Six Months ago, I Bought My First Car. It Was a Corvette On Bring a Trailer
TGRIP last edited by TGRIP
I had planned on publishing this two weeks from now, on the anniversary of when the car finally ended up in my driveway, but due to forces outside of my and our collective control, my deadline’s been pushed up by two weeks (emphasis on deadline. Long live Oppo-lock). Still, I choose to think of this as no better time to get in my first, last, and only Opposite Lock article in before the oppocalypse, and I’m preparing to upload this to Drivetribe in the not too distant future. For now though, I’d like to answer three main questions: how did this end up as my first car, how did I get it, and what has it been like to daily a Chevy C7 Corvette Stingray for the past six months?
Prologue: Automotive Late Bloomer
You might think (…okay, you probably are thinking) that now is an odd time to buy a car, especially a sportscar of this caliber. But truth be told I have been looking for what would be my legitimate first car for the past two years, since I graduated college. Despite being into cars since I was fourteen (thanks to a mix of being into Transformers and a friend of my dad’s introducing me to Top Gear), it wasn’t until I was twenty-two that I got my license. Growing up in a city with great public transport, I never really needed a car, and it was only after I moved to a college town where every place of interest was located a mile away from campus for god knows what reason, that I really felt the real need for a car of my own. Even so, things never quite lined up until I got serious about learning how to drive, and it was after I moved back home and changed colleges that I got good enough to pass the test (the written part took a couple of tries, but I nailed the actual behind-the-wheel exam on the first time). For the next two years, my daily was my mom’s 2002 bugeye Impreza WRX, which is about as good as a starting-car as you can do. Practical, safer than you’d think, and it’s quick and nimble so it’s very fun and engaging to drive. That car was my first daily driver, but my name was never on the title, and she still paid the insurance on it (but I paid for gas and half of the costs of the Subie’s servicing and parts; a good deal in my book).
The Impreza’s still in great shape and still a blast to drive, but after I finally graduated from college, I started looking around for what would legitimately be my first car: name on the title, I pay the literal price for it, everything. Of course, I mainly considered buying used through the usual channels of craigslist and dealers around Portland with pre-owned inventory, but since 2018 I also got into Bring a Trailer after watching a Ford GT (that was also in Portland, oddly enough) go under the gavel. 2019 was when I started to figure my way through post college life along with some family issues, all the while starting out on my freelancing career. In 2020 however, after the world effectively ground to a halt, surfing BaT became a daily habit. I’ll admit that I was only partly serious about winning something on the site, but there is always the element of a possibly great deal popping up, and with nothing to do while being in decent financial shape (me and my folks have donated our government stimulus check money to our state’s food bank, and I’ve donated to some bail funds and senate races, so… yeah, I’m doing fine, but I know that I’m extremely lucky in this circumstance while many others in the US aren’t doing so well). A two-year long search, mixed in with having not much to do; something was gonna happen…
My criteria for a car I want to own is similar to what most people want in a car: not too expensive, good to drive, decently practical, livable on a daily basis, and easy to maintain, with bonus points if it’s safe and/or gets agreeable gas mileage. In April, I came very close to pulling the trigger on a car that was pretty close to what I wanted: a Mitsubishi Evo X Final Edition. Not only did this fit all of the aforementioned requirements, but it was effectively a modern day version of the Subaru Impreza WRX, and being in Idaho, I could theoretically drive to it and bring it home without too much hassle. The car looked in good shape, and my hope was to get it for $25K or less. I just missed out on it though by just over a grand. I wasn’t too heartbroken about it, and I dipped my toes into the bidding process for the first time, experiencing the stress and hope that comes with it (and since then I read into what Mitsubishi reliability is really like, so I might’ve dodged a bullet there). Little did I know that two weeks later however, I’d be back in again, with a much different result to show for it…
Part 1: Holy Crap, I Won... Oh Crap, I’ve Won
Throughout the short process of looking into the Mitsubishi, I had my dad help advise me on it, from the basics of seeing if it was a bad idea and telling me to stop, to doing research on it to see if it was a good buy. He’s a car guy too, and unlike me he’s (by his own words) murder when it comes to car buying. He’s my second pair of eyes, and if he doesn’t see anything wrong with the vehicle in question, it’s probably a good deal. Which brings us to early May, when this popped up: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. 7-speed manual. Z51 performance package. 3LT trim package. Less than 21K miles. Clean title with full records. And it was less than 100 miles from my house. My brain was still working in this moment, because it was shouting “this is too good to be true.” But my heart, my dumb, car-loving heart, stood tall and said “go for it.” As did my dad, somewhat unexpectedly.
I’ve never been a “corvette-guy,” but I have found that each generation of corvette has something respectable about it. The different and distinct sense of style in the C1, C2, and C3 (which are classical, stone-cold cool, and vulgar respectively), the necessary redesign and modernity of the C4, the accessibility of the C5, and the giant-killing potential of the C6, which is the corvette generation I grew up with. The C7 though... I would call this one of the ten best cars of the decade, because this was the first corvette generation that not only lived up to its hype, but exceeded expectations. Not only was the C7 the first corvette that was genuinely a world-beater, it even did the impossible of making corvette cool again (more on that in a bit). So cool that I remember the exact moment I saw one in real life at the Oregon State University campus, and when I saw this one up for auction my immediate response was “oh no,” because I knew in this moment that I wanted this car.
Even though this was my second BaT auction, I still... okay, I still didn’t really know what I was doing. Contact the seller beforehand for, say, a presale inspection? What do I look like to you, smart? Anyway, I placed my first bid for $18.5K on May 8th, and day by day came back to see where it was going. My hope was to get it for under $40K (although I was willing to go a little above that if I got into a last minute bidding war with someone), at it inevitably went up from there. By May 12th, it was up to $33K, and the hours ticked on by as it went up by $250 margins. I had planned to get some food so that I didn’t do something stupid on an empty stomach, and I got home in time with lunch with less than ten minutes to go until the gavel came down. I ended up taking it up to an even $37K (oddly enough, exactly twice what my original bid was), and the final five minutes were the most stressful I had felt in a long time.
It’s hard to describe feeling both “oh man, I want to win this”, while also having a little voice in your head going “oh please, someone else bid.” Four minutes, then three, then two, then one... May 12th, at 1:12 PM, I’d won it at $37K. At that moment, my appetite had instantly vanished. “Holy crap, I won!... oh crap, I won.”
Part 2: A Hundred Miles in a Corvette with No Plates
You know how you’re supposed to play things smooth in a call with someone you’re buying a car from, that you’re not supposed to sound like someone who’s already decided they’re buying the car no matter what? Yeah, I forgot that rule ten minutes after I’d won and gotten the contact info for the seller. Was I friendly? Yes. Was I audibly so excited that the owner told me to calm down a bit on the phone call? Also yes. That issue on my part aside, the owner (who I shall refer to as Mr. W) was great to talk to and work out the specifics with. I made it clear that a presale inspection was required for the sale, and he was fully on board with it, he was cool with a cashier’s check, and we both agreed that we’d meet up as his home the following week to check the car out in person.
As it happened, his neighborhood was surprisingly easy to get too, as it turned out to be right off a highway that goes east-to-west from Portland to the coastal town he lived in. An hour-and-a-half towards the coast, through some beautiful mountain & forest roads? Sounded great... if only we had a better car to get there in. Despite having parents in their mid-to-late sixties, none of the cars they have between them are made for long distance (read “remotely comfortable”) travel, and because as I’m socially distancing, they’re the only people I’ve had close contact with in the past nine months, so I had to choose one of their cars to go with on a 180 mile round trip. I brought my dad with me and we borrowed my mom’s leased Kia Soul, thinking it’d be softer on both of us than a 18 year old Impreza, and oh how wrong we were. It’s not that the suspension is harsh, but this basic model has the worst seats I’ve ever felt on a car, and certainly something made in the 2010s. “Lumber support” is a concept that never entered into the discussion during this thing’s design process.
If it sounds like I’m getting sidetracked on a South Korean city car, I’m bringing this up because my backache made seeing the jet black sportscar sitting in the driveway all the more appealing. I couldn’t have taken it home that day because I wouldn’t have been insured on it and I didn’t want to tempt fate (and any highway patrol officers that day), but the feeling was still magical. “That could actually be my car, holy shit.” We pulled into Mr. W’s driveway, he came out, we were all wearing masks and avoiding physical contact, and my dad proceeding to walking around the car to inspect it for rust. Even though it’s a car with modern rust-proofing on it, the main issue we had going through our heads was that this car had been living on the coast, with salt-air, for six years, so it was something to look our for. Thankfully, a good place to look for rust on a C7 are the hinges on its hood, and they, like the rest of the car, were effing mint.
