You know that feeling you get when that winding mountain road in front of you opens up……… no other cars are in front of you……….. You get that feeling in your gut, you turn down the radio, you press down on the left pedal to down shift, hit the throttle with right foot and pick up speed as you feel your back pressing into the seat…….. right before you hit the brakes, down shift again and hit those posted 20 mph corners doing about 50 before getting back on the throttle as you power out of the corner only to see the next corner ahead and start the process all over again………..yes, it is addictive!! Now all you want to do is chase twisties!!
Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. First, you have to find the road. These great twisties are not always easy to find. Hopefully you can find a couple of nice roads close to home, however most of these great roads are going to take some time to research and find. You are probably going to have to do some travel to get to these roads and then…………… hope the roads are not covered in traffic. We live in Northern California with some of the best driving roads in the country………. we also have a lot of traffic. The Bay Area is close by with some great driving roads as well and even more traffic.
This category is going to be a little different from our Exotic Car Road Trips. Road Trips involve my wife, the beautiful Miss Linda. We still enjoy the twisties, just at a slightly slower pace. We take the time to enjoy the scenery and find those little dive bars and gems along the way. Of course, we have a nice destination to stay the night at the end of the day.
Chasing twisties is different. The day is focused on the road. We may have to drive a couple of hours to get to the road and then we hope and pray that we don’t find a bunch of traffic. We don’t have passengers, as that would just be wrong with the kind of driving we are planning on doing. We have our two-way radio’s to communicate about the road and traffic ahead. The road ahead is our destination and not much else matters.
There are not many things we do in life where we are 100% focused. We are all great multi taskers and we all develop stress because of it. When you are driving hard on a great winding road or on a track, you are 100% focused, you have no other thoughts going on………… you are not worried about your job, your mortgage, the kids……nothing, you are just totally focused on the road ahead. It is the most relaxing thing I ever do…………. you don’t realize it when you are driving, but when you are finished and discover how free your mind is………… it is just amazing!!
We will be hunting and searching for great roads and share our adventures here. How the road was discovered, how the plan was made and how the adventure turned out.
It had been almost two years since our epic road trip the “Next 140 Miles“. Mike, Jonathan, Alex and myself had not been able to get our schedules together for another road trip for almost two years now. Alex and I had a plan for a short drive a couple of months ago which fell through as the Alfa had a bad day.
Now, the beautiful Miss Linda and I have obviously had a couple of road trips since then which I have written about here. What I mean by an epic road trip is one that has no real destination, does not include passengers and is all about the road and the drive…………….. and we drive hard………. trust me when I say, if we had passengers, they would want out.
Chasing Twisties is what we love to do. I guess its almost like hunting………… we are always scouting for new two lane twisty mountain roads to truly enjoy the power and handling our cars are made for. Every once in a while we will end up on a bad road, but for the most part the roads we find are great!! The real problem is how much traffic are we going to run into. One of the things that made the “Next 140 Miles” so great was the lack of traffic on that day and the few we found, politely pulled over and got out of the way……………. today would be different.
Covid has made all of us adjust how we do things and where we go. Here in California, most everything is closed. You cannot go to a concert, a sporting event, a movie or play, any motor sports events like a race or car show…………and have you heard about all the fires………. about the only thing left to do in California is to go camping or go to the beach if you can avoid the fires……………… EEEEK! Where do you think all the good “twisties” are? Yes, by the beach or in the mountains where everybody is right now………. or not, depending on the fires. This would be one of those days of finding great “twisties”, though we would end up finding more traffic and some fires.
The plan came together pretty quick. Alex reached out to the group about mid August and we were on the road September 4th. The plan started when Alex had sent us a picture of his Alfa’s tire showing a flat spot, saying he needed a drive to “even out” the flat spot……….. my initial thought was the flat spot was caused from the car sitting to long……………. well, that was not exactly correct, though we will leave that story for another day. The bottom line, we started making a plan.
Mike and I live in the Central Valley and Alex and Jonathan live on the eastern side of the Bay Area, about an hour and half to two hours apart depending on the day and traffic. We needed to find a good road close enough for all of us to get to and get home by the early evening. This was going to be a one-day trip as some of us had commitments that evening.
Jonathan came up with the route, with Alex adding some revisions. Mike chimed in with a place for us to meet and it was set. This was nice for me as I left all the plans to the others and I literally just went along for the ride!!
We agreed to meet in Vallejo Ca and then head to Petaluma Ca where we would stop for gas before beginning our adventure. After Jonathan and Alex double-checked a couple things about the route and we were off.
Two years after our last trip we all showed up with the same cars……….. they are all great!! We are all car guys who love our cars, though we are always talking about the new cars coming up and the next car we might get……….though we are all pretty happy with what we have. I for one have said many times, there are a lot of cars I want in addition to mine…….. just not in place of mine.
Mike and Jonathan both have a Porsche Cayman S. Mike has a 2015 model while Jonathan has a 2014 model. They both have a naturally aspirated 6 cylinder engine that make that amazing Porsche sound!! Both have about 325 HP and 273 ft lb of torque. These cars are amazing as they seem to just float through the twisty’s so smooth and clean………. it amazing to watch. I had the opportunity to drive a 2019 Cayman GTS and experience the handling of these cars. The way the car pivots around you as you go around a corner is magical.
Alex had his 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. I am completely fascinated with this car. Its looks, handling and power are amazing. It has a 2.9L twin turbo 6 cylinder engine made by Ferrari, making 505 hp and 443 ft lb torque. I spent a fair amount of time following the Alfa today………. the presence this car has is so cool, the stance is just awesome. To realize that you are following a 4 door sedan does not seem possible. I keep thinking I need to get one………….
Of course, I was in the Z06. I still love this car!! With its supercharged V-8 engine making 650 HP and 650 ft lb of torque, it is part supercar and part muscle car!! It is also the only car here with a manual transmission, which makes the drive a little more challenging, but mostly just more engaging and fun for me!!!
It was Friday September 4th………. the beginning of Labor Day weekend and we were headed toward the coast and the mountains. I was expecting traffic, but hoping for the best. After stopping for gas in Petaluma, we headed southwest to reach Sir Francis Drake Blvd to begin our drive. It is the main thoroughfare through the communities of Inverness, Point Reyes Station, Olema, Lagunitas-Forest Knolls, San Geronimo, Woodacre, Fairfax (where we stop for lunch), San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, Greenbrae, and Lakespur. The road overlaps State Route 1 between Point Reyes Station and Olema.
We would take Sir Francis Drake Blvd, cutting over to San Rafael where we would catch Hwy 101 for just a bit before turning off to take the famous Hwy 1 North through Point Reyes Ca and Stinson Beach as we make our way up to Tomales Petaluma Rd were we would head east back to Petaluma. This would be about a 90-mile loop.
We all have two-way radio’s for these trips, so we can stay in contact. We are able to let each know how the road is ahead, if it’s safe to pass…………or hassle Alex about the Alfa’s bad day. As we start out leaving Petaluma, Mike comes on the radio and says I don’t think that’s fog above the trees………… no….. it was smoke coming from the top of the forest covered mountain in front of us……… and then we could smell the smoke. As we drive past a big open field, we notice about 50 tents…… it was the firefighters base camp. I had a brief moment of concern, being this close to a fire. If you recall from our previous trip, the “Next 140 Miles”, that was the beginning of the Paradise fires in Northern California which were some of the worst ever. Not sure if this is bad timing or just life in California.
