If you are new to Corvettes or have a weak memory you may not remember all the fuss over the C-5 Corvette when it was about to debut. It was about time for something new; Chevy had kept the C-4 Corvette around from 1984 until 1996. Twelve years for an iconic car is way too long and that was after the C-3 ran from 1968 until 1982, 14 years! You may also not remember that a Corvette wasn’t even produced in 1993!
Do you remember the first time someone actually referred to the next Corvette as a C-5? Up until that time the different generations of Corvettes were just that, different body styles. No one had yet given the different body styles numbers.
My story of the first C-5 begins in the summer of 1996 with the desire to replace my daily driver, a 1980 Corvette L82. The rumor of a new Corvette had been around for many years. Would it be mid-engine? How different would it be, would it be better or worse than the current C-4? No clue, but lots of rumors.
I began my quest with the thought that a 1996 LT4 would be better than a new 1997. After all, the last year in a series is always the best and the first year is always plagued with problems and flaws. In late spring GM started blowing out the 96 models because there were so many left on dealer lots waiting for the rumored newest and greatest. So, in the summer of 1996 I began the search for that special red on red, 6-speed LT4 left over and cheap. Well, they didn’t exist. The demand went up, and so did the prices. Red sold first, now what?
More news began to leak out about the new C5 but not enough to get me to fork over the big bucks. I waited, but I talked to dealers and I read magazines. Then, in early January 1997, the LA Auto Show unveiled a white 1997 C5. It looked good but I still wasn’t convinced, they wouldn’t let you get close enough to see any details. I did learn that production on the 97 would be low and difficult to get. I talked to several dealers and it appeared that only a few would get any Corvettes. All new Vettes would be allocated by how many Vettes the dealer sold the previous year.
Then there was the book ALL CORVETTES ARE RED, I scooped it up and had to ration my reading of it. It was fantastic and it said the newest Corvette was a breakthrough. The Corvette we all want and deserve! A few weeks later the first C5’s began to arrive in dealers’ show rooms. None were supposed to show the car to the public until the official day of introduction. I convinced a dealer to do so. I looked, I touched, and I even got to sit in one. I instantly fell in love. The car was everything I was looking for. It appeared to have corrected all the problems of the previous Corvettes. Now my problem was that there were other Corvette freaks also searching for a C5 and they were all ahead of me. At the biggest dealer of Corvettes in California the year’s allocation was already sold. The biggest Chevrolet dealer in California wouldn’t even sell a new C5 outside their territory! But wait, Mark Christopher Chevrolet, right next to my office in Ontario had two unsold allocations. My partner at work and I went in and took both. We ordered full option cars with the exception of the $35 side molding and the beautiful removable glass top. We wanted the top but it was not available and trying to order it would mean our cars would go to the end of the list for priority building. Mine would be red, his black. We paid our deposit and were proud to be on the list and feeling very lucky, after all this is the first really new Corvette since 1984 and the production would be the lowest number of Corvettes to be built since 1960. The very next day other procrastinators showed up at the dealership wanting to order new Corvettes. But we made it first, the allocation for the area for the year was gone and the new Vette wasn’t even suppose to be shown to the public yet!
(to be continued)