Mr. W made it clear that this was his weekend car, and over the past six years had treated it as such. Even the steering wheel felt new, what that sort of pristine feel of leather that still has some sort of gloss on it. He also made it clear that he too wasn’t a “corvette guy,” buying Porsches and Ferraris beforehand before going for a C7 because it was the first time a corvette truly set a global standard for performance and quality (he was even selling this C7 to make room for a C8 he was waiting to take delivery of at that point). He was also a real car guy too, since I spotted in his garage his actual daily, which was a late 2000s Maserati Quattroporte 4.7. In his words, it’s like having a BMW or Audi, except much, much cooler, and I fully agreed with him, even asking if he wouldn’t mind starting it up so I could hear the Ferrari sourced engine on tick-over (he happily obliged). So, great guy to buy a car from.
The test drive of the ‘vette wasn’t anything special: half a mile down the road in his neighborhood, and half a mile back. He did offer for me to take it on the highway, but I declined stating that I knew the car would be gangbusters there, but I wanted to see what it’d be like in slower conditions, what it’d be to drive “normally.” I’m sure this sounded odd and perhaps a bit pretentious, but he obliged, and in doing so I got an idea of what it felt like at low speeds, what the ride was like on normal roads, and even how hard it was to reverse it and turn it around (with a back-up camera, neither was remotely hard). After 25 minutes give or take, we had agreed to go through with the deal, and he even offered for me to take the car home right then and there, but I gave him my hesitation due to insurance coverage, and we agreed to just exchange paperwork at that moment. He’d get the check, and I’d get the title and other legal stuff pertaining to the car. The following Memorial day weekend, I got coverage on the car, the check went through, and I waited five more days until the Tuesday after that weekend to wait for a day with little traffic and clear weather to take the car home to Portland.
For the second trek out to the coast, my mom volunteered to go this time (she had been cooped up for a few months at that time as well, but again, we all wore masks and kept our distance), and we took her 2010's Jeep Wrangler. It’s kind of sad to say that a Kia is less comfortable than what’s effectively a small truck, but that’s the fact of the matter (and she’s looking as forward to the end of her lease on the Kia as I am). One last time out to the coast, and there was no rain, the sun was out, and the traffic was down. Perfect conditions to take a 455 hp sportscar home in, and 100 miles to get to know it. All with a folder of paperwork in the passenger seat to explain to an officer what a black Corvette with no plates and no title in the window was doing in the hands of someone in his mid-twenties.
Part 3: Living With the Keanu Reeves of Sportscars
I really couldn’t have asked for a better day to take that car home on. Good weather, great roads, and I even had a bright white Jaguar F-Type to play around with for the first few miles back. While the car was still on its first set of tires from 2014 (worn out semi-slick sports, which at slow speed chirped as if you were running over songbirds when getting out of a driveway), that didn’t bother me too much; as long as I kept things under control, it should be fine... but let’s see what this can do, yeah? Stepping on the throttle of not just a corvette, not just an LS, but a V8 for the first time is an experience that’s both spiritual and liberating at the same time. Twice the power and no turbo lag like I’ve come to expect from the Impreza, while weighing about the same... I kind of wished I had a gopro set up at that moment, because I got the biggest, stupidest smile on that face at that moment. I didn’t break the speed limit at that moment, but I did get right up to it in the span of a second. Initial impression: this car is properly quick.
I chose not to mess around with the settings too much on that drive back; I tried out the various driving modes, but settled on Eco and Touring on the journey. Second impression: this car feels... fine. Not aggressive, not harsh, a bit firm in terms of ride quality, but overall approachable and, dare I say, friendly. All the while being the king of overtaking on the highway. Unsurprisingly to those who are familiar with LSes, at any speed, any RPM, in pretty much any gear, you put your foot down and this thing pulls. The power doesn’t feel absolutely bottomless, but it feels deep enough for you to never be wanting in any scenario, like say when a silver Dodge Charger comes up right behind you in the inside lane. I don’t know how I forgot that Chargers are go-to undercover cop cars, but I gave the ‘vette a bit of a bootfull, and sure enough, red and blue lights came on behind me. “Are you kidding me- of course” was my immediate thought, as I pulled into the center lane to prepare for a stern talking to (again, no plates, and no title in the window). As I did though, the patrol car blew right past me, and proceeded to pull over a Mazda SUV that had been two cars in front of me. I proceeded to laugh for the next five miles straight; I really, really should’ve fitted a gopro for that trip.
