Kelly Johnson always seems to be a pretty happy guy, but a person can understand why his grin has been a little broader over the past month or so.
In mid-April, while Wisconsin continued to experience a cool, wet April, Johnson was flown out to Las Vegas where temperatures were in the 80s. But it was not just the weather which boosted his mood—it was his reason for being there.
The Vogel Chevrolet salesman and longtime Corvette owner was in Las Vegas to experience a Chevrolet Sales Academy and, in particular, an up-close look at the new Corvette. He was like a kid in a candy store, only in this candy store the visitors were allowed to touch all they wanted. In fact, he was allowed to get behind the wheel and run the new Corvette as hard and as fast as he wanted over a 2.2-mile closed road course.
“They let us run the wheels off of them,” Johnson said of his experience at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort. “There was rubber coming off the size of your fist. Every three days they put on new brakes and new tires.”
“I’ve never been to something like this,” Johnson said, adding that he found out upon arrival that the guests would be timed in qualifying heats on the course. Despite not having any racing experience, Johnson was one of the three drivers to make the “fast” class.
Terrain, curves, speed, brakes
The course offered a small straightaway on which Johnson hit speeds of 100 mph, but there was plenty of up-and-down terrain and tight curves as well which forced some hard braking.
With 2014 Corvettes expected to be available at Vogel Chevrolet in Kiel starting next month, there is now nobody better than Johnson in this region to talk about what the Corvette can do on the road. And to hear him talk, the car is simply an unbelievable performer.
All alone in the vehicle on the Las Vegas road course, Johnson worked the new Corvette through its seven manual gears. A six-speed automatic version is available and, somewhat surprisingly, he said customers are about split on which option they prefer.
The 2014 Stingray offers a 6.2-liter V8 engine. “That’s 460 hp right out of the box,” Johnson said. In Las Vegas he climbed a tower to watch several of the Corvettes on the track. He said, “They sound like you’re at Kaukauna watching the late models run.”
Can it get any better?
In a classic understatement, Johnson said driving the new Corvette was “very good.” He added, “They (customers) are going to be getting themselves into a car where they say, ‘How can you do any better?’”
The new Corvette has an aluminum space frame, making it extremely strong yet relatively light. Combining a light frame with all that power might seem like a recipe for disaster, but the exact opposite is the case thanks to all the safety and performance measures built into the new Corvette.
In addition to the road course, Johnson also got to drive the vehicle on a small circle track as well as a figure-eight track which had been wet down to show the new Corvette’s performance ability on a wet surface. Johnson described its handling as “phenomenal,” saying it seemed as though there was nothing he could do to make the vehicle slip, slide or threaten to flip over. “They have so many safety things with this car,” he said.
Johnson said he worked the new Corvette so hard that it was not the car that started to break down, but himself. By the time he was done he said he was dripping sweat and almost seeing in tunnel vision because of all the hard, fast turns he had executed.
Plenty of interest locally
About the only complaint Johnson has is that high worldwide demand has kept a new Corvette from appearing on the lot in Kiel, although that is expected to change next month. With a starting price of $51,900 and a nice Z51 package going for around $68,000 to $70,000, a person might wonder how many buyers there will be around here. “A lot of them,” Johnson answered, pointing out that there are few fans more rabid than
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