100 Days of Grand Sport: Part 3 – Learn by doing

Summer of regret: Buying, road-tripping, crashing, and selling a C6 Corvette Grand Sport…all in one-hundred days

For most, cars are basic transportation. They serve a functional purpose and little to nothing more. But for those who care, cars are an obsession. They’re exciting, they’re entertaining, and they’re fun. For about a month, my Corvette was exactly that. Then the honeymoon period wore off and reality set in. The realization of how ill-suited it was to me, or rather I to it, slapped me hard across the face. Living with a dedicated sports car, even one as widely commended for its comfort as the Corvette, wasn’t working.

And then the accident happened.

Prior to the crash, getting rid of the Corvette seemed like a necessity. Between the physical pain it induced to my surgically-repaired spine and the psychological agony it caused in everyday life, I backed myself into a corner which forced me to get out of it sooner rather than later. So before the self-hatred could balloon to an even higher level, I bailed and traded the Corvette in a few long weeks after receiving it back from the body shop that restored it to health.

100 Days of Grand Sport

That was three months ago. Just a quarter of a year later, the Corvette feels like it’s been gone for years. Hell, the whole debacle feels like it happened a decade ago. But, now much the wiser for it, I came out the other side having had the life-changing experience of dream car ownership and my first self-inflicted auto accident. There was a lot to be learned and a lot of putting aside my pride that had to happen in order to accept reality and move forward. And, as it turns out, a whole lot more Toyota 4Runner.

100 Days of Grand Sport

What’s Grand Sport life like?

What’s life with a Grand Sport really like? What went wrong with my experience of dream car ownership? Why did I buy another 4×4? It was a long road, but this past year I found out for myself.

Exactly one-hundred days after buying it, my Corvette was gone. I hadn’t even put Hooniverse stickers on it. The problems with its place in my life were omnipresent and endless but can be pinned down to one description: Aside from going on fun-purposed drives, I never wanted to be in the car. It was a blast to bang gears, attack corners, cruise back-roads, or hammer down the highway with the roof off on the way back from the beach. But drive it the other 99% of the time, like a normal car is meant to be driven? Serve as a daily, and not just a toy? That’s where it fell apart.

100 Days of Grand Sport

My short stint as a Corvette owner brought about some revelations. First, that everything is relative. Owners and journalists talk endlessly about how comfortable and easy to spend time in the ‘Vette is, but that means nothing compared to what you and your own perception of comfort and ease are. Me, with my fucked up back and long commute on horrid Connecticut roads, found out the hard way that given my conditions, a Grand Sport beats the absolute shit out of you. It crashes over bumps, tramlines like a runaway freight train, and requires a massive amount of effort to drive with caution on the tight, rough roads of the Northeast. It demands a ton of attention to drive, and even more so to own. Relative to others, maybe not. But in every-day use it’s still a hardcore sports car, and it makes that known constantly.

But it wasn’t just the car; it was me. Every time I drove it, I worried. Every time I parked it, I worried. Every mile, every bout of weather, every day: I worried. The Corvette caused stress and anxiety unlike anything else I’ve owned, and to a degree I did not know was possible from a vehicle. Not to mention the physical pain it caused. Yes, my spine is the exception to the rule being that a surgeon removed a herniated disc, but still: the Corvette is simply not a long-distance daily commuter for somebody like me.

The Corvette came with a number of other “catches” that aren’t fully considered and that don’t become wholly apparent until you live with a vehicle. Perpetually frustrating was commuting. Paranoia overcame everything, and exerting full-fledged attention to drive the car with care on the front and tail ends of a long day of work is simply tiring. Commuting changed from bothersome to strenuous and exhausting. The Grand Sport may be more laid back than other cars with a comparable performance, but it still isn’t a “sit back and relax” car. Rather, and thanks in part to the poor condition of the roads near me, the GS is one that requires involvement even on a highway commute. And though you can leave it in one gear for long stretches of slowdowns and not think about shifting until congestion clears, the heavy clutch and heavy steering made for a less-than-ideal two-plus hours every day.

100 Days of Grand Sport

Parking, too, caused nonstop difficulty. The Grand Sport is so wide that the only spot the car would fit in at the gym I frequent was a third of a mile away. The low front lip also scraped on everything. My parking garage alone caused four glance-grabbingly loud scrapes each time I arrived or left. Some parking lots were actually impossible to get into without shearing off the splitter.

That upkeep though…

100 Days of Grand Sport

Then there was the brutal prospect of upkeep and replacement items. Tires are an easy $300 per corner and likely won’t last more than 15,000 miles even if you drive responsibly; not very conducive to my ~30k mile/year life. And with no spare or jack it means that any blow-out, the worry for which is always present given the area’s crater-like potholes, requires a flatbed. Maintenance too, while not as expensive as many of the other cars that share the Grand Sport’s performance credentials, was astronomical. Thanks to the dry sump system using nearly eleven (yes, eleven) quarts of synthetic, an oil change costs $100+ even doing it yourself.

