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.
A rivalry played out on Instant Messenger
Jason_Cammisa: Hey Ez, I heard you prefer the Vette? Not surprised . . . I talked to your wife a few months back, and a couple of things she said proved what I’ve thought all along about guys who like Corvettes.
Ezra_Dyer: Next you’ll be making insinuations about the anatomical implications of my monster truck. Besides, when it comes to overcompensation, I think the 911 and the Corvette are pretty much even. Except that the 911 is aimed at people who want to spend twice the money for less performance, because that’s how much they hate America.
Jason_Cammisa: LOL. Right, that’s it: I’m a communist because I like engineering over brute force. Funny you brought up your monster truck – doesn’t it have a pushrod engine and a leaf-spring suspension, just like the Corvette? My lawn mower has an overhead cam, and it’ll probably have direct injection before a Corvette does.
Ezra_Dyer: And if your lawn mower had the 911’s weight distribution, you wouldn’t have any toes. You depict the Corvette as this looming, crude ogre, but those leaf springs can be dampened by the same Magnetic Selective Ride Control system used by the Ferrari 599GTB Fiorano. Unlike Porsche, Chevrolet sticks with certain technologies not out of nostalgia but because they actually work.
Jason_Cammisa: Oh, please, that suspension is straight out of Fred Flintstone’s ride. I think you’ve gotten high off the fumes from the Fisher-Price plastics inside the Vette: it’s Chevy that sticks with old tech out of nostalgia. *cough* heavy fiberglass bodywork *cough*
Ezra_Dyer: Sorry, what were you saying? I was just looking at the Porsche Web site and wondering if $1010 is a fair price for “air vent slats painted in exterior color.” If I were to spend six figures on a Vette, I’d have to look at boring unpainted vent slats while I was lapping the Nürburgring faster than any production Porsche ever. In any case, I think the price-versus-performance disparity makes this less of a true rivalry than a philosophical discussion – if we had, say, seventy grand, obviously I’d get a Z06, you’d get a 911, and everyone with a would wonder what either of us was thinking.
Jason_Cammisa: Ha. Let’s not even go there . . .