This isn't your daddy's Corvette, but it will stir emotional memories.
And that's how General Motors wants it. The automaker revealed a completely redesigned version of the iconic American sports car -- and, in a surprise, tagged it with the Stingray moniker.
"I love this car. That's why I'm here," said GM North America President Mark Reuss. "Honestly, I joined the company because of this car. This business is supposed to be fun, right? This is fun."
In homage to the 1963 Sting Ray, considered by many to be the most legendary 'Vette, Chevrolet is betting that the seventh-generation Corvette will leave just as indelible an impression.
The C7 Corvette was shown Sunday night at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit. This is GM's first major redesign of its most enduring sportscar in nine years. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray shares only two parts with the 2013 Corvette.
GM Vice President of Global Design Ed Welburn approved the name when he saw the finished product.
"He said, 'I'm not going to sign up to call this a Stingray until I see how it turns out,'" said Tadge Juechter, chief engineer for the C7. "What he meant by that was the Stingray was a hallowed name in the auto industry."
Designers delivered a few hundred renderings before Welburn and team settled on the final version, complete with Stingray badges on the front fenders.
-- MORE: A Corvette lover speaks: 'I joined the company because of this car,' GM exec Mark Reuss reveals
"It wasn't a question at the end," Juechter said. "We felt that we could call this car a Stingray. Once you get in the car and drive it and experience it, you'll believe us then."
The new Stingray is powered by an all-new 6.2-liter V8 engine with direct injection, continuously variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation technology, which allows the car to operate in four-cylinder mode while coasting and eight-cylinder mode while accelerating. The vehicle arrives in showrooms in the third quarter.
The two-door hatchback, which has a removable roof panel, gets 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque with estimated fuel economy of more than 26 miles per gallon, making it the most fuel-efficient Corvette ever. The car goes 0 to 60 mph in fewer than 4 seconds, and comes with either a seven-speed manual or six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission.
"The car's been dramatically upgraded in every aspect," Juechter said. "The faster the car goes, the better it feels."
Buzz has been building for months among Corvette fans, a particularly enthusiastic base.
"It's really reached a frenzied level in the last few days," said Keith Cornett, founder of CorvetteBlogger.com. "Designing the new Corvette is probably one of the most unenviable jobs out there because you've got the 60-year history, you've got to pay homage to the past, but you've got to reach out and do something new."
GM designers said they wanted to stay faithful to the long swooping front-to-back feel of the Corvette and tight-cornering agility.
The vehicle features two options for the jet-cockpit-like driver's seat. It boasts a smaller steering wheel to make it feel more like a race car and adds an eight-inch high-definition Chevy MyLink infotainment screen.
"The interior is probably the single most upgraded area of the car," Juechter said. "It's all premium materials."
The car replaces a steel frame with an aluminum frame that's 99 pounds lighter but 57% stiffer. The removable roof panel and hood were made of carbon fiber, which always reduces weight.
"When you drive this car, the car feels so rock solid. It's a completely different driving experience," Juechter said. "The car feels very light, just flies away."
GM cut about 37 pounds out of the car by switching materials, but added back about the same weight in fuel-efficient systems, transmission and safety technology. Owners can choose between five driving modes, such as a bad-weather mode to navigate precipitation or a sport mode for fast driving.
Chevrolet leaders intend for it to compete against luxury sports cars like the Audi R8 and Porsche 911.
About 1,000 people worked on the C7 in some capacity over the last 3-1/2 years, but the vehicle almost didn't happen. GM delayed its development for a stretch in 2007 due to financial concerns and again in 2009 a few months before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of the U.S. Treasury's rescue package.
But the delays didn't last long.
"In the Treasury, there's Corvette geeks," Juechter said with a smile.
GM's leadership is full of Corvette geeks too.
"It's a halo product for the company," said Mary Barra, GM head of global product development, in an interview. "It continues to show the technical capability that General Motors has."
CEO Dan Akerson gushed over the vehicle last week, calling it "the most beautiful car ever made" and saying it would be a "statement car" even though it won't be sold in high volumes.
GM wouldn't reveal pricing on the vehicle, which will be made in Bowling Green, Ky. The 2013 model ranges from about $50,000 for the basic version to more than $100,000 for a loaded ZR1 version.
"If you can afford today's Corvette, you'll be able to afford this one," Juechter said.
Still, there are risks when you're tinkering with a memorable vehicle like the Corvette, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
"Everybody's got their own Corvette story," said Cornett, the blogger. "Their dad, their uncle, their brother--somebody's owned a Corvette or someone close to them. You go back to the '60s and '70s, when those cars were king. That really started it for a lot of people. We have an emotional attachment to the car. That's one of the hallmarks of the Corvette."
Contact Nathan Bomey: 313-223-4743 or email@example.com
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