Sir Francis Drake Blvd was a great two lane road for driving. It is a beautiful drive through a mountainous Redwood forest on either side. The road did have some rough patches and as I had mentioned earlier, a lot of little towns along the way which you have to be mindful of…………other than that it was great. We had some great elevation changes, some nice tight corners and some big sweepers too. We even had a couple of sweet banked corners that we all hit really hard!!
As we transitioned to Hwy 1, it started out with some great tight corners and elevation changes before straightening out as we headed along the coast with the Pacific Ocean in view and later by the Bolinas Lagoon as we veered inland.
The road was great, the company was great, the weather was great, the scenery was great………….. the traffic……… well there was a lot of it. This was Labor day weekend and we were in the bay area. This would be one of those days were we ended up behind a lot of slow traffic and no one would pull over………… apparently people don’t understand what a “turn out” is.
This would be one of those days when we would get about a 2 to 3 mile stretch of open road before hitting traffic and slowing down or get behind a bicycle. I understand about the bike riders as I ride myself almost every day……….. though I would never ride on these roads. You have no shoulder, tons of blind corners and no where to go if you have traffic in both directions………… just crazy. I heard on the radio more than a few times to watch out for the bikes ahead.
Still, a great day!! While we were waiting for the road to open up, there was some casual chatter on the radios and then dead silence when the road would open as we had a couple of miles of hard driving before hitting traffic again.
As I mentioned earlier, this trip did not have a destination other than chasing twisties. The only real destination we had was where to eat lunch.
We stopped in a little town called Fairfax. I had never been there before or even heard of it before. Fairfax is a town of about 7500 people and covers an area of 2.2 square miles. It was originally occupied by the Miwok Indians.
We had lunch at a little place called the Amelia Cafe. It has an organic farm to table menu including fresh salads, sandwiches, quiches…and their delicious French pastries and viennoiseries. In California, you are not allowed to eat inside, so most places have had to make due with some outside seating. Many towns and city’s have gone to blocking off streets to allow the restaurants to set up outside seating as we had to do here. The service and food was great!!
Chasing Twisties is a great way to spend the day or a couple of days!! How’s that go……… a bad day of Chasing Twisties is better than a good day at work. Today we found some great roads, awesome scenery and great friends to spend the day. Even though this day was a little short on the actual hard aggressive driving we were looking for, it was still an awesome day. Hangen out with the guys, talking cars, in search of a great roads……………… Perfect!!
Well, it’s about time I do a review on my own car, the 2016 C7 Corvette Z06. I absolutely love this car!! The power, the handling, the ease of the manual transmission and the practicality of this car cannot be matched.
This is my 5th Vette. My first was a 1993 C4 Anniversary edition, then a 1997 C5 and then a 2003 C5 Anniversary Edition. The 2003 was my experiment car………….as I made some modifications. The car had 350 HP when new and we got it up to 625 HP. We added headers, a new exhaust, a “procharger” supercharger, rebuilt the rearend and beefed up the automatic transmission (yes, I had an automatic at one time) and a few other things. After a couple of track days and when things started to break, I got a 2006 C6 Z06 with a manual transmission.
The C6 Z06 really changed things for the Corvette and for me. It had been a number of years since I had driven a manual transmission. The extra level of engagement while driving truly made you appreciate the car that much more. I soon found myself searching for great driving roads and additional track days. The only mod I did to this car was to put on new wheels and tires………. that’s it. With it’s 6 speed Manual, 7.0 liter pushing 505 HP, I was not lacking on performance and I just wanted to drive it every day.
The C7 Stingray was introduced in 2014 to rave reviews. Design, handling, power and performance all set new standards for the Corvette. They also introduced “rev-match” with the new 7 speed manual transmission. Rev-match is the coolest option ever……..more on that later. As much as I liked the new C7 Stingray, I knew they would offer a Z06 model within a year or two. Sure enough, the Z06 was offered as a 2015 model. The car was amazing with a 6.2 liter Supercharged V8 pushing 650 HP and 650 ft lb torque and available with a 7 speed manual transmission with “rev-match”………how cool was that!! Then I saw a picture of the C7 Z06 in a “Shark Gray” color………. it was gorgeous!! I knew I wanted one!!
The Z06 is a somewhat limited production car and a little difficult to find. Also, when they first came out, most dealers had a $10,000 to $20,000 dealer mark up over retail. I could not find one locally and did not want to pay the premium price. I ended up on a waiting list to order one from a local dealer in Rio Vista, Ca. “Abel Chevrolet” in Rio Vista is the corvette mecca in Northern California. The service manager there, Rich Willhoff, is a two time national champion in the Optima Battery Ultimate Street Car series driving a C6 Z06. You should checkout the reviews on Yelp about Abel Chevrolet and the number of Corvette owners that drive for hours to have their Vettes serviced in Rio Vista. Abel Chevrolet agreed to sell me the car for sticker price once they had the allocation to order one.
After a couple of months waiting to place my order, I started looking online for other Corvette dealers. I came across MacMulkin Chevrolet on the other side of the country from California in Nashua New Hampshire. They claim to be the 2nd largest Corvette dealer in the United States and consistently had over 300 corvettes for sale.
I had been looking for months when I came across MacMulkin Chevrolet. I wanted the Shark Gray color with silver wheels, black leather interior and a manual transmission……………. do you know how hard that was to find. Most Vettes had black wheels and approx 75% of them had automatic transmissions. I found the exact car I wanted to order on their lot. It had the silver wheels, a manual transmission and black nappa leather interior. It was perfect!!
MacMulkin Chevrolet was awesome to deal with. They have a corvette team that has been there for years and they are experienced in selling all over the US. They agreed to sale the car for $3,000 under sticker which was unheard-of in California at the time. Then they made all the arrangements to have the car shipped to me by Intercity Lines. The transportation cost was $2,000, so I still got the car for a little under sticker price.
It was super cool having the car delivered to my front door by Intercity Lines!! Over all, it was just a great experience!!
A Little History
It all started back in 1963, when the Z06 was introduced as an option package, not a model. The Z06 package was for those who wanted to use the Corvette on the track. Zora Arkus-Duntov is the legendary Corvette engineer that got the Z06 its start. Since he was also a race enthusiast, he wanted to give the Corvette a package that would allow it to perform competitively on the track. There were only 199 Z06 packages ordered in 1963. The only engine option for the Z06 was a 327 cubic in V8 producing 360 HP.
We didn’t see the Z06 again until it was introduced in 2001 as an actual model, not just an option package. The fifth generation corvette (C5) was introduced in 1997 with the Z06 being offered from 2001 to 2004.
The engineers wanted to make sure the new Z06 would be the best performing one yet. One of the best ways to do this was to make the car lighter. A limited hardtop body was introduced, which had a fixed-roof design that was stiffer and lighter than the one on the coupe. It also saw the introduction of thinner glass, lighter wheels, a titanium exhaust system, and even a lighter battery.
The 2001 Z06’s Gen III small block engine was able to produce 385 HP. Thanks to unique internal parts, like an improved camshaft and higher-compression pistons. In 2002, the Z06’s engine was able to put out 405 horsepower, which was a large amount at the time.
The 6th generation corvette (C6) was introduced in 2005, with the Z06 showing up in 2006. The Z06 was now able to compete with the world’s most capable supercars, with a 6:2:1 power-to-weight ratio. This power-to-weight ratio was one of the best ones in the world, and allowed it to attain 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. The C6 Z06 also saw the introduction of an aluminum frame that reduced weight by another 136 lbs.
The 7.0-liter LS7 small block engine was introduced to this generation of Corvette, which made it (again) the fastest Corvette ever produced during this time. This was thanks to the new lightweight frame that was produced, which worked in tandem with the small-block engine that put out 505 horsepower.
Now, we have the 7th generation (C7) Corvette Z06. The supercharged engine on it was the first offered for a Z06 and it’s the strongest engine yet. The supercharged engine on the Z06 puts out 650 horsepower with the same amount of pound-feet torque. The C7 generation was the first Z06 to be offered with an automatic transmission along with a manual, all previous Z06’s had a manual transmission only.
The Z06 comes with a 6.2 L (376 cu in) supercharged and inter-cooled LT4 V8 engine with Rotocast A356T6 aluminum cylinder heads and a 1.7-liter Eaton R1740 TVS supercharger, which generates 650 hp at 6,400 rpm and 650 lb⋅ft at 3,600 rpm of torque, giving the Z06 a top speed of 185 mph. The Z06 is available with a Tremec seven-speed manual with rev-matching technology (rev match is awesome!!) or a hydramatic 8l90 eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
Changes to the body of the Z06 include a removable carbon fiber roof panel, a front splitter, a unique carbon fiber hood with a larger vent, larger front fender vents and unique air blades over the inlets on the rear fenders, a larger unique rear spoiler, and rear-fascia openings that are larger than that of the Stingray. The redesigned mesh pattern on the front fascia allows for maximum airflow to the supercharger’s inter-cooler heat exchanger, while dedicated brake-cooling intakes and wider grille outlets on the bottom serves as air diffusers. It rides on 19×10-inch front and 20×12-inch rear spin-cast aluminum wheels on Michelin Pilot Sport P285/30ZR19 front and 335/25ZR20 rear tires.
You can also choose the Z07 performance package (I don’t have this on mine as it is really designed for track time)) which includes Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 P285/30ZR19 front and 335/25ZR20 rear tires, carbon ceramic brakes, larger winglets on the front splitter, more pronounced side skirts, and an adjustable transparent center section on the rear spoiler.
The optional carbon-fiber aero package (in either black or a visible carbon-fiber finish) adds a carbon fiber front splitter with aviation-style winglets, carbon fiber rocker panels, and a larger rear spoiler with a fixed wickerbill – a small, vertical tab at the edge of the spoiler that significantly increases downforce.
Comfort and Practicality
I have read so many reviews about the C7 Z06 not being a practical car………. but they are wrong. The Z06 has 5 driving modes, from “economy”, I’ve never used it, “weather” which I have used and is great in the rain, “tour” which really makes the car run relatively soft over rough surfaces, “sport” which stiffens the suspension, tightens up the steering and increases throttle response and “track” which is best for the track as the stiffer suspension can be rough on anything other than a smooth track surface. We primarily use “tour” and “sport”.
The combination of power, sound, ease of driving, the ability to remove the top and still have plenty of room for luggage for an overnight get away or a week-long adventure!! We can literally get our luggage fitted in the back and still have room to take the top off and stow it in the back (the new C8 can’t make than claim as the top takes up the whole trunk in the back).
I am in search of a car that is a better road trip car than the C7 Corvette Z06…………. I haven’t found it yet. This car is so much fun to drive. If we are on the freeway we typically put it in “tour” mode and when we find our nice two lane twisties we switch to “sport” and get going.
There’s nothing quite like driving this car on a nice windy two lane mountain road. The sound of the big V-8, the feeling of the crisp air, the blue sky above and the beautiful green forest on the mountains in the distance. The feeling you get as you prepare for the corner ahead, hitting the brakes, down shifting while hearing the incredible sound the engine makes as the “rev-match” blips the RPM’s up while the exhaust roars in the background. As you begin the turn you are stunned by the amount of grip, as the front tires seem to pull you through the corner ………….. The way the Z06 turns in is like no other car I have ever driven and it doesn’t know the word “understeer” as your confidence builds as the car continues to bite hard through the corner. All this with the top and luggage in the back.
I have had the opportunity to drive quite a few cars of late in search of a car I might like better than the C7 Corvette Z06………..nothing yet. I have driven a Ferrari 430, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Porsche 911 Turbo, a 2020 Audi R8, a 2019 Cayman GTS with a manual transmission and a 2019 Porsche 911 Carrera S with a manual transmission. I am never disappointed to get back in the Vette. Though I would like to have all the cars I mentioned, I would not give up the Vette for any of them!!
The C7 Corvette Z06 is that good and that much fun!!! I Love This Car!!
This has been a tough year to plan a road trip. With the Covid pandemic and living in California, it has been especially difficult to plan a road trip…………………..where would we go, what is open………… is there a good place to stay, where would we eat, will there be restrooms open to use along the drive………
Well, lucky for me my beautiful wife Miss Linda was going stir-crazy and decided to make her own plan. She started to put a trip together that would take us to South Lake Tahoe……………… I immediately thought Hwy 88…………. you know I always have to plan a trip around the road. We did it a little backward this time with Miss Linda picking the location then me picking the route. Either way, we had a road trip planned and I was getting excited to be headed to South Lake Tahoe!!
This was going to be just a quick overnight stay. If you take the freeway you can get to South Lake in about two hours, if you take Hwy 88, a nice windy, two lane mountain road, it will add about 30 minutes to the drive. If you do not have much traffic on Hwy 88 you can make it in less than two hours………… but typically there is usually a bit of traffic.
Miss Linda booked us a room at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and made reservations for lunch that day at the Riva Grill. That was it as far as plans…………. the rest would have to work itself out.
Of course we are in the Z06 again. This is the perfect road trip car. It is comfortable and easy to drive………. even with the manual transmission. With its hatchback design and 15 cubic feet of cargo space we never run out room for our luggage……. for an overnight stay or a week-long trip. The best part is even with our luggage we still had room in the back to remove and stow the roof so we could enjoy the beautiful weather.
It was going to be a 100 degrees in the valley where we live and only a high of 82 degrees in South Lake Tahoe, looks like we timed it perfectly. We left our house at about 9:30 AM and it was already about 70 degrees. As we headed out, it was perfect weather to have the top off. We have learned that when it gets above 85 degrees and if you are stuck in traffic, it gets really hot…………. as long as you’re moving it’s OK. When it gets above 90 degrees headed toward 100 degrees, it just gets too hot and we are better off putting the top back on and turning on the air conditioner.
As I said, the weather was perfect on this day. When we left, it was about 70 degrees. About an hour into the drive, the weather was at 80 degrees and in the valley it was on its way to a 100 degrees already. We had perfect timing as we were getting closer to Tahoe with its cooler air and leaving the valley as it was getting hot. We were able to maintain a constant temperature of about 80 degrees for the entire drive………….perfect!!
Highway 88 (State Route 88), also known as the Carson Pass Highway, is a state hwy that goes from east to west from Stockton in the San Joaoquin Valley, crossing the Sierra Nevada at Carson Pass, and ending at the Nevada state line, where it becomes Nevada State Route 88, eventually terminating at U.S. Route 395.
