1999/2000 C5 FRC "The Hardtop For Hardcores"
Several weeks ago Hib Halverson shared an interesting story with me concerning the birth of the C5 Corvette and more specifically the FRC which I believe most Corvette enthusiasts would find interesting. I asked Rob to resurrect Hib’s article so all forum members could enjoy it. Few of us have the insight and the access to the inner workings of GM like Mr. Halverson who was there, reporting on the FRC developmental events as they happened back in 1997-98
In some ways it was much like the debates and discussions surrounding the styling and performance capabilities of the new C7. There was a great deal of speculation and heated debates about just what the FRC would be. There were two camps among the enthusiasts and also within GM who each held their own very specific ideas of what the FRC would be and what its purpose would be. Marketing very clearly wanted a decontented, lower price Corvette that would help boost sales based on its lower price. Engineering disagreed and wanted the FRC to be a performance model that would take advantage of the new model’s lighter weight and stiffer chassis. Leading that group, the group that wanted to build a street legal competition car, was Dave Hill, then chief engineer. The opposing camp was led by Brand Manager Dick Almond, who saw a stripped down, lower priced, Corvette as a way to capture those buyers who lusted for but couldn’t afford the ever rising price of America’s only real sportscar. Both sides had valid points to make.
It is interesting to read Hib’s account of not only what actually happened in the debate inside GM but also how the outcome affected the actual FRC that made it into production and how the car was marketed. One of the most exciting aspects of Hib’sstory is the short time frame from the time the debate came to a head and the ensuing changes to the car that were made in time to meet the introduction deadline. Those of you who have read "All Corvettes Are Red" have a pretty good idea of what it takes to get a model into production and the timing required to make it happen. The incredible "about face" that occurred in the time frame of less than six months is almost inconceivable and unheard of in the automotive industry. From Chevrolet's bungled release of the preliminary Dealer Order Guide in late April - early May, which showed the FRC as the decontented, base model advocated by Almond and the marketing people, compared to the actual model released in the fall which was Dave Hill's performance car, not the opening price point model that was detailed in the Dealer Order Guide. This is just one of the interesting and unique events that marked the birth of the FRC. And so it was in the case of the FRC. In less than six months the FRC that the dealers and marketing department thought they were getting was completely transformed to Hill’s performance, lightweight Fixed Roof Coupe, the predecessor to the renowned C5 Z06.
While doing some research for the FRC registry which I am working on, Mr. Halverson contacted me with some information that I had not uncovered regarding how the FRC had actually evolved deep inside of GM. He shared with me his story from the perspective of a journalist that was actually there documenting the launch of a new model C5 Corvette and the ensuing FRC a few years later. Some of the members of Corvette Action Center are privileged enough to know Mr. Halverson, to have met him and spoken with him, and many more of you know something about Hib Halverson, a fellow CAC member, automotive journalist and a Corvette enthusiast who owns a 2004 Z06. Many of you have read several of his articles about the Corvette over the past years, not only on the forum but in nationally known automotive magazines. Over the years Hib has been not only a supporter of the Corvette but an objective journalist who has honestly and fairly evaluated both the car and the company that makes it.
He is known as one of the most knowledgeable journalists on the Corvette (his background as an automotive service technician gives him a thorough working knowledge of what he writes about and enables him to ask the questions that many other journalists do not fully understand). He is also known as one of the more “controversial” automotive journalists for "pulling no punches" and ferreting out the real story. He recently wrote an article for CAC on the experience of building his own Corvette 427 engine in the GM Engine Build Experience program at the General Motors Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan. This experience is offered as an option for buyers of Z06 and ZR1 and select GS models and he takes you through his personal experience and each step of building the 427 for his Corvette. (Read about his experience in CAC). So now that I've shared a bit about his background go to the link below and let Hib tell the story he shared with me a while ago. Read for yourself about the introduction of the new C5, originally published in the 1998 issue of Vette Magazine. Read about the initial road tests, the first impressions,and understand why the Fixed Roof Coupe (known then as the “hardtop") became known as the "Hardtop for Hardcores".
Corvette Action Center | Tech Center | C5 Corvette Tech Center | The 1999 Corvette Hardtop: A Billy-Bob? Not! - Page 1 of 2
Thanks for putting this together Rick!
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