Chevrolet Unveils C8 Corvette Convertible At Cape Canaveral

When such an iconic brand as Corvette enjoys a long and lustrous history with astronauts and rocket inspiration, it was no surprise that Chevrolet chose to introduce the first mid-engine Corvette convertible to the world at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Like the 2020 Corvette reveal just months earlier, several space pioneers were on-hand to enjoy, and commemorate the occasion.

Corvettes and astronauts have gone hand-in-hand ever since Jim Rathmann, a GM dealer in Melbourne Florida offered our rocket men opportunity to lease a seat in any GM vehicle for a mere one dollar. Many found themselves in Corvettes, and went on to purchase other Corvettes after their one-year agreement was complete. Some have owned several over the years.

Astronauts James Irwin, Alfred Worden and David Scott (L-R) with their 1971 red, white and blue Corvettes, and the Lunar Roving Vehicle to be used in the Apollo 15 mission.

Last night, in the Rocket Garden area of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center, both earth-bound journalists and space pioneers came together to launch the 2020 Corvette convertible into the public arena. Like many of the lift-offs that have taken place on various launch pads in the nearby area, this one was no less epic, even if this ship only travels as high as the horizon.

Drop-Top From The Start

Chevrolet has learned the appeal of convertible Corvettes and decidedly, has engineered each generation based on an open-air variant. This ensures the appropriate amount of rigidity into the chassis to afford all the ride, comfort, and performance you would expect from a Corvette. The 2020 Corvette was such a clean-slate approach, it afforded the Corvette team the opportunity to highlight the non-negotiables and build to suit. The result is a lightweight but solid foundation for both the coupe and convertible.

Corvette Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter drives the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible onto the stage during its debut Wednesday, October 2, 2019 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  (Photo by Preston Mack for Chevrolet)

While an overall weight was not specified, we learned that engineers tweaked the suspension of the convertible with specific springs and dampers to account for the additional weight of the drop-top. Other changes include a more horizontal covering for the engine and, while it restricts the view of that high-revving LT2 engine, it does allow it to breathe, thanks to an additional vent just aft of the passenger compartment.

The convertible is different from the coupe, with a flatter rear deck and buttresses that help control wind buffeting and from the side, make the car look similar to a coupe.

Careful placement of the electrically-operated top was also a concern, as this is the first time Corvette has had to carry its roof within the engine compartment. The sheet-molded composite top stows in an area made from lightweight composite panels and heat shields to manage heat from the engine when the open-air card is punched.

Push-Button Skyview

The new 2020 Corvette convertible utilizes electronics instead of hydraulics to ensure reliability and control. As with many components of the new generation Corvette, the mechanisms that comprise the power top are innovative to Corvette. Six electric motors bring both the rear tonneau cover and stow-away roof panel to life and complete the task in a mere 16 seconds and up to speeds of 30 miles per hour. A series of encoders ensure the process is carried out without hitch. Check out below to see a video of the top in action.

The controls for the top’s operation are located on the driver’s door and can be initiated with the push of a button. Unlike previous years of Corvette production, hiding the top neither hinders, nor interferes with the C8’s storage capacity. The top can be either dropped or retrieved on the fly, without so much as having to shuffle either one of those two golf bags in its rearward storage compartment. We were reminded also, that the 2020 Corvette convertible also keeps the coupe’s front storage compartment, which can fit an airline-spec carry-on and a laptop bag.

Benefits Of Buttresses

The design of the new hardtop drop-top brings with it several benefits as well. Firstly, noise is greatly reduced, thanks to the solid panels and padding. Security is also greatly enhanced for the very same reason. One thing that isn’t increased is the car’s drag coefficient, which is the same as the coupe when the top is employed.

Several astronauts were in attendance to help promote the close tie Corvette enjoys with the men who have the right stuff. They were ready and able to re-ignite GM’s $1 offer!

Interestingly, comfort within the cabin is improved, both with the top up or stowed, thanks to the dual buttresses that reside right behind the occupants. They serve to not only continue the stylish lines of the convertible but also separate its occupants from the wind buffeting that could occur if being out in the open. There is also an adjustable rear glass that can be raised or lowered to reduce wind buffeting or increase ventilation if desired.

Controls for the top reside on the driver's door. Vents and buttresses are convertible-only components. The rear tonneau lifts up and covers the roof when stowed away.

Another benefit of not having a soft top is that the hard panels should qualify the car for track days and driving events without the need for a roll bar. Although, you should check with your local track official if this is a consideration. Also, while the cockpit is quite roomy, taller enthusiasts may find a bit of interference when wearing a helmet.

The Bottom Line

When Mark Reuss presented that the 2020 Corvette coupe’s MSRP would begin under 60K, the world’s jaws dropped. While the cost of the convertible does include for the additional components and gizmos necessary to make the system work, when you consider that it boosts the price by only another $7,500, you could still consider it a bargain. Many leading up to the C8’s reveal in July were skeptical that even the base coupe could come in under the $70,000 mark. Now, Corvette does it even in fresh-air fashion.

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Production of the 2020 Corvette convertible is slated to begin production late in 2019, with deliveries slated for early next year. The new mid-engine Corvette convertible continues to bring value while raising the bar for its competition. That’s good news for Corvette enthusiasts. The fact it so well completes Corvette’s path to a mid-engine design that had been a dream of its designers for so long just goes to show that it happened at just the right time. It was well worth the wait!

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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