They are the yin and yang of sports cars, with a full century of heritage between them. Chevy's Corvette and Porsche's 911 are the patron saints of the go-fast faith, yet they are so diametrically opposed that their respective followers never play well together. Five years ago, following heated debate, this contentious duo topped Automobile Magazine's catalog of 100 Coolest Cars.
Although we admire both of these sports cars for the power and speed they bring to the driving party, let's remember that each of them grew out of humble origins. The Corvette was born in 1953 as a 90-pound weakling with a Blue Flame Six and a two-speed automatic transmission inhibiting its vitality. A decade later, when the 911 debuted at the Frankfurt auto show, an unassuming 130-hp, 2.0-liter engine buzzed in its tail. Before Porsche settled on flat sixes, a few rogue four-cylinder engines corrupted the bloodline. The Corvette's closet also harbors skeletons. In 1975, the catalytic converter's arrival left the Vette's 5.7-liter V-8 with an anemic 165 hp.
Through six generations of relentless development, both cars have prospered. Porsche's trophy case is stuffed with world rally and road-racing championships; two 24 Hours of Le Mans victories were also earned by race cars with thin but legitimate ties to the production 911. Likewise, Corvette C5 and C6 racers have been the scourge of the GT category, with one overall Daytona 24 Hour win, six Le Mans class victories, and eight ALMS championships to their credit. Lessons learned in racing have made the top roadgoing versions of each marque capable of defending their honor at the Nürburgring's Nordschleife.
About half a million Porsche 911s have been produced over five decades. The current menu lists three roof configurations, two drivelines, three transmissions, and countless trim options. Engines range from the base 345-hp, 3.6-liter flat six to a track-ready, 530-hp twin-turbo six also displacing 3.6 liters.
More than 1.5 million Corvettes have been built. C6 models have recently nibbled away some of the 911's savoir-faire edge with conscientious quality, trim, steering, and transmission upgrades. But it's the bang for the buck best exemplified by the 638-hp, $109,530 ZR1 that keeps the Corvette faithful coming back for more.