2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Workingman's Blues
October 15, 2013
Day One, Continued: Bowling Green to Nashville
The boss wants a burnout photo. The boss always wants a burnout photo. Since we like continued employment, we're happy to oblige. Kurt's more qualified to lay down good stripes than I. My burnout would end on the curb, or in this case, in the ditch. And anyway, with just 27 miles on the engine, I'm happy to let Kurt bear the burden of any piston rings that crumble out the exhaust. I take the camera instead.
Our museum guide Ron tells us earlier that we might not be able to light up the rubber, as the engine features an electronic limiter at 4,000 rpm. But Kurt says later that the Vette didn't resist as he wound it up and dropped the clutch on a small road just outside the Corvette museum. The car lurches forward, wiggles its back end under the smoke, then grabs traction and launches down the road. We get our photo.
It's late afternoon, we're losing light, and it's an hour to Nashville where we plan to knock out the first photo shoot.
We're winging it on locations, just looking for the coolest, most colorful brick and painted backgrounds we can find among the industrial interior and rail yards. Inevitably, we find one of those parts of town that is slowly gentrifying, crumbling residences among outdoor patio bars, art galleries and film/music production houses. The young guys smoking on the sidewalk in their skinny jeans and plaid shirts don't seem fazed by the Corvette as its makes a few photo passes.
But a few of the local guys park nearby and hoot each time we come by. There's no room here to open up the V8, but I throw it in neutral a couple times and spike it and they seem appreciative. One guy in a Saturn stops us, wants to know if it's the new Vette. He also wants to know what we're doing and where we're headed. "I'm a repo man," he says, but I tell him it's paid for. No defaults here. Still, I'm glad when he disappears out of sight.
Although the Stingray's turning radius of 37.7 feet is almost two feet shorter than the C6's, I'm still nervous turning this thing around on these narrow streets rutted with potholes, gravel and rail tracks. When in doubt, I go down to the next block to come around for the next photo pass. I guess Kurt's getting a little exasperated by the wait, but I'm not grinding the front end on the first day of ownership.
As Kurt shoots the interior and detail shots with the remaining light, I watch the Vette from multiple angles. I didn't think I could warm to the new styling, too angular, too Camaro, not sensual, but I'm coming around quickly. The lines make more sense in three dimensions.
The continuity is more obvious than you see in photos, especially the rear end. If you've written off the new Vette only from photos, reserve judgment. I'm still not feeling the rear shoulder grilles, though. I know they're functional, feeding air to cool the transmission fluid and differential, but they have a whiff of aftermarket, like taillight louvers.
By dark, Kurt's done with the main shots. We drive down to Broadway to get a few photos under the Nashville neon. A girl in Daisy Dukes, boots and white cowgirl hat walks over from the sidewalk when we're stopped at a light and asks "Haaaaay, what kinda car is this?" I tell her, then she turns around to shout at a few dudes lurking in a doorway. "See, I told ya'll it was a Corvette!" She says she used to work in the car business and the Corvette has always been her favorite. Then she compliments the color.
The odometer is just past 100 miles when we hand the keys to the hotel valet, and we make sure he knows we're aware of this fact. Later we walk down to Broadway for food and some live music. Tuesday night is quiet, but the Full Moon Saloon has a great trio ripping through Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Bob Wills classics, and the bar has bottles from local brewers Yazoo and Jackalope.
A couple walks in and sits with us at the bar. The lady, it turns out, is the former editor of a Memphis city magazine. We intend to pass through Memphis around lunch hour tomorrow and she recommends three places to try instead of the typical Beale Street photo op. After the band (led by bassist Joe Fick, if you're curious) takes a break and we contribute to the tip barrel they're walking around with, we make tracks. Tomorrow is the first of three long driving days.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor