There is a very particular kind of drive that New York City sports car drivers take. Here is that typical trip, from the wheel of a 2014 Corvette that might look familiar.
My coworker Travis and I started off, as all New York City sports car drives do, in the city, in the morning. The Corvette, like all good sports cars, wasn't exactly in its element here. The moment Travis pulled out of the garage I asked what the clunking noise was coming from the front of the car. I was sure that something was broken. Nope, it was the supremely aggressive tires on the car skating across the road. They were summer tires, and in the 40-degree cold, they had no grip whatsoever on the near-freezing asphalt.
We parked for coffee and the Corvette looked properly ridiculous. One lady tried to hail us as a cab, most people pointed, small crowds took pictures. Driving the Corvette was more than a little silly, as all good sports cars are.
Owning a sports car in NYC is all about exploring the world outside the city, and that usually starts off with finding some odd lunch spot. We went to Hiram's, this little hot dog stand in Fort Lee, New Jersey. It's like some little bit of Old New Jersey never went away, where guys in camouflage jackets eat their onion rings at the counter, and grandmas in the back cheer on fights in the hockey game on the one TV. You can read a review here, and a great history here.
Most importantly, they fry their hot dogs. Get them plain. They are fucking incredible.
From there we did as anyone who might own a classic Porsche or an Alfa Romeo might do: we headed north, winding along the Hudson River to smaller towns and curvier roads.
We started down Palisades Park, with tiny roads clinging onto the sheer rock faces that shoot up from the river. At the end of the road we were along the water, and as we stopped for a photo shoot, a couple of stance guys showed up for an impromptu car show. The star was a dropped BRZ on TE37s. But sports cars make you want to drive, and we started up again.
I should say that if you want to keep people from going fast on your road, line it with sharp stones leading to cliff drops. That's what the roads along the Palisades are like, so we went up further away from the city.
First you go through the parkways, very much designed and built in an era before the interstate highway system. They're meant for slower cars, and they were made to be scenic. They have big center dividers, long curves, and even rounded curbs rather than wide shoulders. The Corvette was way too fast for these roads. Every time we wrung out the big V8 for even a few seconds, we were well over the speed limit and had to get back on the brakes before some cop appeared around a corner. Not that it isn't fun to drop five gears (count 'em: 7-6-5-4-3-2) at around 60 just to hear the V8 again.
We were heading to Bear Mountian. Bear Mountain is sports car country. We saw a handful of air-cooled 911s either on the same roads as us, or going back the way we came. These are typical New York backroads, cutting through the forest in deep, flowing turns. Every so often the trees would thin out next to the road and you'd get a glimpse of a valley below.
And what was the Corvette like there? From the passenger seat, hilarious. From the driver's seat, even more hilarious. Let me first say that when you're riding in the car, you can listen to the V8 run from this kind of low growl to a really angry bellow. It's never a pretty noise, but you come to like it. That's maybe because you can hear it spinning the tires in first, second, and possibly third.
And you can tell how hard the car grips. At one point I got up halfway out of my seat to get a few shots as Travis took a hairpin. Holding still without the seat bolsters pressing me in was certainly the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.
We pulled over in some bird sanctuary for pictures and I realized how rough the summer tires were working. There was ice all through the marsh, cracking in the rushes. There was one low, straight strip of road cutting the wetland in half. We may have done a burnout.
And that's where we switched seats and I got to drive.
Now, I'm not a Corvette person. I like my sports cars dainty and European. The Corvette was always too big and too heavy for me. That and the only people I ever saw driving them were balding, big belly old men. This thing, though, is different.
It reminded me of the Nissan GT-R in that it was so, so much better than I could ever be. There was no way I would ever go fast enough on the road for the car to ever feel like it was working hard. But with the GT-R, the speed is mundane. With the new Corvette, it's an amusement park ride.
There's this bellowing V8 and a three-pedal manual, and when you want you can put your foot down and run through one, two gears and you're just as much excited as you are scared and you just want to do it again and again and again.
It's at this point that you realize that if you were to take one of these roads at the speed the car wants to go, rather than the speed you feel comfortable with, you'd be at something over twice the speed limit and you'd lose your car if a cop ever saw you. So I handed the keys back to Travis.
The light was fading and we started to head back to the city, not before getting lost in the endless stream of depressed small towns along the river, north of NYC. The car looked gorgeous, but I wish I'd gotten pictures of the old gypsum factory we passed getting to this photo-op.
And so we hit the last leg of a typical New York City sports car owner's drive: the tired trip home. We went into seventh gear and the Stingray cruised over a few bridges, coursing back down to the city as the skyline finally came into view.
We were greeted in Manhattan by a city bus running two red lights in a row in Harlem, then a guy reversing against traffic in our lane, than any number of people wandering into the road. it is this point that you get a little fed up with how the car has a manual transmission, how there's almost no visibility over your shoulder, and how the car is roughly eight hundred feet wide.
So we had set up the stereotypical sports car drive. We had the right sights and we had the right roads. The last variable was the Stingray, and it did the job perfectly. The Stingray isn't like a sports car in the vintage European mold. It doesn't have the nervous feel of an old lightweight, and you have to drive too fast to make the car feel like it's working hard. But the Stingray's capable and rewarding and it has a humongous V8 that can roast the rear tires at will. It might not be the classic sports car I've always wanted, but I'm still dreaming about it, and I wish I was still driving it.
I never thought I'd say that about a Corvette, but there it is.
Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove