2013 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 028

Corvette, American Icon

A seemingly endless shower of red, white and blue ticker tape cascaded onto the crowd and media gathered on the field last year to hear what Super bowl XLVI hero, Eli Manning, had to say to NBC’s Dan Patrick just after the game. Even in that moment, it was sure hard to ignore the stunning vehicle parked just a few tantalizing feet away, a Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible Centennial Edition.

In. black.

Then, in a flash, the superstar quarterback was handed the keys to his new ride, this most iconic of American sports cars. Sigh.

General Motors, which has ebbed and flowed in greatness throughout its history (not unlike Manning’s New York Giants), climbed back from the brink of bankruptcy to see its corvette become a staple for another generation of roadsters. How did the corvette—currently celebrating its 60th birthday—come to represent the car of choice for athletes, rock stars and lovers of the badass image associated with muscle cars?

The origin of the term “corvette”—and the similarly sexy “bikini” (yes, bikini)—comes from the US Navy. The car was given its name by Myron E. “Scottie” Scott, a photographer who recognized that the fledgling car resembled the Navy’s smallest warships. The name and the car were an instant hit and became an important part of American popular culture. The beach boys used images of the corvette Stingray to epitomize Southern California’s fascination with hot-rod racing. More recently, Prince combined a drum machine and explicit metaphors on the biggest hit song about the epic sports car with his smash, “Little Red Corvette.”

With its throbbing engine, sultry curves and carnal colors, a primal obsession seems to be the reason for the vehicle’s wanton marketing through the years. As a decade-old corvette advertising campaign boasted from billboards: “They don’t write songs about Volvos.” That they don’t.

The 2013 Corvette ZR1 is Chevrolet’s fastest and most powerful luxury sports car yet. This purebred muscle car packs a LS9 638-horsepower supercharged V8 engine that gives it a top speed of 205 mph, while American craftsmanship jacks up its starting power, reaching 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.

And, yes, this Corvette Centennial Edition comes in black. Eli Manning may just get a little bit jealous.

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