Hwy 88 is a nice well maintained two lane road through the Sierra Nevada mountains with some nice elevation changes, and mostly big sweeper turns. I think the slowest posted corner speed was 30 MPH and there was only one. Every other corner was posted at 35 MPH or higher…………… so no real tight slow corners……….. a very comfortable drive with just enough corners to make it fun.
The other thing that is really nice about this road is the number of passing lanes. The worst part of any road trip is getting stuck behind a pokey slow car of some type, with no where to pass………… and most of these pokey slow drivers don’t understand what a “turnout” is. Luckily for us, Hwy 88 seemed to have a passing lane about every 5 to 10 miles (I didn’t actually check the mileage…… that’s just what it felt like). Luckily, on this day there was not a ton of traffic, and the passing lanes seemed to come at the perfect times. We would have 3 to 4 miles of great driving with no traffic and then come up on some slower traffic for a mile or two and then here comes a passing lane and another 3 to 4 miles of driving fun. It went like this for most of the drive.
Then came the Mini’s…………… about 6 Mini Coopers pulled in behind us as they got onto Hwy 88 from a side road. It seems we see a lot of Mini’s on our road trips. We usually see a group of friends or car clubs on our road trips. We’ve seen a group of Mustangs, a Porsche club and even a group of friends in different cars like Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and McLaren’s all enjoying the roads…………… but by far we have seen more groups of Mini’s than any other group of cars.
I have always heard how much fun a Mini is to drive. Have you ever really looked at a Mini, more than any other car out there, the wheels are literally at the corners of the cars…….. no extended bumpers or overhangs………… just wheels at the corners. They look like the closest you will ever get to a go-cart on the road. I was visiting with a guy while vacuuming my car at the car wash who had a Mini, he said it was one of the funnest cars he had ever owned. He told me how he had owned and driven Porsche’s for 30 years, and how much more fun the Mini was to drive!!
Well, those 6 Mini’s tucked in behind us and were pushing…………that’s the thing about nice winding mountain roads…… you may have a lot of horsepower or a little which can a big difference in a straight line, but those corners seem to even the playing field. So with the Mini’s pushing we had to pick up the pace a bit……. didn’t want those Mini’s to think they could be quicker than the big Vette…………..so we picked up the pace and had some fun driving. Those little Mini’s always stayed close as we went through the twistys until we hit traffic and then we had to slow and wait for the passing lane……….. The Mini’s were always close behind. Then came that passing lane that was actually a big corner with a posted speed of 45 MPH…………. we lost a few Mini’s on this corner as they could not match the speed or the handling of the big Vette!! We were doing around 90 MPH in this corner as I watched the Mini’s start to lose ground, ………………….. in all, we had the Mini’s behind us for about 20 miles before we had to turn off. They gave us hoots and hollers and big thumbs up for the fun drive………… wait, there were only 3 Minis as we turned off………….. oops, it looks like we lost a few Mini’s……….
We were headed for South Lake Tahoe, a place we have been many times before. Not sure if I would call it a destination this time or more the place we ended up as we had a need to get out of the house. Miss Linda booked us a room at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. She had also made lunch reservations at the Riva Grill at 1:00 PM. This worked out well as we got to the Hotel around Noon and they were not ready for us to check in yet, so we headed over to the Riva Grill.
We arrived a little before our reservation, but we were able to get a “Wet Woody” to sip on while we waited for our table. Good thing we had a reservation as the wait for seating was an hour.
The Riva Grill is famous for their “Wet Woodys” which is a Slushy Rum drink. It goes down super easy and packs a punch. They have about 20 different variations of the drink. If you have two, don’t plan on doing much else. Once we got seated we had their lobster bisque, which by far is the best lobster bisque we have ever had anywhere!!
The Riva Grill is actually named after the Riva Runabout. Most people are familiar with wooden boat builders, like Gar Wood, Chris-Craft and Hackercraft. The Riva Runabout might be considered the top of the line for wooden boats. The company was formed back in 1860 by founder Pietro Riva on the Oglio River in Northern Italy. Riva opened its first United States showroom in 1964. You can still buy a new Riva Runabout today. The company makes about 20 per year at a cost of around $200,000. The Riva Runabout has a very exclusive clientele.
Our stay at the Hard Rock was not so great. Covid does affect almost every aspect of our lives these days and is very frustrating. I am not a Covid believer and think it is way overblown……….. I will leave it at that for now.
Little things kept messing with our good time, like being yelled out by security that my mask was not covering my nose………really…… at least I had it on….. You can’t get room service and they won’t clean your room if you stay more than one night.
We did make it down to the pool only to find out they don’t offer towels during Covid……can someone please explain to me some of these rules….. So I head back up to my room to get our shower towels to take back down to the pool. I decided I should call housekeeping and ask for some additional shower towels. I asked them to go ahead and let themselves into the room as we would be at the pool…………. nope, we can’t come in your room because of Covid……….. We had to wait until we were back at the room and then they brought us towels…….. though I had to walk into the hallway to get them…………..
One of things that Miss Linda and I enjoy most on our road trips are finding these little local restaurants that are far away from the tourist areas. Some places we find are not even known the locals.
This was the case when we found Ivanos. A small little place in a strip mall off the main drag. Our Uber driver had never heard of it and had trouble finding it. The Uber driver that picked up after dinner was late too, as they had trouble finding the place.
Ivanos offered inside seating which is something we don’t have in California at the moment. It was just two people, the Chef in the back and we believe his daughter in the front. This was true authentic artesian style Italian cooking. Everything was fresh from scratch with large portions……….. it was a great experience.
Any road trip is a good thing. The joy of the road, enjoying perfect weather and gorgeous scenery with the top off is so relaxing. Any cares or worries just go way…………..although trips these days do add a small level of stress with not knowing what the COVID rules will be at our chosen destination……….. have you noticed the rules are all different………why is that….
All in, this was a great trip and a very needed get way!! We will be heading out again in a couple of weeks to North Shore Tahoe. Travelling to North Shore by way of Hwy 88 will add about an hour to our drive but well worth it. North Shore is a little less touristy and quiet than North Shore is yet still beautiful!! There is also Garwoods Restaurant which is the sister to the Riva Grill……….. yes, they have Wet Woodys and lobster bisque……. see you there!!
It dawned on me the other day that my son had never driven a car with a manual transmission. My son, Eddie, who is 23 years old and is due to graduate from nursing school later this year in December. He has lived with his Mom since he was 8 years old. I’ve always had a good relationship with my son, though our time together was limited. We had the Tuesday and Thursday evenings and every other weekend that we were together but it’s not the same as living together. Eddie was not really into cars as a kid either………more about video games. Of course about half-way through his senior year he asked to have his time to himself……………….. I understood……… what teenage boy during his senior year of high school wants to spend a bunch of time with Dad. Needless to say I did not spend a lot of time with Eddie during his early driving years……………… It was time to change that. It was time for Eddie to learn how to drive a manual transmission.
So my quest to help my son learn how to drive a manual transmission started about a year ago when I brought it up. The good news was that he wanted to learn. Now it was time to figure out when we could do it. For my son, his schedule was a little crazy. He was going to school and working at the hospital and his schedule changed every week. We also needed to decide what car we would use? Of course, I have my C7 Corvette Z06 with a manual transmission, but I didn’t think a 650 HP car was a great choice to learn in. We need a plan and a car…………
We decided that we would just rent a car. I thought that would be easy and convenient…….. I was wrong. We quickly found out that none of the major car rental places like Enterprise and Hertz offer cars with a manual transmission……….. automatics only……….eeek, now what.
