Nevada Surprise
October 2017

Although the nine-year old Corvette had only accumulated 37,000 miles, the new generation Sting Ray incorporated many improvements, including a back-up camera (although it was short in the back, the visibility was so poor that after I parked I often found that I was five feet away from the vehicle behind), and remote start to allow the car, and seats, to warm up or cool down before entry.

The front-view camera was also helpful; the sloping hood too often hid concrete tire stops before it was too late. But the remote option to open the convertible top seemed less useful – it would be preferable to be able to close it when dining in a restaurant within view of the car and clouds threaten.

There was also the multiple driving mode selector, including Touring, Sport, and Track that adjusted the steering sensitivity, automatic transmission shift points, magnetic suspension stiffness, and how much of the traction control and automatic stability control would be activated to save the driver from too much exuberance. As described in the aforementioned link, it had previously proven its worth.

In Sport and Track mode, the exhaust gases also bypass part of the muffler to increase the puny 460 by 6 HP – as well as the totally coincidental side effect of providing a much more impressive exhaust roar.

Other modes include Eco, which deactivates four of the eight cylinders when not necessary for cruising – they do come back into action when the accelerator calls for more power – and Weather, which makes even a trip around a wet skid pad nearly foolproof.

There’s also the higher resolution navigation and infotainment display, and digital dashboard, configurable to display anything that could possibly be measured, or calculated, and on the Corvette, that's a lot. Not all at once, though.

The Performance Data Recorder, a sort of dash cam, although on steroids, records audio and video from a front-facing camera in the rear view mirror and stores it on an SD card in the glove box. It also records, among other data, speed, RPMs, GPS position, transmission gear, lateral and longitudinal G-force, percentage brake and throttle position, and steering angle.

The video can be viewed later, with overlaid data, on the infotainment screen – while parked,

or analyzed in great detail on a PC using downloaded software.

A Valet mode, enabled with a 4-digit code, disables the infotainment system, as well as the trunk release, activates the Performance Data Recorder when the ignition is on, and locks the glove box. This prevents a miscreant from removing the SD card on which the data is recorded.

While all these safeguards can't prevent this, as the second video shows, at least there will be evidence!

This time I chose the delivery option to pick it up in March at the Corvette Museum.

A plaque on the dashboard provides further proof.

A late season snowstorm threatening the Washington area hastened our departure a day early. Having no wish to be quickly reminded of winter, we made the return a leisurely road trip; stopping in Nashville, Knoxville, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, and Norfolk along the way.

Here it is in warm weather configuration.

The Corvette Museum is just across the street from the Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the delivery option includes a VIP tour of the museum and plant.

You may have heard of the sinkhole that swallowed up eight classic cars in the museum in February, 2014. Three could be restored, including the one millionth,

but the others were beyond recovery.

Although originally seen as a calamity, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Only aficionados knew about its existence before, but now people come from all over the world to visit.

Pilings have been installed to assure it won’t happen again, but a display includes photos of the destruction, fragments of rubble, an outline of the opening,

and a porthole that provides a view of the depths below.

They also used the occasion to install a virtual simulation of the collapse. Inside a mini cave, participants at the bottom of the sinkhole view a timer counting down. First dust filters down, then rocks, finally the whole floor above cracks open and concrete slabs and cars come crashing down, all accompanied by thunderous surround sound!

The assembly plant tour took several hours from the very beginning to when a completed car rolls off the end of the line. In fact, they let me start up one for the first time – “Make it louder than the previous one!” they said. So I switched it to Track mode and floored it – in neutral, of course. They later presented me with a “Birth Certificate" to make up for the fact that someone else started mine.

A skilled driver then took over and sped across a set of staggered speed bumps – to wake up the suspension – into a dynamometer room where some 100 tests are performed, although not maximum horsepower, followed by another room where high-pressure showers completely surrounding it, including underneath, test for leaks.

Unfortunately, they didn’t allow any camera equipment, so I only have memories. But we were fortunate to arrive when we did – plant tours were suspended in June for 18 months.

A perk of a Corvette purchase is that within a year Chevrolet will pay $1,500 of the $2,500 cost of a two-day Ron Fellows Performance Driving School course near Pahrump, Nevada, 60 miles west of Las Vegas.

Fortunately, we don’t have to drive our own cars there – based on the VIN, they provide us with similar cars. Not exactly mine, because convertibles wouldn’t be allowed on the course without roll bars, but a garden variety 460 HP coupe with automatic transmission – not one of those really hot 650 HP Z06s.

I'll bring an SD card to record my track performance and view and analyze later. In case I get serious about sports car racing.

Unfortunately, Chevrolet will only subsidize one driver, so Betty Lou will have to be satisfied with a few hot laps with an instructor – which sounds more like a Las Vegas experience. Based on previous experience, she’ll be exhorting him to speed up and drift wider around the corners!

The remainder of the Spring Mountain Motor Sports title is Country Club and Spa, so one can unwind after a grueling day of instruction. It turns out that there's a lot more to that mundane appellation than is described in the brochure.

We only recently learned about an attraction of the nearby town of Pahrump, when the owners of a restaurant we often frequent asked us about our upcoming travels. We know they spend several weeks each summer in Las Vegas, so I said I’d be taking a performance driving course near a town to the west of Las Vegas, called Pahrump. They then revealed how it is actually renowned in its own right.

This article says ladies are welcome – we’ll have to see if we can spare the time to check it out!

The “over the hump” reference may or may not be a double entendre – the terrain rises then falls nearly 3,000 feet between Las Vegas (mile 0) and Pahrump (mile 63).

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