Today, we continue with Part 2 of the C-5 Corvette story.
As we recap the experience of ordering a C5 Corvette back in 1997 it is hard to compare that with the current C8 process. I am not in the market for a C8 Corvette but the frenzie over the new car seems to be very different. When the C5 was revealed to the public you could begin ordering one and they were on the street very soon afterwards. Today, there are lots of photos but, as of this date no real road tests or first hand owners’ experiences.
With the C5 the anticipation was unbearable. After my business partner and I placed our orders for two new C5 1997 Corvettes time seemed to stop. Within a few days of placing the orders, we were informed that there were production problems at the Bowling Green, KY assembly plant and 20% of the year’s production was being eliminated. Our cars were canceled!
Next came the recalls for suspension flaws and parts supply problems. Of course, our cars were ordered with the 6-speed transmissions. The transmissions were now on hold, the remote CD changer, glass top and more were also not available. Everything we wanted was on backorder or not available even if they could build the car it wouldn’t be what I wanted other than the color would be red.
The dealer wanted to know if I wanted my deposit back or did I want to wait for the car to come through as a 1998? Or, did I just want to wait and see if maybe, possibly, that the allocation would be given back. My response was: “Don’t be stupid! Keep the deposit and I will pray for production problems to go away!”
The C5 1997 Corvette had been unveiled at the January LA Car Show. This ordering process was all taking place in February and March of 1997. Two very long and frustrating months later, in May, word came that the allocation was given back to the dealer and the cars would be built! But how? Would mine be a 6-speed? Would it have the other options that I wanted? The dealer said yes! But, the dealer also said there was some bad news. All Corvettes being produced at this time are required to have the glass top! Would that be OK? YOU BET, BUILD IT! Remember, I wanted that glass top to begin with but it wasn’t available at the time of order.
My concern was not completely eliminated. It was already May and the change over to 1998 models would likely be in late June or early July. When would my car actually be built and when would I really get to take delivery? The timing was such that maybe it could be built on MY birthday, June 20th. Once a week I would call the factory and check on the schedule. After weeks of no information, they finally said the car would be built the week of June 16th. That was a Monday, the 20th was Friday of that week. It could still happen! We could still share a birthday!
As fate would have it, I had to be in Nashville, TN just before July 4th for a Kiwanis International Convention so I changed my airline tickets so I could arrive earlier and visit the Bowling Green Corvette factory before the Holiday. The Corvette Museum and factory are just 60 miles away from Nashville. The last tour of the plant before it closed for vacation and the change over to 1998 production would be June 27th. Then word came that the plant was closed for three days during the week of June 16th for production line changes and, my car didn’t get built! We would not share birthdays. Worse, there was no word if it had been rescheduled for construction.