The Carchive has, once again, reached critical mass. The shelves are so densely packed that inserting one more brochure could lead to a black hole forming, and my study wasn’t built with that in mind. This morning the 1985-2000 North American section nigh on exploded off the racking, and Camaros, Imperials, Intrepids and many more fluttered down like massive obsolete confetti.
And when one particular brochure landed open at the interior view, there formed in my mind a topic for Hooniversal discussion. That is, out of all the cars on planet earth, which one has the biggest contrast between the promise of its exterior and the reality of its cockpit? We want to know your thoughts, so take the jump, where you can vehemently disagree with my nomination.
(You can click on the image below to make it bigger, if you like)
I was 16 when the C5 Chevy Corvette came out, and it didn’t take particularly long before the odd example was felt — and then a little while later, heard — rumbling around the narrow streets of Essex. It made an immediate impression on me, somehow seeming even longer and lower and wider than the already long, low and wide C4, which I had incidentally fallen head over heels in love with after first seeing on The A-Team, and had formed an even closer bond with when I first saw the up+over headlamp mechanism operate in A View To A Kill.
It was a great, great day, some time before I gained my driving license in ’99, when a chance encounter had me chatting to a C5 owner, who after humouring me as I fawned, dumbfounded, over his Corvette, offered me a seat behind the wheel. I could hardly refuse, so I swung my body in and reclined into the soft black leather throne… and then found it really hard to conceal my disappointment.
Here I was, sitting inside what was, well, a lower, darker version of literally any other American car you could buy at the time. In ’98 my family had hired a Lumina in Florida, and the C5’s Delco stereo looked virtually the same. The HVAC controls were family hatchback straightforward and the window and mirror controls were there on the door, like with almost any other car you could buy. The instrument pack, dominated by a huge, clear speedo and tach, was no more exotic than that of a Vauxhall Omega, and was nothing like as interesting as the old digi-analogue mix in the C4 — even if it was an order of magnitude better to actually use. The straight-row automatic gear selector, too, could have been from literally any other car GM made. It had come as a shock to find that the Corvette’s mundane interior seemed so disconnected from the potency of its outside look.
Of course, today, I appreciate that the C5 Corvette’s ‘just another GM car’ interior helped to make it easy to live with, as well as keeping the price down. But teenage me felt cheated. It was like finding out that Mickey Mouse at Disney World actually has a grad student inside him, or that Christmas presents don’t really come from the North pole. So that’s me and my disappointment. What about yours? I daresay there are far more notable examples of the outside of a car writing cheques that the inside can’t even find to take to the bank.
(All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. It was a Lumina 3.1 Euro, hired from Alamo. And I still love EPCOT)