I remember when I came to Corvette, that was not the message that people were giving us. We've worked hard here over the last seven years, focusing on quality, to make certain that the customers feel real good about their purchases, to feel that they've done the right thing by buying a Corvette.
VETTE: It sounds as though Wil Cooksey has no desire to move along.
WC: I made it home! A lot of my plant manager buddies ask me, "When are you leaving Corvette? I want that job!" I say, "Hey, I'm not gonna leave. I came to work for General Motors to work at this Corvette plant." That was on my mind the first day I looked at changing jobs from my other company: Corvettes are made at General Motors, maybe one day I'll work there. So this is a dream come true.
VETTE: This may be a loaded question, but what if someone from the top at Renaissance Center came along and dangled a Vice Presidency?
WC: There's a lot of jobs that probably pay more money, but I really, truly believe that there's not a better job in General Motors than the one I've got! There are probably some other areas at General Motors where, with my talents, I could be beneficial. But, I've invested a lot of time and want to stay with it. What I'd like to do is see the next generation Corvette while I'm here. To tell you the truth, when we were bringing out the fifth generation, I said, "Boy, no one should have to go through two of these." (laughs) I tell you, we were all stressed out, because we knew the expectations were going to be high. We knew we'd better be right! There was a lot of pressure on everybody: engineering, the plant, the suppliers, you name it. And here I am today, telling you I'm interested in another generation of Corvette. We learned some lessons from the last time, and we'll make the next generation even better.
VETTE: Earlier, you mentioned your first Corvette, the '69. What are your favorite cars?
WC: Naturally, you know Corvettes are! I like the C5 convertible-it's the most rigid convertible I've ever driven. You don't have all that body shimmy. I think everybody, if they can afford it, ought to have two Corvettes: a convertible and a targa, where you can lift the top off. I have a '93 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary. It was the first car I drove as plant manager, so I kept it. I'd already ordered it before I got the job as plant manager, so I told them, "Hey, I got a new Corvette being built, just hold it up, don't ship it 'cause I'll take it when I get there." I also have a '99 convertible, Navy Blue with Light Oak interior and top, and magnesium wheels. Then I have the race car you saw in the Museum, the one you had a picture of in your magazine a few months ago.
VETTE: Is that your first race car?
WC: The first drag racing I was able to do was with a '72 convertible. It had both tops. I had the engine rebuilt by Lamar Walden, in Doraville, Georgia. I told him I wanted about 500 horses, and he did it. I ran low 13s in it. It was pretty awesome. I got used to that kind of power. I thought I could just go out and purchase a Corvette race car, but as big as I am, that couldn't happen.
Instead, I bought a 9-second Camaro race car and still had the '72 Corvette. Man, the Camaro was nice! I said, "I need to figure out how to put a Corvette body on this race chassis." I never could find one that would fit on the Camaro's tube frame.