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Dream Cars: Chevrolet C1

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Chevrolet Corvette C1, Pontiac Solstice
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Dream Cars: Chevrolet C1

Bill Crittenden
March 12, 2009


I'm a fan of retro cars.  Most modern styling, for me, just doesn't have the appeal of the classics.  The same appears to be true for much of the driving public, as so far I haven't heard anyone really rave over the lines of the new Toyota Prius while I have heard a great deal of praise for the new Challenger and Camaro.  But driving a classic car just isn't practical, not considering the price of gas, the lack of safety and the vastly improved reliability of modern cars.

Automakers have tried blending modern technology and classic styling before with varying degrees of success.  One of the keys to a great retro car is affordability.  The two biggest sales duds in the recent retro-car styling trend have been the Chevrolet SSR and the Ford Thunderbird, both cars well over $30,000.  The most successful have been small, affordable and often practical cars:  the Volkswagen Beetle, the Plymouth PT Cruiser, and Chevrolet HHR.

So I have a lot of ideas for retro cars, but the first and best idea I have is something I would call the Chevrolet C1.  Basically, I've seen body kits used to convert modern C5 Corvettes into something that looks vaguely like a classic 1953 Corvette.  The problem is, the dimensions are all wrong.  The car is far too long, low and wide, and the result is what looks like a melted plastic model of a C1 fitted with C5 doors.

General Motors recently came out with a car that more closely matches the original Chevrolet Corvette in size, and even better still it comes with a price tag in the mid-$20,000 range.  My idea is to wrap the Pontiac Solstice in sheetmetal reminiscent of the original 1953 Corvette, give it a red interior option, and call it the Chevrolet C1.

Mechanically, the Solstice is a bit smaller, so it should be easier to wrap the Corvette around it.  The Solstice is roughly 10" shorter, less than an inch wider, and almost 2" shorter than the Corvette.  The only real hang-up in dimensions is the wheelbase, where the Pontiac is 7" shorter.

Underneath the sheetmetal, the Pontiac Solstice is a superior car, owing to the more than half a century of research and technological development that have passed since the original Corvette was built.  The original Corvette is rated at 150 horsepower, while the Solstice is up to 173 horsepower - 260 if you opt for the GXP.  In a nod to the historic Blue Flame engine that powered the original Corvette, I would apply the Blue Flame name to the performance engine option in the C1.

The result of blending the two is a car that looks from the outside to be one of the most iconic American automobiles ever built, but has performance superior in every aspect, features that didn't even exist in 1953 and all for less than $30,000.  The C1 name is used, instead of Corvette, because having two completely different models with the same name would be a bit confusing.

And what of the current Corvette?  Wouldn't it be stupid to create something less profitable to compete?  I can only guess, but I predict that such a car would pull away far fewer buyers from the current C6 Corvette than it would draw from the large pool of potential buyers who want a Corvette but can't afford a new C6 and settle for a used Corvette, a sale in which only the seller makes the profit.

I think it would also be a good choice for General Motors to build in their current financial situation, as it would be a definite attention-getter on the show circuit and in the showroom for a relatively low investment in research & development, as it uses a preexisting mechanical design and a preexisting design that is already one of the most well known and most loved in Chevrolet's history.



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