Every since its introduction, in 1953, the Corvette has been a cultural icon. It’s America’s sports car, and though it’s had its ups and downs, is still as large as life and just as fast.
In 2008, it was in its sixth generation, and came with a 430-horsepower, small-block V8 as standard equipment, with an optional 7.0 litre, 505-horsepower V8 powering the ZO6 version. With the base model, you could choose from a convertible or coupe, and then, as now, the ‘Vette only accommodated two. Needless to say, it provided acceleration guaranteed to get you in trouble with the law, with stop-on-a-dime brakes. If you really wanted to draw attention to yourself, you could also order the optional Performance Exhaust package, which imparted an additional six horsepower. The base model had a purported 0 to 100 km/h time in the four second range, and the ZO6 was even faster. This generation of the Corvette came with the most powerful standard equipment powertrain GM had ever offered, and with plastic composite body panels, it was also one of the lightest Corvettes the company ever put forward. Unlike virtually all of its rivals, it also ran happily on regular grade gas, although Premium grade was okay too.
The six-speed manual gearbox had a couple of eccentricities. When shifting from First at any speed below 25 km/h or 2500 rpm, the shifter automatically bypassed Second and Third, and went directly into Fourth. This was a fuel economy/emissions measure….some liked it, other didn’t, but either way, the massive torque output of the V8 had no problems handling the low-rpm load. Secondly, the vehicle had to be put into Reverse when parked, otherwise, the battery would drain. And prospective buyers should bear in mind that this generation of the ‘Vette was - is - still an old-fashioned, politically incorrect North American muscle car with a heavy shift mechanism and an immediate and abundant power delivery.
Elsewhere, the convertible top had a glass rear window, and took about 20 seconds to deploy via a button located on the lower left side of the dashboard. The top featured a centre locking latch and folded up under a hard tonneau. This year of the Corvette also featured a push button start, and there were two suspension settings: Touring and Sport, both accessed through a rotary knob on the floor. You could also order GM’s intriguing Magnetic Ride Control, and 19-inch wheels and tires in back with 18-inchers up front were standard equipment.
Other highlights included a heads-up display for vehicle and engine speed, tilt/telescoping steering, a tire pressure monitoring system, heated leather seats, and programmable power door locks. This last item allowed you to get into the car by pressing a discreet little button coded to the key fob and located in the door crease, and there were no door handles. Without the fob, there was no entry. One amusing little sidebar here: when GM first introduced this feature at the Detroit Auto Show; the engineer in charge of demonstrating it locked himself in the car and couldn’t get out because the fob hadn’t been programmed.
No safety recalls from either Transport Canada or the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration…either for the base model or ZO6. This latter organization, however, does have some 48 technical service bulletins on file (for both versions), and they range from problems with the convertible top, to “wandering” tires, to mysterious “popping” and “creaking” noises, to assorted automatic transmission and diagnostic issues.
Here’s something kind of unexpected: Consumer Reports likes this generation of the ‘Vette, and gives it high marks in virtually all categories, with a better than average used car prediction rating. What’s more, the ZO6 model gets a “much better than average” rating. Some comments from owners: “Factory NAV and stereo is outdated”, “Power, power, and more power”, “Dealership lack of knowledge”, and “1-4 shift takes a little getting used to”.
Marketing researcher, J.D. Power, is also fairly positive, giving this generation of the Corvette top marks in areas such as overall performance and design, style, and features accessories quality. It garners a “better than average” mark for predicted reliability.
You can expect to pay around $35,000 – give or take – for a three-year old ‘Vette. The Convertible is about $5000 pricier than the hardtop, and the ZO6 seems to be going for anywhere from $45,000 to $52,000.
2008 Chev Corvette
Original base Price: $69,500; Black Book: $36,875 - $53,025; Red Book: $34,650 - $45,025
Engine: 6.2 litre & 7.0 litre V8
Horsepower/Torque: 430 & 505 hp hp / 424 & 470 ft. lb.
Transmission: Six-speed manual / automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 12.9 city / 7.7 hwy, regular gas (Manual trans.)
Alternatives: Porsche 911 Cabriolet, Porsche Boxster S, Dodge Viper SRT10, Ferrari F430 Spyder.