Turo to the rescue. If you are not aware, Turo is like AirBNB, where people rent out their own personal cars via an app on your smart phone. The app is super easy to use. You just punch in a location and a date and a list of cars in that surrounding area show up on the app………….. you just swipe and look. We pulled up about 80 cars within about an hour of our home. When I used the filter option to choose only manual transmissions, it left about 11 cars to choose from.
I found a 2018 Mazda Miata RF with a six speed manual about 45 minutes from our home…………this would be perfect. The cost was $63.00 for the day. We only needed it for one day. I plugged in our date and the time we would pick it up and drop it off. I had to create and account on the Turo app and provide a copy of my drivers license and upload a picture. Of course, I had to add my credit card information for payment and then my account was set up. We then selected the Mazda and our request for rental was accepted. That is when we also found out that Turo charges and additional fee for the maintenance and upkeep for the Turo app of about $30.00. All in, the cost was about $90.00.
Once the account was set up and the confirmation of the rental we were able to communicate with the owner of the car via text message through the Turo app. I also received email notifications when the owner sent me a text in the app.
Since this was a day for my son to learn how to drive a manual and I had just rented everything in my name…………. should I tell the owner that I am going to be teaching my son how to drive a manual………….maybe not…….. however I did not want to be dishonest…….what should I do? I went back to the app and found an option to add another driver. I was able to forward a link to my sons email address that allowed him to sign up as an additional driver. Eddie had to complete an application similar to what I did and provide his driver license. It always said pending on my side, however my son confirmed that he received an approval. No additional cost or issues by adding my son as an additional driver.
We arrived at the owners home Saturday morning at 10:00 AM. The owner met us and showed us the car. It had been cleaned inside and out and was ready to go. The owner also helped with the check-in process which is on the app. It has you take pictures of the front, back, both sides and picture of the dash to record mileage and amount of gas in the car. The owner takes the same pictures on his app and then all pictures are uploaded to the app. You can also make notes of any damage that the car might already have………….super simple and easy. That is it and then we were off. Much easier and faster than any traditional rental car company I have ever used.
I remember when the Mazda Miata first came out in mid 1989 as a 1990 model. There was nothing like it at the time. It was a small two seat convertible sports car. Similar cars like the MG B and Triumph Spitfire had long since disappeared. I was about 29 years old back then and the Mazda Miata was the 1st car I ever remember that dealers had an average mark up of over $5,000 over sticker price………….. I had never seen anything like that before. It is a lot more common today to see dealer mark-ups for cars that are in great demand or limited production.
Though I had never driven one, I have always heard what a great car they were and how much fun they are to drive. If you ever go to a track or an autocross day you will always see a Mazda Miata’s zipping around. It’s all true, super easy to drive with a soft clutch and a shifter that locks in to each gear. This was the perfect car to teach my son how to drive a manual.
The first thing we did when we picked up the car was to find an empty parking lot. It turns out that the parking lot we found was were my son Eddie went to school last summer. His school had a “south campus” for the nursing program which was really just a big parking lot with a lot of portable buildings……..but it was perfect for what we needed to do. We spend about and hour in the parking lot starting out and shifting gears. We then went out on the street which was a quiet residential area. Once out on the street, my son was having trouble starting from a start……… once we got going he was fine with shifting…… he was just struggling a little with take-offs. We went back to the parking lot and did nothing but start and stop. We did not take the car out of 1st gear………… It worked and all was good.
Unlike most of my road trip posts, this was not about the road. Most of our trips are determined by the road we want to drive and the places and destination get worked in. This time, the location of the rental car determined the road. We were in Tracy Ca. Not a lot of great roads here, but we would find a way.
After the parking lot we found a nice place to stop for lunch (more on that later). After lunch, we took off driving down what was called Grant Line Rd. As we were driving I saw a turn off to a road called Altamont Pass Rd. This turned out to be a perfect road for a new driver with a manual transmission car. It was a nice two lane road that ran about 7 miles and there was hardly any traffic …….. perfect. During the week this is a heavily traveled road as commuters heading to the San Francisco Bay area try to use this as an alternative to the major freeways…………. but today it was ours. It was a wide two lanes with mostly big sweeping turns and short straight aways. Eddie was able to enjoy some turns, with some down shifting and then up shifting and truly learning to enjoy the manual transmission. About half-way through he looked over at me and said “I understand why you wanted me to learn, you are much more engaged and focused with a manual and you can truly enjoy the drive and the road”………..he got it!!!
Well, the destination this time was determined by where the car was………… in this case a little bedroom community called Mountain House Ca, which is about 5 miles West of Tracy Ca. This is truly a bedroom community as we did not see any stores or services. We had homes and the most beautiful Grammar School, Elementary School and High School I had ever seen………….that was it. This town was truly developed for people who work and commute to the Bay Area.
We did find a nice place to eat in Tracy at the Squeeze Inn, Also known as the Squeeze Burger. They are famous for their “cheese skirt” on their Hamburgers. The original store is in Sacramento Ca where they only had 12 stools at the counter and you literally had to “squeeze in” to have a seat. They have expanded and now have other locations. Their expansion was fueled when they were featured on Diners, Drive In’s and Dives” You can see a video of the episode on their home page here.
They had a location here in Tracy were Eddie and I had ourselves some nice juicy burgers with a big cheesy skirt.
On the drive home on the I-5 freeway we saw something I could not believe. It was a Ferrari 250 GT0. The Ferrari 250 GTO is one of the most expensive cars in the world. They only made 36 of them between 1962 and 1964. One 250 GT0 that had a race history recently sold for $70,000,000. This could have been a replica, as those are out there……..but its impossible to say driving down the freeway. Either way, it was pretty cool to see!!
This was just an awesome day!! The whole process of renting from Turo was super easy and everything went smooth. The Mazda Miata was the perfect car to learn how to drive with a manual transmission!! The best part of all was a day spent with my son Eddie!! It is amazing how cars can bring us together and strengthen our bond!!
The first time I saw the 720S I was like…………….. WOW!!! That’s an exotic car!! The look was so sleek. It did not have a big wing on the back or big side scoops or intakes on the hood…………….though they were all there, just hidden in the design. The wheels were literally at the corners of the car giving it a great stance and an invitation to drive it like a go cart……….. it just had that look. This car definitely needs to be part of my Exotic car reviews.
I saw one for the first time while driving on the freeway as it passed by (I was not in my Z06, so no need to try to keep up with it), it was just stunning. Then I got to see one at my local Chevron gas station. It was a matte black color with red calibers……….it looked ready to pounce!! This car exudes exotic car or super car status. It truly stands out next to other exotic cars. The 720S is almost as good as the Z06 on the skid pad………… but not quite….. more on that later.
The performance of this car is amazing. It is called the 720 because it has 720 PS horsepower. Some European car manufacturers still quote a power output rating called PS, which stands for Pferdestrke, which literally means, ‘horse strength. It’s also known as DIN (Deutsches Institute fr Normung ) hp as measured in Europe, as opposed to SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) bhp as measured in the United States. Based on the Unites States measurement it only makes 710 horsepower……….. either way it is just fast. As one article I read said when approaching a corner, slow down early, you are going faster than you think!!
A Little History
The McLaren 720S sports car was designed and manufactured by British automobile manufacturer McLaren Automotive. It is the second all-new car in the McLaren Super Series, replacing the 650S beginning in May 2017.
