2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06: The 165-hp Stereotype
October 27, 2010
So I'm sitting around with a group of Mazda guys who are mostly talking about racing. They're always talking about racing because all of them race. Apparently this is what you do at Mazda.
(At the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the Mazda company president helped push the GTP car onto the grid and then helped belt in the driver, who happened to be the director of dealer affairs. Meanwhile the vice president of product and R&D was putting on a radio headset so he could run the pits and told his director of dealer affairs that if he failed to put the car on the pole he'd be known as a total weenie forever. Fortunately the director of dealer affairs accomplished his mission.)
Anyway I'm with these other Mazda guys and the talk turns to the Corvette. It turns out that they'd never really driven one and now a member of their racing group has turned up with a ZR1 and they'd taken turns driving it.
And they couldn't stop talking about it..
They went on and on about the power (and the trick throttle body that added 50 hp), but quickly the talk turned to the car's practicality. They explained to me that it was quiet and rode well. They said you could get really good fuel economy just by driving around like a regular human being instead of a Mazda racer. They said that the Corvette was so practical that you could drive it like a real car.
I had to pretend to be surprised.
It seems like no matter how much you tell people about the modern Corvette, you can't get over the image of the 1975 Corvette Stingray that lurks in their heads - you know, the infamous Corvette strangled by then-new air emissions technology that produced only 165 hp. It's like everyone grew up on a street where a guy who dressed like a low-rent golf pro drove a very slow Stingray that had been turned from a sports car into a parade car. Even racers, the kind of guys who care deeply about performance, labor with these stereotypes of the past.
But as the 2002 Corvette Z06 reminds us, it's not 1975 anymore.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com