• Roger Witherspoon

Going Topless with the Leader of the Pack

By Roger Witherspoon


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The temperature was cruising towards the 100 degree mark, the two-mile stretch

of roadway through the Connecticut countryside was shimmering in the mid afternoon

haze and the summer’s stillness was broken only by the steady rumble from the twin

exhausts of the Corvette Convertible.

Its 6.2-liter, 436-horsepower V-8 engine was purring under the sleek, curved,

unmistakable shape of the Corvette, waiting for permission to leap. I shifted from six-

speed automatic into manual sport mode, slid the Temptations’ Runaway Child into the

CD player, cranked up the bass on the seven-speaker Bose system, gripped the leather

steering wheel with my fingertips on the chrome paddle shifts and floored the accelerator.

The rumble turned into a dull roar as the Corvette leaped forward, passing 60

miles per hour in little over four seconds. The acceleration nearly doubled my weight in

an instant, pushing me back into the thickly padded leather seats as the wind smoothly

slid by with a soft rush that did not interfere with the bass line pounding from Bose

speakers in the doors. In 10 seconds the Corvette’s speedometer smoothly moved past

100 and less than a quarter mile of sunny Connecticut countryside slid by in green blur.

The speedometer nudged 140 as the convertible approached a long, slow curve. I

tapped the paddle shift, instantly sliding into fifth gear and gently tapped the brakes,

slowing to 110 as the Corvette entered the curve, where its electronic traction control

system and the extra-wide,19-inch rear wheels combined to grip the hot highway surface

tighter than a first round draft pick holds onto his NFL bonus check. The curve quickly

receded into the rear view mirror as I tapped the paddle shift, moved back to sixth gear

and marched the speedometer back to 140. All too soon, the two mile mark was reached

and I returned to the posted speed limit, driving an abnormal car like any other normal

vehicle.

But the 2008 Corvette, the iconic symbol of American street racing, is not just any

other car. Will Cooksey, the six-foot, six-inch Black engineer who was the driving force

behind the current generation of Corvettes, has said often that he wanted three things out

of his pride and joy:

• It should be comfortable enough to serve as an every day sedan, or a cross country touring car.

• It should be inexpensive enough to compete with the Porsche 911 and Dodge

Viper and still leave the owner with enough money to send a child to college.

• It should be the fastest production car on the road.

With the Corvette Convertible Cooksey, who runs GM’s Bowling Green

production plant, has been successful. Inside, the Corvette’s seats are wide, power

adjustable and – if the weather calls for it – heated. The leather-wrapped steering wheel

tilts and telescopes, and has fingertip controls for the audio and cruise control. The Bose

sound system, which delivers every distinct note despite the passing wind, serves the CD

and MP3 player, as well as the AM/FM and XM satellite radio.

It does not have Bluetooth, but the Corvette does feature GM’s OnStar

communications system which works for telephone calls and can provide live concierges

to give you directions. That is not usually necessary, since the touch screen, satellite-

driven navigation system works even in rural areas.

The Corvette comes with a price tag of about $73,000, about $50,000 shy of its

competitors and enough for a pretty good start on a college education.

Then, of course, there is speed. The Corvette Convertible tops out at 190 miles an

hour. But if that is not enough speed, there is its tougher cousin, the Corvette Z06, which

has a 505 horsepower engine and pushes 200 miles per hour, which puts it well ahead of

the hot rod pack.

Most of us will never get close to either speed. But while running along the open

road, with the top down and bright sun lighting the way, it’s nice to know you can.


2008 Corvette Convertible


MSRP: $73,210

EPA Mileage: 15 MPG City 25 MPG Highway


Performance/Safety:


0 – 60 MPH 4.3 Seconds

1⁄4 Mile 12.4 Seconds at 117 MPH

Top Speed 190 MPH


6.2-Liter V-8 engine producing 436 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque; 6-speed

automatic transmission with paddle shift manual mode; tour and sport settings; traction

control; 4-wheel suspension; power, speed sensitive rack & pinion steering; magnetic

selective ride control; dual mode exhaust; 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels; antilock brake

system; 4-wheel disc brakes; 18-inch front wheels, 19-inch rear wheels; fixed xenon

high-intensity discharge headlamps; keyless access with push-button start; fog and

daytime running lamps; front & side impact airbags.


Interior/ Comfort:


AM/FM XM satellite radio; OnStar communications system; DVD-based, touch-screen

navigation system; single CD player;MP3 connection; Bose premium 7-speaker surround

sound system; heads-up display; tilt & telescope, leather steering wheel; heated leather

seats; power convertible top; fingertip audio and cruise controls.

Roger Witherspoon

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