Initial reactions back home towards the ‘vette were overwhelmingly positive. I know performance-wise it’s a bit of an uneasy sell to call this a supercar, but just from how other people act around it, it has that supercar quality where people like seeing it, ask fun questions about it, and will complement you and it. It has on more than one occasion been likened to a batmobile (gotta give kudos to Mr. W spec’ing it to a theme with not just a black paintjob, but black leather, black wheels, and even black brake calipers). The best part is that a fair number of people think this is the brand new corvette, or that it at least “doesn’t look like it’s six years old.” The initial response to this car back in 2013 was that it looked great, and I’m delighted to report that it’s aging pretty damn well in the looks department.
Now, I had bought this thing with the full intention to have it be my everyday car, and I’ll be forthcoming in saying that it does have a few shortcomings. Or rather, longcomings, with the first real issue I encountered being in parking it, and not being used to a car with a hood that’s so long (and being raised all my life in cars with relatively short hoods). Yeah, I bumped it more than once in the first month of ownership, but never so badly that it was noticeable, and I did quickly recalibrate my “parking-sense” to take into account this thing’s length. It’s also really low, so parallel parking next to curbs is another thing to consider as well. Those two key things aside, the only other areas I’d bring up is the trunk-release switch being right above your left knee and being a bit too easy to press when you’re getting out of the car, and that the trunk itself requires you to open a door or window in order to close properly, since the air has nowhere to go when you close it, and the trunk’s so light that it’s surprisingly tricky to fully close. All that said, those are the only problems I’ve had with this car; it’s truly amazing in how easy it is to live with.
I know I’m on a bit of a honeymoon period with how cheap premium gas is right now, but $40 fully fills up this car’s 18 gallon fuel-tank, and in eco-mode, in seventh gear, this thing will crack 30 mpg. And in the city, on the thirstiest setting (touring, surprisingly), the worst I’ve done is 15 mpg, so I’m averaging 18-19 mpg, which actually isn’t that much worse than what the Impreza manages to do, and the four extra gallons between the two make a world of difference for how far you can actually go. And even in traffic, it never tugs at its leash; unlike what I’ve heard of corvettes of old, the clutch isn’t heavy, the gearbox doesn’t require both arms to operate, and it has so much torque that it almost feels like it doesn’t want to stall. I have a few times, but it’s always surprised me because it gives you little warning when it’s about to do so. And stalling it isn’t too much of a worry since this is a car you can start in fourth gear. This livability with its performance is why I’ve nicknamed it “Keanu”; it looks menacing, but when you spend just a little time and get to know it, it’s really just a big V8 softie of a car that invites you to drive 20 miles for no particular reason. All the while being something that when prodded just a little bit, shows its true colors as a 911 fighter and R8 killer. This is the best kind of car: one where you’re getting two vehicles for the price of one.
I could go on with how incredible the suspension and traction control is in how tame this feels during cold and wet weather conditions, how big the trunk is, how fantastic the cabin is in giving you a perfect feeling of “control” in a cockpit, but I feel I should bring up the one area this car has concerned me: servicing. Now, the parts aren’t too expensive, and the dealer I’ve had do the work is pretty good in getting stuff fixed in a timely fashion at a reasonable price (if you’re reading this, thank you so much Irving), but despite getting this car for under $40K, I have had to put $5K into either maintenance or repairs. Sure, stuff like tires, filters, and flushing various liquids isn’t at all surprising (but the all-weather run-flats for the Z51 will set you back a thousand dollars), but the two things that came out of left were the AC compressor, which had a solenoid go on it which meant that I wasn’t getting any cold air (during the hottest weekend of the year to boot), and its first check engine light came on a couple of weeks ago for a corroded fan and the part’s accompanying motor. I’m sure these are just teething issues for a first year model, but there is a part of me thinking that although the coastal salt-air didn’t do anything visible out the outside or even underneath the car, what did it do to stuff inside that’s harder to inspect... Oh, and quick note, I highly recommend a transmission fluid swap if you are getting one of these, as it fixed the issue I had with second gear being a tricky little sod to downshift to.