And of course, there’s the aspect of weather. Driving a C6 Grand Sport in the rain is as nerve wracking as being the passenger on a plane landing during a massive thunderstorm (which is an ironic metaphor considering those are the conditions that led me to crash mine). You’re at the mercy of the car and the tires, so if you have to daily it in the wet just know it’s far from a simple point-and-shoot vehicle. There’s absolutely worse cars for rain, but bad Connecticut roads plus wide run-flat rear tires in conjunction with big power and the fear of the area’s awful drivers made anything but dry conditions a genuine anxiety-inducer.

Cold and snow also mandate a two-car lifestyle if you live anywhere that gets winter weather. People (on the forums of course) will tell you that you can in fact drive it in the snow, but those people are either, a) out of their minds, or b) out of their minds and lying to you. Due to lack of ground clearance, 2-3” of snow would probably be the max…if you’re a lunatic. Snow tires cost as much as most winter beaters, if you can even find them. I’m sure it can be done, and I always advocate RWD and winter tires as more than capable enough, but in this case it shouldn’t.

Let me be clear: everything mentioned above is in fact a reality that I should have anticipated prior to purchasing the Corvette. And yes, they all seem like common sense and “no shit!” aspects of owning a vehicle as extreme as a C6 Grand Sport when looked at from afar. But, as I mentioned before, it’s extremely easy to be disillusioned when your then-current Subaru is providing nowhere near the experience you want and your budgets somehow allows for an eight-cylinder, removable roof-equipped sports car. I had to give it a shot, though, or I would have always been wondering, “What if…”

And so, after a very brief and strenuous one-hundred days of ownership, my time with a Corvette came to an end. Though I added nearly seven-thousand miles to the odometer the number of days I actually drove it was only about two-thirds of that. The undoing of my immediate satisfaction with the car happened shortly after buying it, coming into sight from stressing when leaving it parked to being unable to take it to a hiking trailhead to the five minutes of hobbling around upon arrival at work due to the spine pain it caused. Nothing about owning the Corvette felt like it was “right,” and the prospect of long-term ownership wasn’t helped by my own fully realizing that I’m an off-road and adventure guy, not a go-fast guy. A lesson learned the hard way, but one that I’m glad to have learned nonetheless.

As poorly as it went, buying my dream car was a vital experience that I needed to have as a car and driving enthusiast. It had to happen for me to understand that living with a Corvette as your primary vehicle, especially when you have back problems and live in New England and have to get to work regardless of the conditions, is a dumb fucking idea. The Grand Sport was a monster. A car that devoured roads, that demanded focus, that commanded attention. A car that I’ll always have memories of that one crazy summer with. One-hundred days: a moment in time.

100 Days of Grand Sport

After accepting and coming to terms with the time and financial burdens incurred, I bought the truck I should have in the first place: a TRD Off Road 4Runner, to complement the Stormtrooper project. It’s much more “me” in every way, shape, and form, and serves the daily driver purpose damn-near perfectly for my needs. Anyone close to me knows I value adventures, new experiences, and going places more than I ever have and ever will value going fast. Unlike the Corvette, this one’s a keeper. Yes, I now own two 4Runners. Yes, I’m insane.

Though it might sound like it, the tale of 100 Days of Grand Sport is in fact a “meet your heroes” story. Despite my discontent and the outcome of my specific situation, this isn’t a story that ends with me saying, “don’t take that chance.” Maybe think things through a little more than I did and definitely consider the consequences, but do it: take the leap. Meet your heroes. You have to have that experience for yourself, for your own growth, and to make the most of your own automotive life. Just make sure that you can palate the fallout should things go awry.

100 Days of Grand Sport

This past summer, I tried to make a C6 Corvette Grand Sport serve as my piece of automotive fixation and hopeful fun-enhancement. I had hoped its presence would improve every aspect of my life or at least bring about some kind of euphoric stress relief, but it did the exact opposite. And yet, despite how it all went down, I came out the other side just fine. Better, to be honest: though the ‘Vette might not have worked for me, it did ultimately steer me in the direction of honing in on and becoming more serious about the things I’m most passionate about in the automotive world. And, like driving half-way across the country with my brother, like buying and crashing my dream car, and like putting into story form the tale of how it all went down, that’s an experience that simply cannot be replaced.

What the Corvette taught me about myself was that 100 days might feel like forever, but it’s a relatively short time. And there should always be a vehicle in your life that you can see yourself keeping forever, and that makes your life better. It took buying and living with a Corvette to truly figure out what that vehicle is for me.

Life is short; drive what you love. This year, I found that is not the Chevrolet Corvette. It’s the Toyota 4Runner.

…for now.

Part One / Part Two

By |2019-01-14T11:46:55+00:00January 14th, 2019|100 Days of Grand Sport|22 Comments

About the Author:

Ross Ballot
Automotive ADHD, personified. Current owner of an NC Miata Club PRHT. Lover of all things off-roading; amateur autocrosser. Perpetually looking for the next vehicle he will regret.