The 720S was launched at the Geneva Motor Show on 7 March 2017 and is built on a modified carbon monocoque, which is lighter and stiffer in contrast to the 650S. The 720S is the first all new car to be introduced by McLaren as a part of its plan to launch 15 new cars to the market by 2022. The 720S according to McLaren is 91% new as compared to its predecessor.
McLaren launched its current three-tier product structure in 2015, dividing their range of cars into the Sports, Super, and Ultimate Series. Cars in the Sports and Super Series are given names based on the car’s power output in PS, followed by a model designation (C for club, S for sport, GT for grand tourer and LT for longtail). The entry-level Sports Series consists of the 570S, 570S Spider, 570GT, 540C, 600LT and 600LT Spider. The Super Series, considered to be McLaren’s core model range, originally included the 650S, 625C, and 675LT. These were replaced with the 720S in 2017 (and 720S Spider in 2018). The high-end Ultimate Series was led by the P1 and P1 GTR, now it includes the Senna, Senna GTR and the upcoming Speedtail, intended to be the successor to the original F1. The F1 and 12C were retroactively included in the Ultimate and Super Series, respectively.
McLaren’s first purpose-built road car was the F1. McLaren Cars went into hibernation following the completion of the F1’s production run, and McLaren didn’t return to the production car market until launching McLaren Automotive in 2010, just prior to the release of the MP4-12C (eventually simplified to just 12C) in 2011.
McLaren Automotive replaced McLaren Cars in 2010. McLaren Cars was founded in 1985. The company went on to release the McLaren F1 in 1992. Between 1994 and 2010, McLaren Cars was registered as a ‘dormant company’, before the founding of McLaren Automotive in 2010.
McLaren’s Formula One founder Bruce McLaren was born in 1937. McLaren learned about cars and engineering at his parent’s service station and workshop in his hometown, Auckland, New Zealand. By 15, he had entered a local hill climb in an Austin 7 Ulster; winning his first race in the car. In 1958, McLaren arrived in the United Kingdom with the ‘Driver to Europe’ scheme, intended to help Australian and New Zealand racers to compete in Europe. His mentor, Jack Brabham introduced him to Cooper Cars, a small team based in Surbiton, Surrey. Starting his Formula One career in 1958, McLaren joined the Formula One team a year later. That same year, he won the US Grand Prix at age 22, making him the youngest Grand Prix winner to that date. He stayed with Cooper for a full seven years, winning three more Grands Prix and other races, driving for Jaguar and Aston Martin, & winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 with Ford. He was one of 3 Ford GT 40s that finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd at the 24 hours of Le Mans. If you have not seen the move “Ford vs Ferrari”……. you need too!!
McLaren founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing in 1963. A year later, the company built the first McLaren race car – the M1A; 24 were produced. Its successor, the M1B, allowed McLaren into the Can-Am championship and emerged as the dominant driver with 43 victories, almost three times more than rival Porsche. In 1965, the first McLaren Formula One car, the M2B, debuted at the Monaco Grand Prix.
After his victories and time in the F3, McLaren was designing and testing a prototype M6GT-registered OBH 500H, a light sports car with an estimated top speed of 165 mph and zero to 100 mph time of eight seconds. However, McLaren died in a car accident in 1970 before the prototype could be completed.
The 720S features McLaren’s new M840T engine which is an evolution of the M838T used in the 650S. It is a 3,994 cc (4.0 L; 243.7 cu in) twin-turbocharged V8 engine. However, the stroke has been lengthened by 3.6 mm to increase the capacity and 41% of the engine’s components are new. The engine uses new twin-scroll turbochargers which have a low inertia titanium-aluminum turbines which spin with maximum efficiency with the help of actively controlled waste gates. The engine has a rated power output of 720 PS (710 hp) at 7,000 rpm, giving the car its name; the maximum torque is 568 lb⋅ft at 5,500 rpm.
The ProActive Chassis Control II active suspension system used in the 720S is an evolution of the system used in the 650S but is 35 lb lighter than the previous version. The new system features accelerometers on the top and pressure sensors at the bottom of the dampers in order to precisely communicate to the car’s on board computer the driving conditions in real time in order for optimum suspension settings. The system uses findings from a PhD course at the University of Cambridge.
The 720S is one of three production cars to ever average higher than 1.0 g around our figure-eight course, the other two being the Corvette Z06 Z07 (1.06 g) and the Porsche 918 Spyder (1.06 g). The 720S averaged 1.05 g, the second-best of all time. The McLaren’s max lateral acceleration is 1.09 g, among the best-gripping cars we’ve ever tested. Its figure-eight time of 22.3 seconds places it in a four-way tie for second place, along with the aforementioned Z06 and Viper ACR plus the Corvette Grand Sport. Best ever? That freak, the 918 Spyder, which managed a 22.2-second lap. Are we impressed with the McLaren 720S yet? (This paragraph was from Motor Trend magazine, 01/31/2018) See what I mean about being almost as good as the Z06…………….ha!!
The carbon fiber tub used in the 720S’ chassis is based on the similar principle of the MonoCage unit in the P1 but is 40 lb lighter than its predecessor. Called the MonoCage II, the tub allows for dihedral doors (also known as butterfly doors) which move up and out via hinges along the A-pillar with large cutouts for easier entry and exit. It also reduces the size of the pillars of the roof, improving visibility for the driver. The same tub underpins the McLaren Senna and the Speedtail sports cars. This allows the car to be lighter than most of its competitors. The 720S is light, at just 3,167 pounds, compared to the 661-hp Ferrari 488 GTB at 3,412 pounds and The Lamborghini Huracan at 3,419 pounds. Remember that raw power is one thing, but power to weight is everything else. This McLaren FAST!!
The headlights hide air vents that funnel incoming air to two small radiators in front of the wheels. The doors feature air channels that direct air to the engine. The rear of the car features thin LED tail-lights similar to those on the McLaren P1, and two round exhaust pipes. The design was inspired by the great white shark, and features a teardrop-shaped cockpit. All the exterior features result in an improvement of 50% more downforce than the 650S. The interior of the car includes a folding driver display and carbon fiber accents. Checkout this cool video (approx. 3 minutes) from the McLaren website on the design here.
Comfort and Practicality
The McLaren 720S does hit all the exotic car criteria. It is expensive at around $300,000, it is rare with about 1500 cars per year and of course it is crazy high performance!! On the practicality side of things it does have 5.3 cubic feet of cargo space……. enough for maybe one carry on size luggage and a couple of other things, with the convertible you gain another 2.05 cubic feet…………whooohooo!! This of course would not be a problem for those who can afford this car, just stay at nice hotels that have laundry service.
Would this be a great car for a road trip, not sure but I would sure like to find out!! This car might be better on the race track than on a road trip. If you go back to that article I mentioned above from Motor Trend, where the 720S was almost as good as the Z06 on the skid pad, well the 720S was almost 4 seconds faster than the Z06 around Willow Springs raceway. Everwhere I read about the 720S, the most common referecne is this car is FAST!! It has incredible grip and amazing power, what more do we need in our exotic super car………………………just need to figure out what color I want…… that matte black color is pretty sick!!
