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Dave Hill: So the C5, which was like we said when we brought it out, the most new Corvette that there ever was even in comparison to the original '53 because it was clean-sheet everything. Body structure, powertrain, the layout, the style, all-new interior, nothing shared with its predecessor except the shift knob.

It had the revolutionary use of space, the structural integrity, total modernization of the pushrod engine to bring it right up to the level of the finest 20th century engines with a lot more specific output, especially on the high end, and really good fuel efficiency.

We thought that we did a lot of good work on making the C5 a good handling car that was surprisingly comfortable. Kinda' like a car that could do many things well and I think that's one of the key features of the C5. It's easy to drive. You can go surprisingly fast in it, but you can also travel 500 miles in a sitting and feel like you can do another 500 right after.

We tried to make the car very easy on the occupants, quick but very comfortable and I think we succeeded. And then the human factors. The C5 was the first car where we got rid of the goofy stuff that was just there for the sake of style—like Flash Gordon instrumentation—and we just put stuff in that worked—controls where they should be, very close attention to the layout and used conventional instrumentation but done very well. So the C5 was kinda' like reinventing the Corvette and then just before it and just after it a lot of European cars came into the segment, which were more full-flavored than the outgoing Japanese cars and the whole segment kind of reinvented itself between 1995 and 2000. It doubled in size, with an influx of products from Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. And the Corvette immediately got the strongest-car-in-its-segment honors, but the Corvette was helped by the influx of Euro cars because there were more people interested in sports cars, and they were all more well-rounded cars than sports cars used to be. There were more daily drivers, and all boats rose with the influx of the European cars.

Automobile Magazine: And you guys had the only V-8, so that helped.

Dave Hill: The C5 has been a terrific ride, and we have never stopped putting everything we had into it on an annual basis of improvements. GM has been very supportive of us keeping the Corvette moving. I would say some of the landmarks during the life of the C5 have been the stability system we call Active Handling, which is more powerful and less intrusive than any other stability system that we benchmarked. We brought it out in '98 and made it standard in '01.

The Z06 kinda breathed new life into the C5 halfway through its lifetime because here was a car that really optimized for the total performance enthusiast, someone willing to trade off some creature comforts to get total performance, but it remains a car that's very easy to drive and very quick but very safe and easy to use as a daily driver if you don't live in Minnesota. The Z06 has been real successful. It started out at 15 percent and has grown to a 25 percent share.

The Corvette might not be the absolute quickest car in this measurement here or that measurement there, but when you take it all together, the Z06 does many things very well, and on a track, lap after lap, it's the car that's gonna turn in the quickest total time and be easier on the driver doing so. So it's a very well rounded car, very high performance car. But that's total performance, not just straight-line. And it's also a terrific value. So we've been really pleased.

Automobile Magazine: The Z06 feels like it was designed by guys who take their cars to the track, guys who really understand on-track dynamics and gearing. Are you a gymkhana guy?

Dave Hill: I raced competitively when I was younger. I raced a Lotus Super Seven. I'm able to evaluate a car at its limit and we've got people who are more into [racing] currently than I am, but everybody in the Corvette team is very much into great handling cars and we try to get the very best we can into the cars we produce. We've got a wonderful group of people who love working on it and they want to stay in this part of GM.

I think when you sum it up, it's hard to find a time in our 50-year history when things have been any more positive for the Corvette than they are right now. We're really proud of the role that we play in GM as its performance flagship and we do good business for the company and I think we reflect well on the rest of Corvette portfolio. The truck domination that GM has now regained, you can bring it back to the small-block V-8 which gets to be as good as it is because of the Corvette, but it makes our trucks the best trucks on the road, too. The Corvettes does a lot more than just taking care of our sports car business, it's kinda' like a technology proving ground for many things that happen in GM. And we're really proud of the role that we play.




INTERVIEW WITH DAVE HILL ON THE C6
 
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