A modern Corvette can be the perfect car to take on a road trip, provided you only need two seats. It doesn't matter if you drive alone or as part of a Corvette caravan, the experience of piloting one of these hugely competent sports cars down a scenic route or simply over a challenging stretch of road can be a memorable one. Recently we decided to take an extended drive in an '11 Grand Sport coupe to try out its road manners.
As we reported previously, the C6 has undergone subtle changes for the new model year. Our Torch Red automatic coupe was equipped with $15,405 worth of optional equipment. Add these to a base price of $54,790, tack on a $950 destination charge, and you end up with a sticker price of $71,145.
Options included the $7,705 4LT Premium equipment group, the $1,195 Grand Sport Heritage package, $1,995 chrome wheels, the $1,795 navigation system, a $1,250 six-speed automatic, the $1,195 dual-mode performance exhaust, and $270 automatic-transmission pedal covers.
It's worth noting that our coupe was also fitted with the original-style Goodyear F1 run-flat tires, not the latest Gen 2 shoes. We drove a Z06 with the newer Goodyears recently and liked them a lot better than their predecessors. They were quieter and had nearly as much grip as the Michelin PS2 ZP tires we tested earlier this year.
We chose to make our road-trip destination Bowling Green, Kentucky, located some 65 miles north of Nashville. After all, this is where the Corvette Assembly Plant and the National Corvette Museum are located. Guided plant tours are offered to the public four times a day, Monday through Thursday, for $7 per person; the tour takes around an hour and fifteen minutes. Check the plant website (www.bowlinggreenassemblyplant.com) for the tour schedule and other plant details.
After many years of planning and fundraising, the National Corvette Museum (NCM) opened its doors on Labor Day 1994. It's located across the road from the assembly plant and easy to spot from I-65. The NCM grew so popular with visitors that it underwent an expansion that doubled its size several years ago. Sixteen years after its grand opening, the facility continues to provide enthusiasts with a detailed history of America's favorite sports car.
At the start of the NCM tour, visitors see a special display that pays tribute to Zora Arkus-Duntov, the legendary engineer who brought true performance to Chevy's fiberglass two-seater. Beautifully restored vintage Corvettes are parked in period dioramas to give visitors a glimpse of what it was like to own a Vette in the past. Other displays offer insight into Corvette design and construction.
The NCM also offers the Museum Delivery program to new-Corvette buyers. By checking off the R8C option code on your order form and paying $490, you can pick up your ready-to-drive Corvette at the museum. It's a popular program that keeps the museum staff busy all year long. Check the NCM's website (www.corvettemuseum.com) for more information on the museum and a list of other events held throughout the year.
Our road trip got us to Bowling Green just in time to attend the 16th anniversary of the museum on Labor Day. Part of the festivities included a "Bourbon and Coke" tour, including a drive through scenic rural Kentucky with lunch and two plant visits. This drive sounded like a great way to try out the Grand Sport on some winding country roads, so we signed on.
We joined guide Marty Stout and nine other Corvettes to start the tour. Our first stop was Heaven Hill distilleries, which is located 95 miles north of the NCM in Bardstown and produces Evan Williams bourbon whiskey. Along the way we stopped at President Lincoln's Birthplace National Park and the Whistle Stop Café in Glendale. During our trip we had a chance to try out the Grand Sport's brakes and suspension on the largely deserted byways in the area. Turn-in was very precise, and the brakes pulled the car down quickly. Still, we did have to work the GS pretty hard to keep up with the Cyber Gray ZR1 in front of us.
Once back at the museum, we found plenty more activities to keep us busy. These included a Celebrity Choice car show and a silent auction. It's always fun to take a walking tour through the museum to look at the latest additions (exhibits are updated regularly) and drool over the amazing Corvettes on display.
Carlisle Productions' Lance Miller brought his '60 Le Mans Cunningham Corvette to the museum for the Labor Day event. The Corvette had just returned from Le Mans France to honor its GT class victory 50 years earlier. One of the original drivers, John Fitch, accompanied Miller to Le Mans and drove the old warrior around the famous track on a parade lap. Miller gave people a two-lap ride around the museum for a small donation to the Chip Miller Charitable Foundation and the NCM. (Miller's father, Chip, passed away in 2004 from a rare disease called Amyloidosis.)
Each year, the museum inducts three notable Corvette personalities into its Hall of Fame. This year, Grady Davis, Jim Ingles, and Fred Gallasch were honored. We'll have a report on these three pioneers in the Corvette hobby in a later issue.
It was hard returning our Grand Sport, but during our time behind the wheel we were reminded why Corvette is America's favorite sports car. The coupe's build quality was excellent, and the ride and performance were superb. We encourage you to take your own Vette on a road tour-and be sure to wave at your fellow Corvette enthusiasts along the way.