Epilogue: To Quote Ferris, “If you have the means...”
I don’t want that previous paragraph to make it sound like this car is breaking my wallet, or that I’m remotely ungrateful for buying it. My dad has had to tell me a few times as it has gone into the shop for those various technical hiccups that I still got a good deal on this, I bought it below my budget, and will always maintain that the guy who I got it from kept it in great shape (he even got the ‘vette’s oil changed right before he signed it over to me; again, thank you so, so much Mr. W). Sure, there is a minor feeling of “what next?” with it, but I was raised in mostly Japanese vehicles that never go wrong, and besides that fact, every time I’ve gotten into it, that feeling instantly disappears. I also know this has probably sounded too glowing an article about this car, but it is seriously that good, and being my first car... I now know what it’s like. I adore this vehicle, and I’m glad this hasn’t been an experience my own parents are very familiar with (like the aforementioned Jeep that my dad grew to loathe over the years, or the Kia my mom is counting down the days towards when she can get rid of it). Besides, I’m putting roughly a thousand miles a month on this car, and it was used to being in a garage most the time under the previous owner; of course it’s going to have teething issues.
The last week I had this thing in the shop was the week after/during the election, and despite being there only for a few days, it felt like I was without the corvette for much longer. I know how privileged this sounds (hell, how this all has probably sounded), but this car has been helping me get through the past few months of inactivity and existential depression. It has this weird ability to make you more relaxed getting out of it than when you are getting in, and bringing even a hint of visible joy to others feels especially nice right now. It’s also allowed me the chance to have a good car story to tell, since I realized that I didn’t really have one of those for a website challenge I wanted to enter. “My first car was a corvette I got at an online auction”; that says a lot of things, but the one thing I want to convey more than others is that sometimes, holding off sometimes in life really pays off.
I do kind of wish I had written this earlier, that I had joined opposite lock earlier than I did (despite being on kinja since 2012, I only got authorship less than six months ago. But oof energy there), but then again, there were times I wish I had gotten my license earlier, that I got a first car earlier, that I had figured things out earlier than I did. But you know, I got here at my own pace, and in doing so I got the chance to buy and currently own a frigging Stingray (with a manual, no less). I don’t know what’s going to happen to this community, but I’ve got a good feeling of where things will go, and in any case, I’m so glad that I got to tell one story here before the curtain falls on what has always been the best kinja reader-run sub-blog. Thanks for having me, and I look forward to seeing y’all on Drivetribe.
TGRIP is a part-time writer and film school graduate residing in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennisthatsit, find his other work on Unwinnable.com and AniTAY, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SVJ”.
nickhasanexocet last edited by
High horsepower cars are weird. When you're driving them and can actually put your foot down, they are the best thing ever. When you're thinking about which car to take to the store? I always grab the keys to the Miata. That creates a weird love/hate thing. It's not that the car isn't great, it is, but the idea of trundling along in traffic when you could be doing 135mph is annoying.
atfsgeoff last edited by
I know how privileged this sounds (hell, how this all has probably sounded), but this car has been helping me get through the past few months of inactivity and existential depression. It has this weird ability to make you more relaxed getting out of it than when you are getting in, and bringing even a hint of visible joy to others feels especially nice right now.
Corvettes (and sports cars in general) are gearheads' chicken soup for the soul. Nothing can bring a smile to our faces quite like that rush of mashing the pedal and getting the rear end just a bit sideways, with just a hair of Oppo (lol) to stay in line.
spacekraken last edited by spacekraken
@TGRIP This is awesome! What a first car, indeed. Hopefully it gives you many many more miles and smiles.
CB last edited by
@tgrip good write up! And I’m definitely jealous of your first car.
And before you put this on DT, just do a quick read through for typos. Otherwise it looks good!
VajazzleMcDildertits last edited by
@tgrip as a fellow C7 owner, you did good, man. Welcome to the bizarre ethos that is the Corvette. A paradox of style, almost never in fashion, but nearly always more than the sum of its parts.
just-a-scratch last edited by
My first car was also a Chevy, though quite a bit more prosaic. I don't think I 've every been able to brag about owning a Cavalier. Saying your first car is a 'Vette. That's really something.