by Robert Loszewski
© February 2013
No use without permission, All Rights Reserved
Jake Drennon: What about the lack of fog lights?
Kirk Bennion: We replaced those with LED DRLs. Oddly enough, the light output between a DRL and a fog lamp are roughly the same. We've got the super bright LED DRLs that you're going to see on all the time. You'll see them on at night when the headlamps are on in a running-lamp condition. The DRL will do what a fog lamp did and more. We talked about the tail lamps having a night-time signature, and that DRL is going to be your big day-time signature.
Those tail lamps are actually global-compliant, so we don't have to put another tail lamp on the car. For Europe, you'll have one backup and one fog [light] - it comes out of the same quadrant, and the park and turn stay the same, but the inner are changed out. So [in Europe for] the people that don't use the fog, the lamp look is the same between domestic and global.
These [tail lamps also] have amber LEDs. Amber LEDs are the most expensive. So typically, a lot of cars won't use amber LEDs for that reason, but here again, in keeping with wanting to raise the bar, that was something we told Tadge was a have-to-have.
With this car, we started out with a price of entry list. We basically gave the program team a list of what we felt we needed to be competitive in the marketplace in 2014. Full LED lighting, bi-functional Xenon projectors, etc. In talking about the collaborative effort, [Tadge] really came to the table and gave the exterior the content it needed.
Jake Drennon: When did the Stingray name come into play in terms of development of this car?
Kirk Bennion: For us, it didn't come in until towards the end of our release actually. Our first goal for the exterior was to earn it being called a C7. That was part of our mission with the program team. We needed enough content and make enough moves with this car to make it look like a next generation car. When the theme settled down and we were solid on what the exterior was going to be, that's when we started pulling out the Stingray badge. [We felt that] if the car is good enough, we'll put the badge on there. That's why we proposed it to Ed Welburn. We felt that we had come this far with the car and it was worthy of the badge, and Ed agreed.
Ryan Vaughn: - Design Manager, Full Size Truck and Performance Car Interior Design I think that Stingray feel regardless of whether we were going to call it "Stingray" or not, was such a part of the car and what Corvette is.
Kirk Bennion: We talked about the car being good enough to get the Stingray name, but there's also a logistics benefit in having the name on the car. Now the car has a starting point.
If you and I talked about cars in the past, it would be "do you have a Corvette Grand Sport or a Corvette Z06?" "No, I have a base Corvette." It's hard to think of a Corvette at $50K+ as "base." So it really gives the Corvette line a good starting point. You don't even think of the car as "base" any more. I tell people it's our starting car.
Jake Drennon: What are you most proud of on the design?
Kirk Bennion: For the exterior, because everything is integral, I tell people I'm most proud of the combination of elements. Successful exterior design is all about coming up with the right combination. It isn't just one detail. It's how they all interface to one another...and how that surface ties it all in...how the car stands in all the views. So it's really a combination that I'm a big fan of.
Corvette Action Center: There's been a lot of discussion in automotive forums about how GM needs to market the Corvette to younger generations. Did that come into play at any time during the design phase of the C7?
Kirk Bennion: I think that's always been our goal to appeal to younger buyers. We don't want to alienate the buyers that we have right now, but we really felt that if we could get the design more aspirational, more fluent, more premium, that we would attract those younger buyers. It's not one thing that you can point to, but I think it's the same for both exterior and interior. You have to have enough good content there to draw them in. If we made the car cheaper or simpler, we didn't think that that would be the case.
Jake Drennon: Did [C7 design] start on a paper napkin over lunch like you hear in the old stories? Where did the development come from? What were the ideas? What were the plans and did we achieve them?
Tom Peters - Performance Vehicles Design Director: I started thinking about [the Stingray emblem] probably during the C6 and I actually did a little paper sketch of the shape and gave it to our graphics designer. Then off the side, in a secret little room outside design staff, had a few of my designers that just came off the C6, sketch around what a future Stingray might look like. Even a split-window. So that evolved into the Stingray Concept Car with the first iteration of the Stingray on it. That's where it started. When we initiated this program, we did some preliminary sketches around that and then Ed [Welburn] invited us to do a world-wide sketch blitz. So we had our studio in Germany, Australia, Korea, and California all contribute to the sketches.
A neat story about that is that you could tell the folks who were very inspired by the passion that seemed universal about what Corvette really is. So these sketches came in, and what was wonderful about them, is that my design team has a very good cross section of people that have had experience with Corvette at different levels. Some of them, not at all. So the combination of all of that, and the influence of these sketches really made for some very inspirational ways of taking Corvette in a new direction. Out of that, we looked at all the sketches, evaluated them, and selected some of them to make scale models of. We then had a lot of dialogue, some variations, some modifications, and narrowed it down to two themes, and then went full size. As influential as Ed is, he said "ok we're going to have another competition with a shootout". I was really favoring one theme and Kirk [Bennion] had another one going on so he said "ok we're going to split you guys up". "Kirk, you take the designer for one theme and we're going to move you in the basement and Tom you stay here and..." "This theme here" he said "I'm not so sure...I don't think we want to go with that one." I said "Ed, give me some time. I see spirit here. Give me some time to work it out." He said "ok." He had the confidence in me to say "I'm going to let you spend some time and resources on a very tight schedule to explore something you really believe in." Because that theme was very rough and very course and even in full scale clay, I saw spirit in it. So we went ahead and developed these two models. We didn't' look at each other's. The day came when the cars were pulled together with color on them and we brought them out to the patio that we call our "viewing yard" side by side. After a lot of discussion Ed said, "that's it. Tom, ya got it." So that's how that design came forward.
From there, we just refined it. We are sincere and truthful when we say that every millimeter of that surface has been at least evaluated and modified and tuned in a tunnel.