My earliest memories are of my Dad's 1988 Testarossa. Black with red interior. It was before airbag laws and he used to drive me to preschool. At my urging, he'd drive past the school to the end of the street and make a U-turn so that I could spend a couple more minutes in the car. It was a masterpiece, a sex bomb, a god, and its form is burned into my mind in that peculiar way that happens with a strong memory when you are young.
Almost a quarter century has passed and my passion for cars has grown. As a kid, I saw a matte black 1991 Diablo parked in a dirty garage in Italy and I coveted one the way my male peers coveted Pamela Anderson. Now, at 32 weeks pregnant with enough of a veneer of maturity that my Dad fulfilled his decades-old promise of giving me a sick car.
I drove home a new Z06.
Why a Corvette?
I grew up in the passenger seat of my Dad's Ford Mark IV and Ferrari P3/4 as we whipped around the reservoirs of Northern Westchester. The roads were bumpy and tight and we couldn't hear each other over the engine. I'd close my eyes, brace into race seat belts, and revel in the wickedly tight suspension, feeling every nick in the road. The rawness was unfathomable. Ever since, I've wanted a car as close to that as I could get. My other criteria was sex appeal.
A few years ago, the Lamborghini Aventador hit the market. It looked like a fantasy; I was overcome. We saw one at Pebble Beach and the guys at Dallas Lambo offered to let me drive it. The ride-and-drive hosted a variety of potential customers, from Dad and me, to a low-level rapper with (literally) four bims on each arm, to exquisitely clad Europeans. I had never driven a real car before and though I daily drove a manual transmission JCW Mini Cooper I had never used a paddle shifter. The guys at Lambo immediately put me at ease – they were unpretentious and kind. They let us drive on a road with tight turns and changes in elevation and encouraged me to get on it. The car looked incredible. The acceleration felt unbelievable. But even in corsa mode, the steering and suspension weren't beastly. I was disappointed, like a 12 year old boy who actually had sex with Pamela Anderson and found it was only okay.
Shortly thereafter Dad was invited to a Porsche driving event. He couldn't go so – to the likely dismay of the organizers – he passed on the invite to me. It was held at Monticello and they let us drive the Boxster, the Cayman, and the 911 Carrera 4S on the track. The event itself was fantastic; exciting, classy, and a true opportunity to experience the cars. The Carrera felt raw and tight yet forgiving. But it didn't resonate with me. Ferret owners and Porsche enthusiasts are non-overlapping demographics. I wanted something more vulgar.
While the '88 Testarossa still haunts my memory and nothing beats the sound of a stick clinking into a gated shifter, the new Ferraris don't come in manual. And they don't do it for me the way the classics did.
My hubby was reared on Vettes and he sung their praises for years while I only half-listened. But when we decided to go to driving school so I could begin to learn the necessary skills to one day drive my Dad's cars the Corvette school at Spring Mountain seemed like the best option. We headed out to Pahrump, Nevada – fascinating from an anthropological perspective, but that is neither here nor there – and began a three-day course. I was scared shitless. I'd spent the past years throwing our souped-up Mini around winding country roads but I had little experience driving a real car. I was the only woman in the class and most of the guys were life-long Vette owners. I was beyond intimidated, anticipating total embarrassment.
For whatever reason, I confessed this to a fellow student, Cliff, a large and jovial ZR1 owner from Wisconsin I believe. He told me not to worry – it was his second time here and he was still scared shitless. Everyone is scared shitless. But we're guys, he explained, we pretend. After this extension of human kindness I relaxed and proceeded to spend five days in epic driving heaven. The instructors were true car people and helped me push slightly beyond my limits while staying safe. The head instructor Rick had the calmness and kindness of a kindergarten teacher or saint. The cars were mind-blowing; even the Grandsport, which I had driven previously and not loved, came alive on the track. The Z06s were beasts. And the ZR1 was insane: raw, fast, tight yet easy to drive and – with traction control on – forgiving. I had found the car of my dreams.
This was around the time of the C7 unveiling. I remember watching it live from my laptop as I sat on the couch with our ferrets. The Stingray looked so aggressive, so European. It was a monster – Tom Peters had replaced any vestige of bland Americana with sharp angles and wicked styling. I saw it in person at Pebble Beach, Greenwich Concourse and the New York Auto show. It was a sex bomb, and if it was anything like the previous generation, a beast.
With great thanks to our friends at Jalopnik who inadvertently sparked the process and the kindness of General Motors, I was able to order my very own Z06 over the summer. Black with red interior, like the Testarossa. Black wheels, one carbon and one glass top. Z07 package. Race seats.
Two Fridays ago, after months of delicious anticipation, I carted my pregnant belly down to the Chevy dealership, signed my name, got the keys, and drove off in weather mode in the rain. (Side note, we got snow tires for the winter – the cup tires looked like they had run 20 laps at Nurburgring so we sold them and got Pilot Sports for the summer).
The car is unbelievable. Aesthetically, it's perfect. Sharp, angular, sexy, yet elegant, not overdone. People who love to bitch about Vette interiors will find a paucity of targets for critique. While I won't say the interior has the stark beauty of – for example – a Challenge Stradale, it is sleek and functional with well laid-out controls, tight tolerances, and a flashy race display. The red looks incredible as do the race seats. Additionally, the race seats fit me perfectly – in the previous generation Vettes I felt loose and had to brace hard with my left knee – these seats hold me in and let me focus on the road. The shifter is tight and substantial yet easy to maneuver. The point of engagement on the clutch is lower than I'm used to – to the delight of one onlooker when I stalled at a light – but the car has so much power low down that shifting feels smooth and effortless.
It has a variety of modes for different reasons; the aforementioned weather, eco, tour, sport, and track. I've only really used weather and track modes. In track, the steering is so tight and the suspension so stiff that you feel profoundly connected to the experience of driving and the character of the road beneath you. Additionally, you're able to keep traction control on even while in track mode, lowering the odds of accidentally killing yourself. Likewise, you can keep the exhaust valves open while in any of the modes, so if you throw it in tour when Grandma gets in it still sounds amazing. The acceleration is crazy but as it's been cold and damp I haven't had the chance to get on it too much. Brakes are fantastic. I drive with the active rev-matching off but the blip sounds awesome when it's on.
Overall, the car is both a sex-bomb and a beast. It's truly the car of my dreams.
I'll make only two modifications: one, we'll lower it in the spring once the season of pot-hole hell has faded. Two, I'll install our trusty FERRETS license plate as soon as we recover it from the Mini.
Forever a gearhead, Dad absolutely loves it. I can't wait until spring when he can take his cars out and we can cruise together. I feel so lucky to be behind the wheel of a car like this. It's magic and I know it. Dad, thank you for sharing your passion for cars with me.
My baby will come into this world soon, and I promise to do the same.
Photo credit: Gene Sanchez Leeds