Once again, an American auto manufacturer has found a way to take a great styling statement from a European company and bastardize it into a worthless, gaudy joke. I’m not talking about a Pontiac, Cadillac, Lincoln, or Ford Mustang this time, rather the newest Corvette – the ZR1.
The Corvette ZR1 is a fantastic car. And don’t get me wrong, it’s even a fairly pretty car. Unfortunately, though, it has a Plexiglas engine cover that is simply goofy.
Ferrari debuted a see-through engine cover on its 1999 360 Modena. It was a wonderful styling touch, especially due to the fact that its mid-mounted V8 was itself a work of art. The unique transparent lid enabled people to drool over the chiseled engine with red valve covers without the owner present. This styling element not only found its way to the 360 Spider, but also to the Enzo and 430. Audi used a similar treatment to expose the engine in its mid-engined R8.
Chevrolet designers, however, chose to take a different approach on the front-engined Corvette. The ZR1 uses a transparent plastic cover on the front hood that recalls the size and location of a Shaker hood scoop. Instead of seeing a beautiful engine in all of its glory…or even some of the valve covers, all people will see is a cheap plastic engine cover. What a letdown.
Obviously, Corvette designers knew they couldn’t pull off a full transparent panel due to the restraints of having a front-mounted engine. And they also were stuck with the power-over-pretty supercharged V8. (Stuck is probably the wrong way to say it, as it is a world-class engine that produces supercar-spec numbers with utilitarian reliability and economy.) Given the lack of visual appeal, maybe they should have just bagged the transparent cover gimmick.
Corvettes have never been cutting edge in the looks department. Early generation Vettes stole heavily from Ferrari and Jaguar. The 1968 C3 Corvette used a tail stolen lock-stock and barrel from the Ferrari GTO. The 1997 C5’s voluptuous curves follow nearly identical lines in some areas to the Mazda RX7 that had gone out of production in the USA two years earlier.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but at some point GM is going to have to realize that a styling element that works for one car can appear as a foolish gimmick detracting from the overall package in another.