1971 Corvette and 2021 Corvette : Five Decades, Eight Cylinders, One Purpose

The Chevrolet Corvette's long history is solidly embedded in America's automotive heritage.

In its humble beginnings, the thing we called Project Opel took its inspiration from the great British sports cars. And once the Corvette name was put on a proper production model, it was already on its way to becoming one of the most powerful symbols of American motoring, even though the cavalry under its hood was limited to 150 horses at the time!

The ‘Vette certainly hasn't always pleased its followers. Select generations and models were shunned because of questionable stylistic choices, engines and technologies. Others, on the other hand, ended up in museums and private collections because of their popularity - and the high value they now symbolize.

The Corvette’s purpose has always been to democratize sportiness by combining high performance and bold styling in a relatively affordable package.

Photo: Andrew Jordan

The Stars of the Show

Bringing together two specimens from two different generations is always a rewarding exercise that invites us to travel through time, regardless of the make or model. And our two Corvettes, so different, but so identical at the same time, both managed to attract the attention of passers-by equally, like a pair of celebrities with quite the age gap, who both have a lot to say about the evolution of the sports car.

As is customary with the Car Guide, the two vehicles were put to the test in order to go back to the era of carburetors and fat tires on the one hand, and to immerse themselves in the latest technologies on the other.

Photo: Andrew Jordan

The 1971 Corvette Stingray (C3) Hasn’t Lost its Touch

Our 50-year-old in a Brighampton blue tester had aged very well. Behind its wheel, you learn to appreciate the things that are taken for granted in the modern automobile. No brake or steering assistance…"power nothing" as its owner describes it so well. The air conditioner was also absent on that hot summer evening where the humidity index is about to turn air into water. However, just like our modern Corvette, it is possible to take the top off and stow it in the back ... manually, of course!

Photo: Andrew Jordan

The hot-n-sticky weather conditions were no match to our 1973 Corvette, however. When the accelerator was shoved, the Q-Jet carburetor poured a river of gasoline into the intake manifold and the rear wheels responded in a much more instantaneous way than some modern cars, which are often handicapped by drive-by-wire systems that are slow to carry the message between the pedal and the throttle.

The V8 454 (LS5) roared and transferred its efforts to the TH400 three-speed automatic, a component that showed precision despite its archaism, deploying rather slow, but surprisingly smooth shifts.

Photo: Andrew Jordan

On the handling side of things, one would expect this veteran to be sloppy, However, its relatively precise steering, which is commanded by a tilt and telescopic wheel as thin as we rarely see it nowadays, along with a rigid chassis, managed to stay the course in the corners we threw it, all with relatively confident ease.

As is the case with all classic cars, the traction control system is located between the seat and the steering wheel ... the secret therefore lies in the calculated modulation of the accelerator, but also the fact that one must keep a winter-length distance with the car in front, and adapt the braking to compensate for the lack of assistance – and our millennial level of attention on the road.

The suspension's ability to adapt to rough pavement is downright nil, but the Corvette's seating still provided an acceptable level of comfort.

Photo: Andrew Jordan

The 2021 Corvette Stingray (C8) Demonstrates Exemplary Balance

Besides its “Highlighter” yellow colour (real name: Accelerated Yellow Metallic) of our brand new C8, the biggest difference was - you guessed it - the mid-positioned 6.2-liter V8. The task of compiling additional similarities between these two generations is a difficult one, if not impossible.

However, some physical characteristics have been reproduced as nods to the older models - with a modern touch, of course. For example, when you take a seat inside and look at the hood, you will recognize the “Stingray” front fender shape.

Photo: Andrew Jordan

The cabin is predisposed for sporty driving. The slim and perfectly round steering wheel of our 1971 model gives way to a much thicker unit with a flattened lower part. The visibility up front is extraordinary. Towards the rear… not so much.

Photo: Andrew Jordan

Beyond the 495 horses delivered to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission with a ferocity worthy of its ancestors, the new Corvette C8 is itself an extremely well-calibrated amalgamation of technologies aimed at making it a die-hard track machine.

And while its exterior looks are anything but balanced, its demeanour brings confidence to the driver. The magnetic suspension of our Z51 model seemed to have a sense of prediction; no matter how ungracefully we took a curve, the C8 always seemed to find a way to keep cool. Just like a sports car for dummies!

Photo: Andrew Jordan

The ‘Vette has all the qualities of a great sports car, but it throws in superior comfort on rough surfaces, which further sets it apart from other beasts in the high-performance jungle.

The Corvette E-Ray - The Next Chapter?

The smell of gasoline greedily consumed by a big block on the one hand, an electronic exhaust that you can modulate at the push of a button on the other… all bets will be off when the Corvette gets its electric motor, a reality which is, I remind you, inevitable.

However, the fat lady hasn’t sung just yet for the Corvette and its eight-cylinder heritage. And while the new Corvette C8 doesn’t please everyone is terms of style, it has certainly retained its purpose of being an accessible high-performance car. And from happy owners to passers-by who break their neck when they see one rip down the road, the Corvette isn’t over charming sports car fans.

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