1966 Chevrolet Corvette Long-Term Road Test

Driving Tastefully at the Vette's First Rally

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Last Saturday, editor Carlos Lago and I met at the Edmunds office at an alarmingly early hour. About a month earlier, we had registered our long-term 1966 Chevrolet Corvette for the Drive Tastefully Rally in Malibu, Calif., and there was a 7:00 a.m. call time. At 6:30, we were wheels-up from the office, both needing caffeine but excited for the day ahead.

The event, hosted by Petrolicious, began along Pacific Coast Highway and ended 83 miles later at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica. Sure, this is no Hot Rod Power Tour across several states, but it was a great chance to get acquainted with the Sting Ray.

At the meeting point, we signed in, got our driving maps, downed some coffee and got instructions about grouping and road-safety. Less of a rally and more of a cruise, the group was separated into three sub-groups based on desired pace. Carlos and I opted for the middle group with a more relaxed pace and I opted to drive the first 40 miles.

1966 Chevrolet Corvette

Before we set out, I imagined that driving the Corvette on bias-ply tires would be a constant battle for grip, but it really wasn't. There was a distinct squeal when you approached the tire's limits and an even louder noise if you drove over the white paint line along the side of the road, but even on some of Santa Monica's most challenging roads I never felt unsafe or out of control.

Would better, more modern tires have higher limits? Of course. But they didn't have R-Comps in 1966 and these redlines look pretty damn good. Independent of the tires, the chassis, engine, transmission and steering all felt fantastic. The thin steering wheel rim and thick shift knob give this car a sturdy feel, and the substantial feedback increased my confidence along the route.

1966 Chevrolet Corvette

Ambient temps hovered around 90 degrees on Saturday and we ran the air-conditioning all morning, but it didn't help much. The Corvette's optional side pipes, along with the thinly-insulated transmission tunnel and black leather seats make this one seriously hot car. From the driver's seat, there's a constant flow of hot air coming from under the dash and the original A/C just can't keep up. It blows cold, but the vents are tiny and fan speeds too low to produce any serious air-flow.

Water temperatures hovered around 160 degrees, sneaking up to 200 degrees at certain points, but the needle never moved past the halfway point on the temperature gauge. My advice to anyone who drives the Vette: bring a spare shirt.

1966 Chevrolet Corvette

Paramount Ranch was the only scheduled stop along the route. We took a much-needed water break, snapped photos of the other cars and made a driver switch. With no shoulder support or head rests in the Corvette, my shoulders were in pain and I was looking forward to hanging an arm out the window to cool off. I handed Carlos the keys and happily took my place in the passenger seat.

It turns out that the passenger seat of this Corvette is a much more comfortable place to sit. Less heat pumps through the firewall and air flows more directly from the air-conditioning vent. I sat back, relaxed, did a bit of navigating, and enjoyed the scenery all the way to Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.

The first time I took the Corvette home (before the headlights went out), I dreamt of an iconic drive in the Sting Ray. Visions of V8-sugar-plums danced in my head. It turned out that this rally was the perfect way to quench my appetite for 60's nostalgia. We met a lot of new friends, got plenty of compliments on the Sting Ray, and by the end of the day it was a car I was in love with rather than afraid of.

Travis Langness, Associate Editor