I DON'T understand yuppies, particularly yuppies who say they like performance cars, but don't like the Corvette.
Their argument, one that I heard often during a week of driving two 1986 Corvettes, is that the car is "too flashy."
I don't know what that means, "too flashy." After all, these are the same people who go ga-ga over the weird sculpture that is the Porsche 911 and who passionately embrace the likes of the Ferrari 308.
Yet, the Corvette is "too flashy"?
Maybe, what they mean is that the Corvette is "too American" -- big, powerful and, for some tastes, aggressive to a fault.
Truth is, the Chevrolet Corvette outruns, outhandles and is as much or more fun to drive than any other car in the luxury-sport class. I like it, and, shucks, I think it's pretty, too.
Outstanding complaint: The spring-release light switch on the driver's side door, an apparent victim of vibration, popped out of its socket in the Corvette with the hard-riding Z51 suspension. (The other Corvette I drove was equipped with a soft suspension. Some automakers offer two-in-one suspensions, but Chevrolet believes you get optimum handling from a car designed to ride only hard or soft.)
The Z51 is a true sports car, one that doesn't believe in negotiating with bumps. The car's stubbornness can be jarring to both your body and its own.
(Do I hear laughter from the import crowd? Stop it. The decorative brightwork around the ignition lock of a Mercedes-Benz 190-E once fell out in my hands, and the speedometer on a Porsche 928 S I loved was replaced three times before the car could be delivered for test drives.)
Outstanding praise: Give medals to the people who came up with the idea of using fiberglass -- a tough, composite, corrosion- resistant material -- on the Corvette's body. A heavy-duty truck bumped the Z51's left rear-quarter panel (a day after the spring-release light switch popped out). There was a scrun-n-n-ching sound as the truck's right-front bumper met the Corvette. But the "damage" was cause for celebration. Four scratches and a tiny paint chip! No dents! No breaks! Try doing that with a metal car body.
And this: The Corvette, like other cars in its category, is equipped with an anti-lock braking system that helps prevent skidding in panic stops. 'Twould be nice if automakers would make this system available to all new-car buyers.
Ride, acceleration, handling: The real sports car buffs can have the Z51 Corvette. That car's tough suspension is too tough. I prefer the soft-suspension Corvette, because it handles exceptionally well on good and bad roads without making the driver do penance.
Both Corvettes have superior acceleration, which is not surprising for machines powered by 5.7-liter, V-8, fuel-injected, gasoline engines. You can argue about the wisdom of buying that kind of power in a land of 55-mph speed limits. But, when it comes to sports car performance, there is no argument that the Corvette is fast.
Head-turning-quotient: A matter of great debate. Some yuppies call it "flashy" and "arrogant." People who call yuppies "bland" and "arrogant" say that the Corvette is beautiful.
Sound system: AM/FM stereo radio and cassette by GM's Delco-Bose. Excellent.
Mileage: About 21 to the gallon in both cars (20-gallon capacity, each), mostly running driver only and with windows down.
Prices-as-tested: $31,387 for the Z51 and $30,117 for the soft-suspension Corvette. Hey! I said they were fun, not cheap.