A 2023 Corvette costs almost twice as much – in real terms – as a 1969 Corvette cost. The latter listed for $4,781 when it was new – a sum equivalent to just over $37,000 in today’s hyperinflated (that is, devalued) currency. The former stickers for $64,200 – not counting the also-hyperinflated costs of insurance, taxes and tags.
This is why the 2023 Corvette is an exotic car while the ’69 was America’s sports car. By which was meant Americans could afford the car. Today, only rich Americans can afford a Corvette, of which there are fewer.
Back in ’69, 38,762 Americans bought a new Corvette. In 2022, 34,510 did. It sounds almost the same but it’s actually quite different, because in 1969 there were only about 200 million Americans whereas today there are at least 330 million – not counting the uncounted millions of “immigrants” who’ve entered the country since the Biden Thing opened the border.
Proportionately, then, something on the order of 60,000 Americans should have bought have bought a new Corvette last year.
This is a trend that will continue as Americans become less able to spend $60,000-plus on a car – or anything, for that matter. It’s a shame to see what had been a car Americans could aspire to transition into a car that’s more Ferrari than Corvette. Indeed it’s hard to tell the two apart – whereas back in ’69, it wasn’t.
The Corvette used to look like nothing else – and most Americans thought it looked pretty sensational. Even if you didn’t, there was no mistaking the silhouette – or the iconic four round tail-lights. It was a car like the original Beetle in that everyone knew one when they saw one, even if all they saw was a glimpse of one.
The new Corvette looks so much like a Ferrari – or a McLaren or a Lamborghini – that most people have to look closely before they establish what it is they’re looking at. It is a situation not unlike the one that exists in the current superbike class, where the chief clue that what you’re looking at is a Honda rather than a Suzuki is that the former has blue plastic fairings while the latter has red plastic fairings. They are also very similar under the plastic – as is just as true of the current crop of exotics, almost all of which are mid-engined and automatic-equipped.
The latter and the former make a great deal of sense if the object is to replicate the nth degree performance of other exotics in the same class. The mid-engined layout is without question superior in terms of weight distribution and power application, which translates into faster lap times, in the hands of an nth degree expert driver. An automatic transmission, finely programmed to change gears at precisely the right moment and do so faster and more consistently perfectly on-the-money than even an nth degree expert driver can do will result in quicker – and more consistently quick – zero to 60 and quarter mile runs.
It also results in an exotic price – which most people pay by not being able to afford such a car. And even those who can pay largely for what is becoming hypothetical capability in that nine out of ten of them (more like 9.5 of them, probably) are not nth degree expert drivers and so not capable of fully accessing the potential of their car. Even the .5 who are cannot realistically explore such capability to the full extent. So what have they got, really?
Something automotively analogous to a codpiece. A big one, to be sure. But wouldn’t it be preferable to have something you could use, as it were?
The ’69 Corvette was not nearly as quick nor as fast as the ’23. But it was, arguably, a more fun car – precisely because its capabilities weren’t as extreme as an nth degree exotic’s. It came standard with a 300 horsepower 350 cubic inch V8 and a four speed manual transmission that you shifted through the gears, however imperfectly.
You could wind out the small-block V8 to the nth degree of its capabilities without greatly exceeding your own.
It was a simple car, even though it had an exotic look relative to other cars. The same basic V8 engine could be found in Impalas, Camaros and Novas – which is why a new 1969 Corvette, while not inexpensive, wasn’t so expensive that an American capable of buying a new Camaro or Nova could not realistically aspire to owning a new Corvette.
Today, it ought to be possible for more Americans to be able to afford a Corvette – if it weren’t built to be an nth degree exotic. A simpler layout – more like the ’69’s layout – would be less expensive to design and build today, thanks to less expensive CAD and manufacturing processes. Build it with a six speed manual and a front-mounted V8 and price it for the 2023 equivalent of $4,781 and Chevy would probably have to double its manufacturing capacity to meet the demand.
Especially if it looked like a ’69 Corvette – as opposed to looking like every other exotic.
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