Across-country plane trip gives you plenty of time to nap, think, or read, depending on your proclivities. I'm an insatiable reader. Being wedged into one of those minimally-padded coach seats in most airliners, seats that seem to be designed to fit someone who is no more than about 75 percent of an average adult's size, is an exercise in exquisite agony-and a great opportunity to catch up on a book or two that I haven't a chance to open up.
Two trips in two weeks adds up to about 10,000 more frequent flyer miles, around 20-24 hours in the air, and plenty of time to get into the "prepublication copy" of former Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McLellan's new book, CORVETTE FROM THE INSIDE I'd received a couple weeks before from Bentley Publishers. This isn't intended to be a review of the book; that's a month or two off. McLellan, who I think can rightfully be called the father of the ZR-1, concludes his tome with three chapters on the C5 and his opinions of the future of the Corvette.
McLellan devotes chapter 17, the final one, to his thoughts on the possibilities for future Corvettes with, by today's standards, huge doses of horsepower (from a minimum of 500 to upwards of 1,000!) stuffed into lighter-weight structures and with drivetrains and running gear that could handle those elevated levels of power as well as put it to the pavement. Dave devoted a couple of laudatory pages of chapter 17 to the Mosler MT900, and that got me musing about super cars in general.
From talking with Ralph Kramer and Tommy Morrison in March, at California Speedway (they were in Fontana with the Mosler MT900-R for the Rolex series Grand American races that ran on Cal Speedway's new infield course the same weekend as the first ever IRL race at the facility), it appears that a street version of the mid-engine, composite-structured and Corvette-derived super car is very close to being a reality. The MT900 currently undergoing the tests necessary for the Feds to give it their blessings as safe and pure enough for a few fortunate Americans to savor.
It looks as though the Saleen S7 may also, finally, become a production car (not just a production-based race car, based on a production car that's never been produced). In spite of my ragging on them, I wish the Saleen organization well with the S7 and do hope that it, a U.S legal road-going model, does happen.
In my humble opinion, the truly significant news is that Ford is going to produce the new GT40, the stunning neo-nostalgic iteration of their all-conquering sports racer of the late '60s that was the hit of the automobile show circuit in recent months. Although, the new GT40 was penned with current safety and emissions requirements in mind, and is larger in every dimension, it's remarkably close to the original in virtually every proportion. Personally, I think the GT40 was one of the greatest looking race (and in a few instances-there were a very limited number of street versions-GT) cars ever produced; as elegant in a muscular, brutish, and purposeful way as the S7 is cartoonish with its excess gills and slots (you know, if one is good then three must be better, and five will be just about perfect). From what I've heard, the new GT40 will be powered by a 5.4L DOHC version of Ford's "modular" V-8 engine family, complete with a supercharger and intercooler, and capable of producing somewhere around 500 hp. Speculation has the price tag in the $100,000 neighborhood, a rich neighborhood to be sure, yet rather reasonable for what the car ought to (and likely will) be.
Decidedly less exotic than the Mosler MT900, Saleen S7, or Ford GT40 is DaimlerChrysler's Viper, which is undergoing a both facelift and a bump in horsepower and torque. The already formidable Dodge will, unfortunately, probably rip the Corvette (Z06 included) a new one when the next generation hits the streets with 500 or so horses and mountain-moving torque coming from that gargantuan and flatulent sounding (but incredibly potent) V-10.
Then there's Corvette. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't intended to be a "dis" of the current car or of the 50th Anniversary Edition. But, the Corvette could be so much more. I'll be real surprised if the 50th Anniversary model doesn't foment some controversy; if there isn't, to some degree, a love it or hate it attitude. Personally, I like it, not $5,000 worth, but I think it's an attractive package. I don't, however, feel that it is anywhere near the best possible representation of the Corvette to symbolize and honor the past and to look ahead to, hopefully, another half century.
That's probably why I'm sitting in a dinky office in Southern California, working on a magazine, rather than in marketing, engineering, design, or brand management in Detroit. I woulda' gone for a SuperVette, a 7L, 500 horse Z06-plus. A limited run of them, in a memorably bright color slathered over trick (i.e. custom, like on the Tiger Shark) front and rear fascias and hood, with even wider and larger tires and wheels than on the regular Z06. Price it just under $100,000 and make it a bold statement to the world that a Corvette can easily be the equal of anything any legitimate manufacturer of exotic automobiles, and superior to damn near all of them!
It ain't gonna happen now, but I've heard things from a couple well-placed persons at GM, about something referred to as GMX245 or C6 Supercar that gives me hope for the future. This is, or will be, a lightweight (under 2,900 pounds) C6 with-guess what?-a 7L 500-plus horse derivative of the Gen III LS1/LS6 engine...maybe a paddle shifter. Supposedly, there are several operable prototypes in various stages of development, and I've heard that this beast might (with an emphasis on the "might") actually be available in 2006.
That would definitely be something to celebrate!