I’m excited to report that, last January, a photograph of mine was selected from amongst many candidates for the 2020 New Year’s Cover photo of a FB Group called MAD Vettes (My American Dream.) In this post, I’ll tell a little bit about my car, my photograph, and my camera.
The Swan Song of Front Engine / Rear Drive Vettes
Here’s my 2019, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Her name is Marybeth, after my mom. This automobile is the lineage’s swan-song, last of a long heritage of front-engined, rear-wheel-driven, American sports cars. Some would say that Corvettes are the only American sports cars. This particular example was the one-thousandth commercial order submitted to Chevrolet for a 2019 ZR1 and was the 1,618th car built out of a total production run of 2,953 automobiles. According to official records as reported by Corvette Blogger, fifty-two of those were convertibles. My wait for build and delivery was more than a year. It was neither an easy wait nor was the process that Chevrolet uses to allocate production cars to dealerships and, ultimately to buyers, an easy process. In the end, Marybeth arrived in my driveway on a balmy January day in central Wisconsin. She couldn’t be driven because the Michelin summer-tires might have cracked at temperatures below about 20 degrees F.
The Corvette ZR1 Bloodline
Here’s a little riff on the heritage of this marque, the Corvette ZR1. Upon my purchase of their fine automobile, Chevrolet was kind enough to send me this print, below, embossed with my car’s VIN and giving a glimpse at the four Corvette, ZR1 models that Chevrolet has produced over the 67 years since the ‘Vette’s introduction to the motorsports world.
The caption copy on the print reads as follows,
- “1970-1972: ZR1 debuted on the third-generation Corvette as a special track package powered by a 370 horse-power, solid-lifter, LT1 V8 with a close-ratio 4-speed and heavy-duty suspension. Only 53 were built.
- “1990-1995: “Life Begins At 180 MPH” was the motto for the fourth-generation “King-of-The-Hill” Corvette. It sported a wide body and an aluminum dual-overhead-cam V8 engine producing up to 405-horsepower.
- “2009-2013: This ZR1, nicknamed “Blue Devil” carried the slogan, “Life Begins At 200 MPH,” thanks to its 638-horsepower, supercharged, LS9 V8 engine and carbon-fiber body panels.
- “2019: Making an encore with the seventh-generation Corvette, the 755-horsepower, supercharged ZR1 sets a new performance benchmark with a 212-MPH track top-speed in the standard trim, thanks to a litany of racing adapted technologies.”
The Measure of A Man Is From the Vette, Up.
Needless to say I feel more than a little blessed that my ‘Vette-Cave is adorned with such a jewel. Marybeth replaced my much-loved 2015 Corvette Stingray, which was named PhatRay.
This will be the third Corvette that I’ve owned during the span of my driving days. Those days started for me on March 25, 1975 and now number 16,354, in case you wondered. My mom, namesake of my ZR1, was the daughter, niece and grand-daughter of General Motors engineers. She grew up in a General Motors town, Anderson, Indiana and she often reminded me that General Motors had paid for my education. I think my parents were disappointed when I attended Marquette University instead of GM Institute of Technology, now known as Kettering University.
To my mom, one huge expression of a person’s character was the car that they drove. The automobile, to the car culture of 1950s Anderson, was something one wore like a suit, and she impressed that outlook on me. Consequently, when the time came for me to take my first automobile bank loan, she offered to co-sign and she suggested, “You should buy a Corvette! Your Uncle Bill in Anderson can get you a good deal on a program car.” And so he did; God bless him. And the down payment? That cash came to me after I cut off my finger at work. It’s a long story for another time, how that happened. That was 1980. The finger never grew back. You’re shocked. I know. But I drove that Blade Silver, 1977 Corvette for the next five years, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, paying off the loan on time and in full. I eventually sold it to finance another stint at Marquette U. I spent the next thirty years dreaming of the day when I could once again wear a Vette like a sport coat.
And Intellect, too
The camera with which I shot this photograph is very, very smart. Not unlike the ZR1, the Nikon D850 may be the swan song of the mirrored DSLR platform, at least at the so-called prosumer level. Lightweight and equally intelligent mirrorless bodies have overtaken the older paradigm. Can you say, “Hey Boomer!”?
21st Century technology infuses both the camera and the automobile, and to the same effect, in a way. In the ZR1, even under the worst of conditions, some of which I’ll tell you about another time, the intellect of the whole, integrated package left its fallible, squishy, human component feeling safe and secure. The outcome of the driving experience shown in colorful weather-radar that was available in my car’s dash, seen here, was a great one and will be subject of another post.
Likewise, even under difficult photographic conditions, the intellect of the D850, can leave its fallible and myopic human operator with some security in knowing that the outcome of the process is more likely to be a great one, than it would have been relying on instinct and brain-power alone, like taking the D out of DSLR.
Expressions of Individuality
I’m quite certain that, if not for the digital intellect of my two favorite bits of hardware, the ZR1 and the D850, my unique, individual outcomes likely would have included neither a safe trip through the icy teeth of Winter Storm Taylor (March 2019) in my brand new supercar, nor a great sunset photo, properly exposed with excellent color rendition that was chosen out of hundreds of entries for this bragging-rights only contest. So thank the powers of innovation and ingenuity for this squishy human’s capacity to express his individuality by driving as fast as he damn well pleases just as well as by standing dead still and shooting into the sun.