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Thinking About Years Past - And The Corvettes We Love

Somewhere, something happened to each of us to make us a Corvette person...

By

1977 Corvette

The 1977 Corvette was the last of the true Stingray shark bodies, with a small rear window. This is the car that I found to be my own.

Photo courtesy of GM

At the end of a year, it's natural to spend some time thinking back over the last 12 months - reflecting on the things you did and said, and maybe on the things you didn't do or say as well. From there, it's good and right to think back further - to the years and decades gone by and the person you were at those times.

OK, I know what you're thinking - "That's all well and good with the Hallmark card sentiments, but what does it have to do with Corvettes?" Hang with me a moment and I'll explain it.

Each one of us has a different story about how we came to be where we are - and because you're here, we can assume that you like Corvettes and you probably own at least one. So somewhere along the line, something happened that put Corvettes into your blood. You got hooked, just like all the rest of us.

For me, the time was the early 1970s. My best friend was a kid whose dad drove a black 454 Corvette, with side pipe exhausts. We used to stack me, my friend, and his brother up in the passenger seat and go for a ride. I remember the rumble of that big block and the outrageous bodywork compared to the drab slab-sided cars of the era. That was my moment - the virus lay dormant in me for decades in which the 1970s Corvette was the butt of too many jokes, but secretly I always did a double-take when I'd see one pass by on the road.

After going through dozens of different cars - Camaros, Alfa-Romeos, Volkswagens (at one time I owned two - yes, two - VW Type 181 "Thing" convertibles), Austin-Healeys, and more - I came back to the Corvette, and in particular to the 1970s shark-era Corvettes that first captured my imagination as a 12 year-old kid.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love a brilliant solid-axle C1 Corvette - maybe a 1957 Fuelie or just a cruising 1953 in its original Polo White. I'd drool to have a '63 Split-Window coupe - that was the year I was born and the car that Bill Mitchell, Larry Shinoda and Zora Arkus-Duntov really wanted to build. But when push came to shove, it wasn't the money that kept me with the 1970s - it's who (and when) I am.

And that all got me thinking about all the Corvette people I know - the car they pick is deeply connected to who they are. And that's all a function of when they first encountered the Corvette.

When most of us were young, the Corvette stood pretty much alone among high-performance sports cars. Sure, you could point to a Ferrari or a Shelby Cobra, but those cars were small-run, highly exotic machines. But you could find Corvettes in every town. For speed, torque, and great looks, the Corvette stood alone. So we fell in love with them - big block or small, coupe or convertible, in whatever color made our toes tingle.

But what about today? Today's impressionable teenagers live in an age when you can buy a 300+ horsepower Camaro or Mustang for the same price as an average front wheel drive grocery getter minivan! Or take your pick of high performance turbocharged imports. The range of cars with fantastic performance at a bargain price has simply exploded - which is part of the reason Corvette sales have been lagging over the past decade. The acceleration of a turbo import will generally be the same or better than my small-block Corvettes of the 1970s. So where will that next generation of Corvette enthusiasts come from?

I think I have an answer, and I hope it's true. It's the C5. I went cruising through my local Craigslist last night, and as always I took a look at all the Corvettes for sale. The C5 is now just about as affordable as a comparable Subaru WRX of the same year - ranging from about $10,000 - $15,000 for a car you would want. That's within the grasp of a young person, and the C5 Corvette will offer that buyer both style and performance far in excess of the import, with the modern technology that a young buyer will regard as absolutely necessary.

So at this New Year's season, I'm optimistic about Corvettes, as well as nostalgic. I see a range of cars going back 60 years, with an option for just about every budget and every taste. I see a strong cohort of enthusiasts and a strong current product that's sure to draw the attention of young people just the way it did for us, whenever that may have been.

Click the comment link just below and tell us your story - what Corvette was it that first grabbed your attention?

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