I saw one……………….. a saw a new C8 Corvette for myself. The mid engine corvette might be the most rumored car over the last 60 years………. that’s how long a mid engine Corvette has been talked about. The official unveiling of C8 was in July 2019, with actual new car deliveries planned for later in the year. We then had the GM strike in the fall which has had an effect on production. Deliveries actually started showing up at dealerships this month (April 2020). They are all sold!! Dealerships are only taking orders for 2021 models.
Will the exotic car world ever be the same? Should I include this on mt exotic car reviews? I have said before that an exotic car is expensive, rare, has high performance and is impractical. How does the new C8 match up here? It is not expensive from an exotic car stand point. The base price is $59,950, while the average cost of most C8’s will be around $80,000. A comparable Ferrari, Lamborghini or McClaren will run you close to $300,000. A C8 is not that rare. The production for the C8 for 2020 was to be around 40,000 (the GM strike will reduce that number). Ferrari will produce between 8,000 to 10,000 cars per year with the mid engine Ferrari 488 accounting for about half of that production at approx 4,000 t0 5,000. They will make around 3,000 of the Lamborghini Huracan. The C8 is not impracticable, it has two trunks and is comfortable for a long distance road trip. The one thing the C8 corvette retains from the exotic car world is performance, with a 0-60 time in 2.8 seconds it can preform with any of them.
It will be interesting to see over the next couple of years if the C8 will change the exotic car world forever…………. how valuable will the rarity of a Ferrari be when the C8 Corvette out preforms it……………………
A Little History
There is a lot of history…………….more than I will cover here. Zora Arkus-Duntov was an engineer who joined General Motors in 1953 after seeing the “Motorama” Corvette on display in New York City. He found the car visually superb, but was disappointed with what was underneath. Many consider Arkus-Duntov the father of the Corvette, though he did not create the car. After seeing the car at the Motorama he reached out to General Motors with a plan to improve the car. After being hired he quickly became the Head of Performance for Corvette. It was 1957 when Arkus-Duntov suggested for the first time the idea of a mid engine corvette.
Arkus-Duntov set about transforming the Corvette from an under powered showboat to a performance car that could compete with the best from Europe. In 1955, the anemic 150-hp six-cylinder was replaced by the 265-cubic-inch V-8, the original version of the legendary small-block. In 1957, its displacement was increased to 283 cubic inches, and GM’s first application of mechanical fuel injection helped it attain the magic number of 1 hp per cubic inch of displacement.
Despite these improvements, Arkus-Duntov was aware of the limitations by the Corvette’s front-engine, rear-wheel-drive setup. In 1960, he introduced the CERV (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle), a test vehicle with a mid-engine V-8, rear-wheel drive, and an open-wheel body. CERV I evolved into CERV II in 1964, again with a mid-engine V-8 and all-wheel drive, separate automatic transmissions and torque converters for each end of the engine, and enclosed-wheel bodywork. Arkus-Duntov tested the CERV II at GM’s Milford Proving Ground and recorded a zero-to-60-mph time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 214.01 mph………those numbers are amazingly close to the new C8. In the end, GM said no to the idea.
Taking no to for an answer was never Arkus-Duntov’s strong suit. This time he took the front-wheel-drive setup from the Oldsmobile Toronado/Cadillac Eldorado, placed it amidships, and located the V-8 engine transversely, with the automatic transmission on one side and the differential on the other. All-wheel drive could be made possible in the future by adding a front differential and a driveshaft. The car, under code name XP-882, debuted at the 1970 New York auto show; in the hurry to prepare the car for the show, there wasn’t time to come up with a name, so it was simply labeled “Corvette prototype.” Despite the sensation it created, GM once again shot down the idea, deciding the car would be too expensive to produce and would not offer any gains in performance versus the front-engined Corvette.
In all there have been no fewer than 9 mid engine prototype corvettes created over the years. Though they all led to some type of mechanical improvement for the Corvette such as the rear independent suspension on the CERV II which made it to production on the C2 Corvette, the mid engine Corvette was something Arkus-Duntov never witnessed.
Arkus-Duntov retired in 1975. Following his retirement Arkus-Duntov remained active in the Corvette community. He passed away in Detroit on April 21, 1996, and his ashes were entombed at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Pulitzer Prize winning columnist George Will wrote in his obituary that “if… you do not mourn his passing, you are not a good American”.
Despite Duntov’s work on the CERV I and CERV II and many mid-engine design studies, the idea of a mid-engine Corvette was not approved by GM management until 2019, (it was, of course approved before 2019 but GM never acknowledged it until they unveiled it 2019,) with the announcement of the release of the eighth generation C8 Corvette.
The Chevrolet Corvette (C8) is the eighth generation of the Corvette. It is the first mid-engine Corvette since the model’s introduction in 1953. The C8 was announced in April 2019, and the coupe made its official debut on July 18, 2019, during a media event at the Kennedy Space Center (referencing its association with NASA) to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The convertible made its debut in October 2019, alongside the racing version, the C8.R. Production officially began on February 3, 2020, delayed by the 2019, General Motors strike.
The C8 retains some design elements found on the C7, but the majority of the exterior has been completely overhauled. The engine’s new location mandated a stronger focus on aerodynamics and cooling; large side scoops house air intakes, and the rear features smaller vents below the taillights. As a result of the switch to a mid-engine layout, the passenger compartment has been shifted forward by 16.5 inches. The cockpit has been designed to be driver-centric, with numerous controls mounted on the center console as well as utilizing a new hexagonal steering wheel. A special Z button (a homage to the Z06, ZR1, Z51 and of course Zora Arkus-Duntov ) is also mounted on the steering wheel; this can quickly activate customized performance settings. Models equipped with the available magnetorheological dampers will also offer adjustable suspension settings.
The C8 uses a new version of the LS based GM small-block engine derived from the C7 Stingray’s LT1, now called the LT2. The new naturally aspirated V8 is rated at 490 hp at 6,450 rpm and 465 lb⋅ft of torque at 5,150 rpm, an improvement of 40 hp and 10 lb⋅ft over the outgoing C7 Corvette Stingray. The engine uses dry sump lubrication system.
The optional Z51 performance package adds a sport exhaust system to the Stingray, bringing the total power output to 495 hp and torque to 470 lb⋅ft. Car and Driver recorded a 0 – 60 time of 2.8 seconds.
The Stingray is only offered with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission made by Tremec, with no manual transmission option available. The only other model not offered with a manual transmission was the 1953–1955 C1 model. However, the C8 Corvette Stingray does allow for semi-automatic shifting with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The new dual-clutch transmission has received amazing reviews and has been compared to the PDK automatic transmission for Porsche which is considered the industry standard.
The base model of the Stingray comes with unequal length double wishbone suspension at the front and rear axles made from forged aluminum. Monotube shock absorbers are standard at all four wheels. The car can be equipped with a front-axle lifting height adjustable suspension system that can add 2 in of ground clearance at speeds under 25 mph. The Z51 package adds a performance-tuned adjustable suspension setup with threaded spring seats for further setup customization, as well as an electronic limited-slip differential. Additionally, the top-of-the-line FE4 trim level includes the fourth generation of GM’s magnetic ride adaptive suspension system.
Comfort and Praticality
This is another area that the C8 breaks from tradition of being a mid engine exotic with no place for luggage if you would like a long road trip. The C8 has approx 12.6 cubic feet of trunk space. It has a “frunk” (a trunk up front) and a trunk in the back behind the engine. The trunk in back is large enough for two golf bags and the front can accept the equivalent of two “carry on” luggage pieces………… that’s incredible for an “exotic” car. My C7 Z06 has approx 15.0 cubic feet of storage.
