The 2014 Corvette Stingray made its West Coast debut at the big 60th Anniversary Corvette Celebration at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles a couple of weekends ago, and there for the occasion were several Corvette notables, including designer Kirk Bennion.
Bennion took a few moments to talk with a reporter from the L.A. Times to discuss his efforts on what is just the seventh generation of the 60-year-old sports car.
If you’ve ever thought you might apply for Bennion’s job, you might think again.
When asked if he applied for the position, he said, “No. You’re selected. Upper management will basically look at experience and fit and whatnot. I’ve had some prior experience with Corvette in ’86 to ’89, just two years out of college, and got to work with the team that created the C-4 and worked on the early C-5. So within that early stint, you do pick up tribal knowledge of the car, which I think is kind of essential.”
He admits it’s a dream job, calling it “a privilege” and adding that “you want to make the most of it every day.”
We have to wonder, however, if sometimes that dream job turns into a nightmare, with all the pressure of trying to live up to the expectations of Corvette fanatics.
“There’s a lot of fun,” he admits. “There’s a lot of hard work. A lot of camaraderie. It’s an iconic car, and I don’t want to say they get special attention, but they do get special attention. It’s something that you have to be very respectful of, but it’s also something that you know this is not just another car to work on. If you’re not into working 8- to 16-hour days, you’re probably not going to be working on Corvette.”
Of course, no discussion about the C7 would be complete without a mention of the much-discussed rear end treatment. Bennion says he knew there would be controversy about the departure from the round tail lamps but believes it was still the right thing to do. We wonder if the round lights had been kept, would people be complaining instead that the car wasn’t radical enough?
“We made a conscious effort to make the back end of the car different,” Bennion says. “There are a lot of detractors. One of the criticisms is that there isn’t a lot of difference from a C4 to C5 to a C6. You know, we kept our dual element lamps, license plate was in the middle, exhaust down below. And from a block away, people couldn’t tell you there was a lot of difference — or there wasn’t 20 years of difference — in the car.”
Lots of other cars have round tail lamps now, “so it’s no longer a unique night-time signature,” Bennion says. “And that was something we really wanted to give our customer — a unique LED, indirect-lit signature — something that people, if they saw this car at night, they would know without a doubt that this was a new Corvette.”
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