Spread around the shelves of my study are copies of virtually every book ever published on the Corvette. These include the three editions of Karl Ludvigsen's Corvette-America's Star-Spangled Sports Car. the first edition from 1973 was the book that started my collection, and I understand that a new edition is due shortly. Well over 100 books have been produced on the Corvette since then, seven of them written by yours truly. On the shelves above the books are the magazines, including a complete set of GM's own Corvette News going back to 1971 when I bought my first Corvette-a '66 convertible. In the glovebox was an invitation to a free subscription to this superbly produced publication; all you needed was to send in your VIN. I have renewed ever since, addicted to the outstanding photography and graphics, which even improved when it was renamed Corvette Quarterly and was a paid subscription.
On the next shelf down opposite my desk is a fairly complete set of the magazine you are reading, right back to the one with a Premier Issue stripe on the cover. That first issue of Corvette Fever was datelined October 1978 and published in Toledo, Ohio. It makes interesting reading even now, although the design and layout are miserable by today's standards. There were just six pages of color in the typical 64-page issue that first year, and two of them were taken up by the glamorous Vettemate centerspread-an essential feature of every issue for almost the first 10 years of publication.
European affairs were in there too, with a report of the SCCI Swiss Corvette Club International's Vette-Euro-Meet 1978, a three-day event held at the Zandvoort Grand Prix Circuit in Holland. This year the same club will be holding its 30th Euro-Meet at Hockenheim circuit in Germany (expect a report of the anniversary meet in this column).
That first issue featured the new '79, the black car with Oyster interior and optional spoilers shown at the GM press launch that summer. in issue number three, a 225hp L82 '79 was tested to a lame terminal speed of 87 mph in the quarter-mile.
Those were grim times, and the editorial was not shy in pointing out the appalling finish of cars leaving the St. Louis assembly plant. Every issue in that first year had stories about the irrepressible and ever newsworthy activities of the ambitious Terry Michaelis, who was the major advertiser and biggest Corvette specialist back then.
Early in 1979, the magazine slipped into a bimonthly printing and appeared about to collapse, but it pulled through somehow, so we can look forward to the 30th anniversary issue in October 2008.
Chevrolet celebrated the Corvette's 30th anniversary by not building an '83 Corvette at all, but it can be forgiven because the '84 Vette that came out in the spring of 1983 was the first modern Corvette-the beginning of the Corvette revolution, and the start of a glorious era when suddenly Corvettes handled like race cars and delivered real horsepower. That era has continued for nearly 25 years, through the C5, and now the C6 with its world-beating Z06 variation.
Stuck here on the wrong side of the Atlantic, I try to keep up with events on your side by all the electronic means that flow into the study of this farm cottage in Kent. I follow various forums, but then leave in disgust when the "flaming" gets too much to bear. My favorite is the excellent NCRS forum that is always well moderated.
A recent thread on the CF forum concerned the new Project C4orce, which really appeals to me as a C4 fanatic. I have said before in this column how well these cars drive on our narrow, twisting, and hilly roads, and the joy of bending through our endless roundabouts, which you call traffic circles. Their wheelbase is 8 inches shorter than the C5, the steering is quicker, and they are more compact overall. The discussion was on the choice of an engine for the project and, in particular, the use of the Gen III 5.3-litre iron truck block.
The beauty of the LS series of Chevy engines is their immensely strong bottom-end design. Until the '90s, all our motors finished halfway down the crankshaft centerline, and the crank was restrained by bolt-on caps. Lotus Engineering here in the United Kingdom. was given an immense budget and a clean sheet to design a King of the Hill motor, and it conceived the massive crankshaft restraining structure that was used in the ZR1/LT5 and has since been incorporated into the Gen III LS series. An early C4 can be bought just as cheaply here as in the United States and with the budget power available from the 5.3, you can expect to see Project C4orce cloned worldwide.
The one fault on the C4 that is so obvious to Europeans is the torsional flexibility of the frame-a problem that was fixed on the C5 with the new hydro-formed frame. On page 123 of Corvette from the Inside, Dave McLellan tells how the C4 lost its C3-type T-roof bar because of management insistence at the last minute, and too late to compensate elsewhere for the loss of strength. Wouldn't it be great to fix this with some kind of roof brace on Project C4orce?
Looking around my study at all these Corvette books and magazines-if I could keep only one, which would it be? That's easy-Dave McLellan's Corvette from the Inside. It's not only the best Corvette book, but one of the best ever written about any motor vehicle, ever.