Going Postal

Tim Marrs
dyer-consequences

Thanks to posts from my Automobile Magazine-reading Facebook friends, I'm aware that the readership of this magazine is politically divided. The government takeover of General Motors is a particularly volatile issue, one that will doubtless be debated over the months leading up to the next election. But whether your tastes run toward blue or red, I think we can all form a bipartisan consensus on one topic: Chevrolet Corvette ZR1s should be used to deliver the mail.

The logic is obvious. GM is owned by the government. Since the U.S. Postal Service is also a government enterprise, why aren't we using ZR1s to deliver the mail? Do I need to figure out everything around here, or what?

Where I grew up, in the boonies, postal carriers favored vehicles with front bench seats that would allow left-foot pedal operation while delivering mail out the passenger-side window. I recall one enterprising postal employee who drove a Subaru Legacy modified with a steering wheel and pedals on the passenger side, which would've been less weird if she'd removed the original controls from the left side of the car. There was always a moment of shock when that thing came around a corner. Until you saw the second steering wheel, she looked like a lady who got carjacked by ghosts.

Now I live in the 'burbs, where the letter carriers drive standard-issue postal vans. To explore a more interesting package-transport option, I form an exploratory committee consisting of me, my mailman, and a blue Corvette ZR1. My mailman's name is Jim. Actually, it's not. But we'll call him that because I don't want him to get in trouble for being cool enough to participate in my awesome plan. He already got reprimanded once before when someone on his route caught him taking a smoke break. I mean, who narcs on their mailman?

Jim normally drives a weenie postal truck that has an exhaust note that sounds like a snoring otter. That truck is so lame that he parks it at the end of a block and just walks door to door. Today, though, there will be no parking at the end of the block. We shall go house to house in our 638-hp finery, letting the people know that today their first-class mail will not lollygag down to the local branch in the back of some shoe-shaped box of dreariness. Today, every package is going express.

Whether your tastes run toward red or blue, I think we can all form a bipartisan consensus on one topic: Chevrolet Corvette ZR1s should be used to deliver the mail.

We pull up to the first house and there's already a hurdle: Jim can't get out. I explain that interior door handles create parasitic horsepower loss unbefitting an elite machine like the Corvette. Instead, there's a high-performance push button. Once he extracts himself, Jim drags his bag of mail out from behind the seat and delivers a handful of letters. Then he climbs back in and we drive to his next stop. Which is approximately thirty feet away. We repeat the process, oh, twenty more times.

By the time we reach the opposite end of the street, Jim has given up trying to stow his mailbag, instead simply stuffing it on the floor in front of him. But then he has to climb out (which, in a Vette, is a bit of a CrossFit move, a combination of a pull-up and a lunge) while hefting the mail off the floor. "I'm feeling this in my back," he says. I hope the C7 design team reads this and notes that ingress and egress will need to improve if the Corvette is ever to compete in the letter-carrier market.

Gas mileage is also problematic. Over two blocks, which admittedly include a lot of gratuitous throttle-blipping, we fail to attain the EPA city-cycle projection of 14 mpg. We do attain 2.9 mpg. On the positive side, the citizenry is mostly amused to see their mail dropped off by a 205-mph wedge of plastic with an observation window in the hood.

I'm not sure Jim is ready to embrace the ZR1 for his day-to-day routes, but I still have time to convince him. Between this neighborhood and his next route, there's a four-lane road with a friendlier speed limit. Rolling along at a chaste pace, I drop the ZR1 into first gear and -- without warning -- floor it. The rear end squats down, the hood strains slightly skyward, and the cabin fills with an instant Fourth of July grand finale. (At full trot in first gear, the Corvette ZR1 is extremely good at convincing you that no car created by human hands could ever be quicker than the Corvette ZR1.) I hold the throttle open for about four seconds, which is easily long enough to hit 60 mph and the top of first gear. I can confidently assert that this is the highest longitudinal acceleration yet experienced by the correspondence in Jim's bag, or by Jim, who is cackling like a maniac. As am I. The ZR1 will do that to you.

I drop him back off at his usual government vehicle, which sadly does not have carbon-ceramic brakes. It does have plenty of room for mail, though. And it's probably better equipped to deal with the whole snow/rain/sleet thing. I've driven a ZR1 in the rain, and I can extrapolate that sleet and snow would severely impair the timeliness of your deliveries. By the time it reached your house, that garden zombie from the SkyMall catalog probably wouldn't even be fashionable anymore.

I must reluctantly conclude that the Corvette ZR1 should not be part of the U.S. Postal Service fleet. Door-to-door postal service demands a different sort of vehicle, one with ample cargo capacity, all-weather traction, and an automatic transmission. It's too bad the feds are already done with Chrysler, because I'm thinking Jim could really use a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.

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