It’s no secret that Jay Leno has some great connections with GM. He’s a real car guy and the folks who care for his collection will tell you that they ALL need to be in drivable condition. Three-dimensional posters need not apply. Jay drives his cars. Jay also likes to drive other cars, such as the mid-engine Corvette.
In this video, the car in question being the newly-released Corvette C8 convertible that he and Corvette Chief Engineer, Tadge Juechter take for a spin around Jay’s home stomping grounds. The video was shot the week following the reveal of the C8 convertible at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Tadge admits that Jay is the first person outside of GM to drive the all-new, mid-engine convertible.
Jay has a lot of experience with cars of all makes and models and begins grilling Tadge about the change from front to mid-engine. As most of us know, Corvette’s first head engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, wanted a mid-engine Corvette decades ago. Tadge admits that it was never in the cards previously, but despite some initial criticism, physics finally forced Chevrolet’s hand to get more performance from the Corvette.
Designing the new car with such a divergence from the norm dictated that the C8 be a completely clean sheet of paper from the start. One thing that previous generations HAVE taught the folks at GM is that if you are going to make both coupe and convertible versions, it’s best to design the car as a convertible from the start, rather than adding in strengthening components to compensate for the lack of a roof. Can I get an “AMEN!” from the C4 Corvette crowd?!!!
In this case, since the top is removable on both the coupe and convertible, even the coupe is considered a convertible by the regulators. In Tadge’s words, they, “needed to design both VERY tightly together.” Of course, now both pop- and drop-top versions have a hard shell over the occupants. The self-powered, hard-top convertible system is a very sophisticated mechanism, adding about 80-pounds to the car. Chevy engineers thought about doing a soft-top, but the C8’s competition is all using hard-tops. Tadge admits that it is harder to stuff a hard top than it is a foldable soft top, especially when you keep it in the engine compartment.
Beyond hard- or soft-shell concerns, other items that make it difficult to keep the top over the engine come from storing painted surfaces, weather-stripping, and suede panels just inches away from hot engine surfaces. Various bulkheads and heat shielding help isolate the top’s materials from the engine heat.
Jay is very much a car guy and directs the conversation to the interior of the car. One of the joys of speaking with those responsible for designing and engineering something such as the C8, is you get a window into the mindset of what guides their pen. Case in point is the “squircle”. What’s a squircle, you ask? It’s the round tiller with the squared-off edges or the square with smooth corners found at the top of the steering column. Even the design of the squircle (our auto-correct is killing us right now) has a purpose, in that it allows for a more open view of the wide-screen instrument cluster.
Tadge explains that an automobile is one of the most complicated consumer products made in the world today, “and we make one every five minutes!” he says. While the C8 does have some options available currently, Tadge confides that even the base model isn’t basic. “It feels like a very good car,” he exclaims. With a 194 mph top-speed, this is the fastest standard Corvette Chevrolet has ever offered, but as Jay finds out, Chevrolet turned back the torque dial for the first 500 miles, to allow proper bedding of the necessary components during break-in. A fact that Jay highlights several times during the video.
While many of us may never enjoy a drive with Jay Leno or Tadge Juechter in a C8 Corvette, we can enjoy this video of Jay AND Tadge enjoying a drive of the new 2020 Corvette convertible. Both men are true car guys and the video is much of their banter back and forth with the car as the main subject. While the video is slightly long, it does pass through very quickly and you’ll be asking for more as the credits roll by. Guaranteed you’ll learn something new about the all-new Corvette and, you’ll have a great time doing it.