My Long, Hard Attempt To Grasp The Corvette

Recently I had the chance, for the first time in my life, to experience a Corvette. It's a car I've always liked well enough, but I could just never figure out exactly what it reminds me of.

This is Flashback Friday, a weekly feature where we republish classic stories from the Jalopnik archives. Think of it as Jalopnik's "Best Of"' series. We chose this particular story because, well, we still don't know what Krewson is on about. —Ed.

While I've been lucky and opportunistic enough to get my hands on a lot of interesting machinery in my day, somehow the Corvette experience has always eluded me. A shame, because there's always been something essential about it, something vital and visceral and deeply masculine, although it seemed I could never figure out the exact image the Corvette represented.

It goes deep; when I was a kid in small-town Midwestern America, it seemed every man had one, or wanted one, or was looking for ways to get one. Many disapproved, and if someone was brash enough to take theirs out in public, "decent people" would loudly voice their disapproval and shield their kids from the sight. Often the police were called. Nice ladies were assumed to dislike them, and tolerated them only to please their husbands' baser animal urges. Later on, when I went to college, I learned some women liked them, and some women even had them. This at first seemed like an affront to the natural order, but I've become more accepting since.

However, I haven't come any closer to defining exactly what the Corvette really is, and I hadn't when I went to pick up mine on a rainy day last month. There's no doubt it's a striking unit, and as it sat there, dewy with moisture, throbbing from root to tip, something about its quivering presence told me that as much fun as it could be it was also a lot of trouble. Flaunt it in front of people and I'd go to jail. Let it think for me and it could ruin my life and perhaps even endanger others. And if I damaged or broke it, it would hurt in a way that would be impossible to describe. Yet it was already affecting my thinking, altering my judgment, and I hadn't even done anything yet. I hadn't felt this way since my early teens…but that couldn't possibly be related to the Corvette in any way. Could it?

Oh, well. Back then I wouldn't have known what to do with one of these, but now I am a full-grown man. Surely I could control it now, right? Well. Ha. I've heard older men than me make that claim, men whose lives were in shambles and whose families had cast them out after they'd let their own Corvettes led them to younger, faster women. Or something.

Mine wasn't a particularly threatening specimen. A base-model convertible, it was supposedly less sensitive and a bit floppier than the uncut models, although some find it more aesthetically appealing. I didn't miss the extra stiffness; enough's enough, I guess once you're a certain age, and it's not like I could complain about the performance. The 6.2-liter LS3 has so much oomph that every surge forward is like the first time all over again. The power seems to come from the base of your spine, and it's easy to lose yourself in the swelling surge; you can see why so many young men lose it every year when the sudden rush of sensory overload clouds their heads and they wind up splattered all over the landscape. Luckily, it's a responsive unit as well; if you're mature enough to resist the temptation to be a 0-60-in-4.7-seconds man, the control and responsiveness running through every inch of it will let you last as long as your back holds up. Refined? No, not really. But somehow you don't want that.

But that's a lot of sports cars, not just the Corvette. What's so special about it? What's it's aura, and what's the allure in its tapered yet swelling shape? It looks bigger than it actually is, which pleases the hindbrain in ways that are difficult to describe. It comes in many varieties — the Z06 with more potency and a larger opening at the tip, the ZR1 with a supercharger for the ultimate rush of oxygenated fluids where it really counts-there's a vas deferens between them all. And even the older models have their appeal. But I just can't, for the life of me, figure out exactly what it is about this car in particular.

Oh, well. Maybe decent guys just don't think that way. But I really wish I could at least find a way to describe what I think it looks like.



This post originally appeared on Jalopnik on August 28, 2009 at 3:30 PM EST.