Are There Too Many Kinds Of Corvettes, Or Not Quite Enough?

To mis-paraphrase Henry Ford: The original Corvette came in any performance variant you wanted, as long as it was slow. No longer. There are at least three different "performance" Vettes, none of which really sell worth a damn. Why?

We've asked the always loquacious and often-times polarizing Jack Baruth, the author of SpeedSportLife's "Avoidable Contact," reigning champion in the high-stakes game of auto forum trolling and three-time runner-up for the "Color Blind Drivers of America Annual Achievement Award" to step in this week on Question of the Day. — Ed.

I had a bit of an idle thought earlier this year. I was strapped into the passenger seat of a Corvette, rather stridently instructing my student to "KEEP THE WHEEL STRAIGHT AND PUMP THE BRAKES BACK UP!" as said Corvette headed towards Autobahn Country Club's Armco at approximately one hundred miles per hour. Right before we hit the wall, I remember thinking, "Why does a four-hundred-horsepower sports car have suck-tastic sliding-caliper brakes that overheat virtually without warning?" It's true. Chevrolet will cheerfully sell you a Vette that, in the famous words of Ettore Bugatti, is built to go, not to stop. If you want that same power with decent brakes, you have to buy a Grand Sport. If the Grand Sport seems a bit tame, you can buy a Z06. If that seems a bit tame, you can buy a ZR1. There are now four major variants of the Corvette, with the most expensive selling for nearly triple the price of the cheapest.

All four of those Corvettes together sold a less-than-staggering 13,934 units in 2009. I can't help but wonder if perhaps GM shouldn't refocus its efforts on producing the best base-model Corvette possible and let the 'Vette tuners take care of the vanishingly-small market for $100K fiberglass cars. Wouldn't that increase profit more for the program than over-focus on the special editions? My Corvette-aficionado friends disagree, stating that Chevrolet needs more special editions to maintain interest in a car that, as of right now, has no replacement on the horizon. My suggestion for any and all future Very Special Corvettes: fix the brakes.

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Photo Credit: Corvetteblogger.com