the thoughts that went through my mind as I got into my test Corvette. I drove a car equipped with a 5.7-liter V-8 engine that produced 350 horsepower and was linked to a six-speed manual transmission.

Actually, I sort of flopped into the seat as the new Corvette is built very low to the ground to give it better stability when making quick turns. Insert the key in the ignition and the seat moves forward and upward to a preset position.

The effect of the powerful engine is readily seen in the Heads Up Display. I could get to 50 mph before shifting into second gear. The six-speed gearbox was tight and notchy but once I became acquainted with it, shifting became enjoyable.

On a console between the two front seats is an interesting button to operate the Magnetic Selective Ride Control and provide the choice of Tour or Sports modes. This system has damper designs that control the wheels and body motion by using Magneto-Rheological fluid in the shocks.

I’m told that it changes the electromagnetic coil inside the piston of the damper, but I don’t have the slightest idea how it works. What I do know is that this system gave me a very secure feeling when I was pushing the Corvette through high-speed maneuvers; at normal speeds, the ride was very comfortable.

On bumpy surfaces, there was less bouncing, vibration and noise.

Thinking about this made me recall a Corvette I drove about 20 years ago. At that time, high-speed stability was provided by a suspension that was almost rigid. I had to slow down to about 40 mph when driving on a washboard-type highway as the ride was too jarring. The 2003 Corvette is very smooth with little vibration or harshness.

My test car had the 50th Anniversary emblem on the side, but what really caught the eye of a number of people was the unusual red color. It’s hard to describe but, when you see it, I’m sure you’ll want to take a closer look. The real beauty, however, is the simplicity of the multifunctional instrumentation.

Although the Anniversary Edition has a base price of $43,635, my test car was loaded with options bringing the total to $50,350. As expected of any car in that price range, luxurious features are seen throughout. The storage area, for example, has plush carpeting with a few hide-away compartments.

Other amenities are the dual-zone climate control, leather seats, fog lights, plus daytime running lights with pop-up lights at nighttime, a removable roof and the latest in safety features, including child safety hooks.

This car is like vintage wine that improves with age. Without doubt, in 50 more years Corvette will celebrate a 100th Anniversary because Chevrolet keeps it ahead of the curve with improvements.

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