When the very first Corvette made its debut at the 1953 New York Auto Show, it was introduced as a convertible-only version. Three hundred of these Polo White vehicles would go on to be hand-built that year, and for the next decade, a drop-top was the only type of Corvette you could buy. It wasn’t until the arrival of the C2 Corvette in 1963 when the first coupe would be offered under the new “Stingray” model name.
For that reason, some purists may argue that a Corvette isn’t truly complete until its roof can be hidden away. Fast-forward to today, and we’re witnessing a new era of Corvettes finding their true selves via a retractable hardtop — a first-ever feature for this American icon.
With the engine now situated just ahead of the rear wheels, Chevrolet’s engineers and designers were presented with a new challenge of delivering an open-air experience that offers comparable performance to the coupe version. From the reaction of the crowd gathered in front of the Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center, we think it’s safe to say that Chevrolet more than delivered on its promise of sleek looks and maximum usability.
“We put the world on notice when we introduced the first mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette a few months ago, and now we’re raising the bar with the first-ever hardtop Corvette convertible,” said Brian Sweeney, Chevrolet U.S. vice president. “And the convertible will be priced only $7,500 more than entry 1LT Stingray coupe.”
In as little as 16 seconds, the body-colored hardtop — powered by six electric motors — stows seamlessly above the engine bay, and can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph. What’s even more impressive is that the convertible can store two sets of golf clubs even when the top is down. The frunk remains unchanged, offering room to hold an airline-spec carry-on bag and a laptop bag.
While the hardtop offers a cleaner silhouette and a quieter cabin, it presents unique engineering challenges for a vehicle that’s focused on performance. But by no accident, the mid-engined Corvette Stingray was actually developed as a convertible from the very beginning, and is the most structurally rigid Corvette ever produced. With the roof closed and paired with the rear spoiler from the Z51 Performance Package, the convertible sees the same aerodynamic efficiency as the coupe.
On-road performance numbers are yet to be determined for this topless ‘Vette, but we’re confident it will be very close to the Stingray coupe, seeing as how the same 6.2-liter V8 LT2 engine lies under the composite panels and heat shields of the tonneau cover. When equipped with the performance exhaust, this small block motor will produce 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque — the most power for any entry Corvette.
Other convertible-specific highlights include a power-adjustable glass divider window, jet-inspired nacelles that reduce air recirculation, tonneau cover vents, and specially-tuned spring and damper rates.
And just when we thought the show was almost over, Chevrolet surprised everyone with a special appearance by the new C8.R race car, piloted onto the stage by Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner. Wearing a silver and yellow livery inspired by both the 1973 Aerovette and 1959 Corvette Stingray racer, Chevy’s first mid-engine GTLM competitor will hit the track in January 2020 at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible will begin production around March of next year, but you can get a head start by building your own spec at Chevrolet.com, and then bring it to your local AutoNation Chevrolet dealership to secure your spot in line.