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    C6 Naked and Exposed - The Sequel: Finally...We Drive It!!! - Page 2 of 12

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    And, Talk to Some of the People who Built It

    by Hib Halverson
    Imagery by GM Communications, Richard Prince, U.S. Air Force and Sharkcom
    2005 Shark Communications
    No use without permission

    Discuss this article

    Corvette Action Center:  You've said you and your team of designers were influenced by the Lockheed Martin F/A-22 Raptor fighter/attack aircraft. What about the Raptor intrigues you?

    The cover snapped back and...  
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    The gear comes up on a F/A-22 Raptor taking-off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. First time you drive the LS2, it may feel a little like that.
    Image:  U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald
     
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    The C6, coming your way seems ready to take-off. Well, not quite, but this Z51 does get off the turns hard; almost as hard as the '01-'04 Z06es. Can you see the center fuselage shape on the hood? When you take time to study the C6's lines and surfaces from this angle, you begin to better-understand the influence the Raptor had on Peters and his team.
    Image:  Sharkcom

    Tom Peters:  Car designers are influenced by aircraft on a couple different levels. Aircraft represent the ultimate in high-performance vehicles. They're very form-follows-function. Astheticly, I think they portray where things are heading in the future. Corvettes have always been a sign of the times, not only culturally, but technologically and astheticly. The F/A-22 is, also, a sign of where technology is at this time.

    One of my brothers works for NASA at Edwards Air Force Base (USAF Flight Test Center in the Southern California high desert) and I've been up there on occasion. We've seen the F/A-22, the B-2 and other advanced-technology aircraft.

    Stealth aircraft, initially, were very angular, like the (F)117 (Nighthawk stealth fighter of Gulf War 1 and 2 fame). The F/A-22 is a further evolution of that technology. It's more refined, more sophisticated but every bit as purposeful. C6 is similar in that it's also more refined, more sophisticated, but still very purposeful.

    The cover snapped back and...  
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    From high-3/4-front, the F/A-22's angularity transistions to areas of organic surface development to make a shape that's functional and purposeful as hell, but pleasing to the eyes. Not for a moment do we think the Air Force is a bunch of prissy types flying pretty planes, but, damn...that is one beautiful jet.
    Image:  U.S. Air Force
     
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    Same view of the C6 and most of us will agree, this is one fine looking automobile. Unlike the Raptor, that's by intent. Take note of the interesting surface transistions across the hood and front fenders.
    Image:  Sharkcom

    The F/A-22 has a great combination of shear surfaces, hard-edged lines and more subtile, organic areas of surface development. The transistions from the shear surfaces into the organic forms are very intriguing, so I felt it was a good icon; a good source of inspiration for how we wanted to take the Corvette forward. I'm not saying we, literally, interpreted or extracted something from the plane and put it directly on the car. We attempted to capture the spirit or the essence of the Raptor.

    Aircraft often embody form that follows function. The plane's purpose, design, all aspects of it, are very functional. They're meant to do a specific task. In the case of the F/A-22 bodyform, it's to:  1) fly very fast (the first, non-experimental aircraft to "supercruise" or fly faster than sound without afterburner) 2) incorporate stealth technology, 3) offer its pilot outstanding visibility and 4) carry its weapons internally.

    The cover snapped back and...  
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    This view of the front section of an F/A-22 shows more of that angularity mixed with delightful, organic surfaces, particularly areas that transistion from the fuselage edges up towards the canopy. The little open door covers the jet's 6000 round-per-minute, 20mm gun. Corvetters can only wish they had one of those to use on oboxious Asian imports with no ride-travel, butt-ugly body add-ons, two-foot-high wings and booming-loud stereos. The thought of turning them into smoking piles of twisted scrap is intriguing, to say the least.
    Image:  U.S. Air Force/Judson Brohmer
     
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    A similar view of the front of a C6. Notable are angularity, transistioning to more complex surfaces along the hood and fenders, the implied fuselage above the belt line and the canopy-like profile of the glass and top. Let's start a poll:  where are we going to put the 20mm gun?
    Image:  Sharkcom

    The F/A-22 is awesome. Visually, it's very directional. It has a lot of tension. Everything's going forward. The canopy has a sports car like appearance. I especially wanted to see how that could influence the upper (the car's shape above the belt line) on the Corvette. Most intriguing is the airplane has this shear, linear quality, overall, but then, on closer inspection, you see these transistions into more organic shapes, like those that encase the engines.

    The cover snapped back and...  
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    This is the 18th F/A-22, and the first to go in normal service, being readied for flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. You can see the surfaces which cover the jet's twin engines. Note that the weapons bay and the landing gear are fully covered in flight. Again, complex surface transistions mixed with a hard-edged profile are obvious.
    Image:  U.S. Air Force/Lisa Carroll
     
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    A similar view of the 2005 Vette shows organic surfaces on the car's hood and its fenders down to the wheel wells. Harder edges show at the nose, the center port and the side vents.
    Image:  Sharkcom

    They're all there for a purpose, surfaces developed to optimize aerodynamics and shroud whatever functional elements are underneath, for example, the landing gear, the jet engines and the pilot in the cockpit.

    On the Corvette, we wanted a fresh, new asthetic sense. I wanted to equate the F/A-22's elements into how Corvette's hood and fender shapes transistion up and over and become the wheel forms. How the hood bulge covers the engine. I drew similarities; comparisons of F/A-22 to how C6's fenders cover its wheels and tires, how the hood covers its engine and how the upper encapsulates driver and passenger.

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    The most revolutionary visual point on the whole exterior are the new fixed head lamps. Can you see how the body-color headlight mounting preserves the continuity of the exterior design?
    Image:  Richard Prince
    When I've shown images of the F/A-22 to my team, the production team or, in your case, media which is trying to understand what the inspiration was for the design; I think the metaphor is obvious.

    CAC:  I know what you're gonna say, but I need it in your words so...what element of the design generated the most debate?

    TP:  Oh, no doubt about it-Headlamps.

    The pros, in keeping the hidden headlamps were:  tradition. Hidden lights are engrained in the Corvette mystique. Conversely, fixed lights, for many practical reasons, were the right thing to do:  less mass, less complexity, easier to manufacture, cheaper and, most importantly, better lighting for high-performance driving.

    From a design standpoint, we didn't struggle with the fixed lamps, but we carefully considered them. How we justified them, from a pure design perspective, is that, yeah, today's car is usually identified as Corvette, in part, by the hidden lamps, but there have been exposed lamps in Corvette's history ('53-'62). Various Corvette concepts have had them. I worked on the Corvette Indy (1986 show car) and it had exposed headlamps. Also, part of Corvette's soul and character is its race heritage and Corvette race cars have had exposed lights for many years.

    CAC:  On race cars, that goes clear back to the late-'60s.

    TP:  Yep.

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