On January 13, 2013, Chevrolet stunned the automotive world when the all-new C7 Corvette literally leapt out on the stage at the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit, Michigan. This was almost 60 years to the day that Harley Earl’s dream car Corvette debuted at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The only way it could have been better would have been to have both the coupe and convertible burst on to the stage at the same time. Instead, Chevy unveiled the gorgeous Stingray convertible at the 2013 Geneva Show, in March 2013.
From 1953 to 1962, Corvettes were open-air roadsters and around half of all Corvettes from 1956 to 1961 were sold with the optional hardtop. “Coupe” Corvettes arrived in ’63 with the Sting Ray and have been with us ever since. Convertible Corvettes out-sold coupes by almost two-to-one from 1963 to 1968. Then from 1969 to 1975 convertible sales went down. By 1975 convertibles accounted for just 13.68 percent of Corvette sales. Between falling sales and safety concerns, Chevrolet dropped the drop-top Vette beginning in 1976.
It would be nine model years before the convertible would be back. While fans were happy that the roadster was back, the C4 was not designed to be topless. The C4 was so well received in 1984 and 1985, it just seemed right to offer a roadster version, even though it was an afterthought. To make the new configuration work, a large X-brace was installed on the bottom of the frame and the ride height was raised 10 mm for proper ground clearance. From 1986 to 1996 convertible sales accounted for 36 percent in 1989 and 20.2 percent in 1996. But unlike the C2 and C3 days when the roadster option was only $215 in 1963 and $260 in 1975, the C4 convertibles were premium Corvettes. The 1986 convertible cost $5,005 over the coupe and by 1996 cost $7,835 more than the coupe.
Looking back, the C5 was a game-changer. Not only were there over 1,200 fewer parts on the C5, it was designed at the outset to be a convertible. The first year ’97 model was coupe only—the convertible came online in 1998 with a $6,930 premium. Not that it mattered to customers, because of the 33,270 Corvettes sold in 1998, 11,161 (33.5 percent) were convertibles. The best year for C5 convertibles was 2003 when the premium roadster outsold the coupe, 14,022 to 12,812 units!
Despite the steep price, the C5 convertible sales proved that the classic roadster was here to stay. And like the C5, the C6 was designed to be a convertible. Unlike the C5, the C6 roadster was available in the first year of the C6 production run, but it was going to cost you an additional $8,000! But by 2012, the premium for the convertible dropped to $5,000. No one complained, but go figure.
So, how does the C7 convertible stack up? In a word, fantastic! Aside from the roof, everything else is the same. All of the high-quality materials, options, and driving experience are the same as the coupes—with a few surprises. The C7 coupe and convertible share the same all-aluminum frame. The aluminum frame used in the C6 Z06 and ZR1 was impressive, but the new C7 frame is better in every way than the C6 Z06/ZR1 frame—only its standard in all C7s. Because the hydroformed and cast aluminum frame members are positioned low in the center tunnel, there’s only a 1 to 2 percent torsional stiffness difference between the coupe and convertible. Because the frame did not need additional bracing, the convertible C7 is only 60 pounds more than the coupe.
The top can be raised or lowered in just 21 seconds at speeds of up to 30 mph! Road test reports are consistent that even at 70 mph with the top down, occupants need not speak up, it’s that quiet. Air buffeting is so minimal that there’s no need for a wind-blocker. Nearly every option that’s available on the coupe, including the Z51 Performance Package, is available on the convertible. But here’s the best part. The base model C7 coupe is $53,800. For just $3,195 more you can enjoy all of the C7’s amazing performance and engineering work, with the top down and the wind in your hair. Armchair designers can quibble about the body shape and taillights, but one thing cannot be contested—this is the best-engineered Corvette ever.