There is a small sacrifice with the coupe and its removable top. The top when removed is stowed in the back luggage area……… no room for golf clubs now. Miss Linda and I love to travel with the top off, with the C8 you might be forced to travel with the top on, only removing it when you get to your destination.
The C8 Spyder (convertible) might actually be a better choice here for road trip. In the Spyder, the mechanically operated hard top is stowed on top of the engine. The beauty of this is that the rear trunk is still available for luggage or those two golf bags. Some might be disappointed as the spyder does not allow you to see the engine under the glass like the coupe, though I think I would prefer the ability to travel with the top open while still having room for luggage for a longer road trip.
I will say it again, as I do believe this new mid engine C8 Corvette is going to change the exotic car world a bit. Here is a true high performance mid engine sports car that is comfortable, quiet (when you want it to be), has plenty of luggage space for a long and enjoyable road trip, while being able to enjoy the road with the top down. All this for about a 3rd of the price of most of its competition.
Am I ready to go out a buy one……………… not quite, I still love my C7 Z06 with a manual transmission. I definitely want to drive one, the same as I want to drive all the cars that I put on this list. As I sit here writing this I can honestly say that there is not a car out there that I would want in place of my Z06. That being said, I would absolutely love to have every car on this list in addition to my Z06.
My mind might be changed when the upcoming models for the C8 are available. They are talking of course about the C8 Z06, ZR1 or even rumors of a model referred to as the Zora. The Z06 is to have a new engine similar to the one in the C8.R race car. This is a new naturally aspirated 5.5 liter dual overhead cam V8 engine with a flat plane crank. The speculation is that it will put out something similar to the C7 Z06’s 650 HP and rev to a 9000 RPM scream!! An upcoming ZR1 or Zora model is likely to be a hybrid pushing close to a 1,000 HP…………………… sounds like fun!!
Please let me know your thoughts and leave comments below.
The Ferrari 458 is one of the most beautiful Exotic cars ever made……………even today, five years after its last model was on the showroom floor in 2015. The Ferrari has always been my dream car from as early as I can remember. I absolutely love my Z06 and would put it up against any car out there from a performance stand point……………. however there is just something about a Ferrari………… What makes a car Exotic………. they will be expensive, rare, have high performance and be somewhat impractical. The 458 is all these things, though it actually has some practicality………which we will discuss a little later.
So Let’s take some time here and discuss one of my favorite exotic cars of all time and why I have included it in my exotic car reviews. The best part of writing this is post is that I get to daydream about how much fun it would be right now, to be experiencing this car with the top down on a sunny spring day flying through the twistys on a winding two lane mountain road.
A Little History
Ferrari produces about 8400 vehicles per year. There mid engine super cars like the 458 deliver about half of that production. The 458 was first introduced in 2009 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with its first model year being 2010. It replaces the Ferrari F430 which has the distinction of being the last Ferrari with a manual transmission, In fact, if you can find a F430 with a manual transmission they are much more valuable today than a F430 with an automatic.
In keeping with Ferrari tradition, the body was designed by Pininfarina under the leadership of Donato Coco, the Ferrari design director.
The interior design of the Ferrari 458 Italia was done by Bertrand Rapatel (Director of Ferrari Interior Design), a French automobile designer.
The car’s exterior styling and features were designed for aerodynamic efficiency, producing downforce of 309 lb at 120 mph. The front grille features deformable winglets that lower at high speeds, in order to offer reduced drag. The car’s interior was designed using input from former Ferrari Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher; in a layout common to racing cars, the new steering wheel incorporates many controls normally located on the dashboard or on stalks, such as turning signals or high beams. There is a noticeable difference between the F430 steering wheel and that of the 458.
The 458 Spider was introduced at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. This convertible variant of the 458 Italia features an aluminum retractable hardtop which, according to Ferrari, weighs 55 lb less than a soft roof such as the one found on the Ferrari F430 Spider, and requires 14 seconds for operation. The engine cover has been redesigned to accommodate the retractable roof system. It has the same 0–62 mph acceleration time as the coupe but has a lower top speed of 199 mph due to the added weight.
The 458 Speciale was unveiled in 2013 at the Frankfurt Motor Show as the high performance variant of the 458 Italia. Distinctions of the Speciale over the standard 458 Italia are the forged wheels, vented bonnet, finned side sills, a taller rear spoiler and redesigned bumpers, which include active aerodynamics designed by Ferrari Styling Centre in cooperation with Pininfarina; front and rear movable flaps balance downforce and cut drag at speed.
The 458 Speciale A is the convertible variant of the 458 Speciale which was unveiled at the 2014 Frankfurt Motor Show. The ‘A’ stands for ‘Aperta’, which is Italian for ‘open’ – and the model was limited to only 499 examples (49 RHD examples).
The F136 V8 engine used in the 458
The 458 is powered by a 4,497 cc (4.5 L; 274.4 cu in) engine of the Ferrari F136 family, generating power of 562 hp at 9,000 rpm and 398 lb⋅ft of torque at 6,000 rpm with 80% of that torque available at 3,250 rpm. The engine features direct fuel injection, which was a first for Ferrari mid-engine setups in its road cars.
The only transmission available on the 458 is a dual-clutch 7-speed Getrag gearbox. There is no traditional manual option, making this the fourth road-car after the Enzo, Challenge Stradale and F430 Scuderia not to be offered with Ferrari’s classic gated manual. It was Ferrari’s first mainstream model not to offer a manual transmission.
The car’s suspension has double wishbones at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, coupled with E-Diff and F1-Trac, traction control systems, designed to improve the car’s cornering and longitudinal acceleration by 32% when compared with its predecessors.
This is a really cool feature as the brakes include a prefill function whereby the pistons in the calipers move the pads into contact with the discs on lift off to minimize delay in the brakes being applied. This, combined with the ABS and standard Carbon Ceramic brakes, have caused a reduction in stopping distance from 62-0 mph to 107 ft. Tests have shown the car will stop from 62.1 mph in 90 feet or in 85 feet with run flat tires, 85 feet from 60 mph and 80 feet from 60 mph with run flat tires.
For the 458 Speciale introduced in 2013, the engine was revised, with power increased to 597 hp at 9,000 and 398 lb⋅ft of torque at 6,000 rpm. Electronic systems were updated too and side-slip angle control (SSC) was introduced to improve the cars control at the limit. SSC performs instant-to-instant analysis of the car’s side-slip, comparing it with the target value and then optimizing both torque management (via integration with F1-Trac traction control) and torque distribution between the two wheels (via integration with the E-Diff electronic differential). The Speciale accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 3.0 seconds and to120 mph in 9.1 seconds. Ferrari declared a Fiorano test track lap time of 1:23.5, only 0.5 seconds slower than the F12 Berlinetta. Lateral acceleration now reaches 1.33 g.
The 458 Speciale A, (the ‘A’ stands for ‘Aperta’, which is Italian for open)was introduced in 2014. The Aperta has the same 4.5-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine found in the 458 Speciale, which generates a power output of 597 hp and 398 lb⋅ft of torque. 0–62 mph takes 3.0 seconds and the Spider is capable of a top speed of 199 mph. It was the most powerful, street-legal, naturally aspirated Ferrari automobile the company had ever launched in a convertible variant, until it was surpassed by the 790 hp naturally aspirated V12 of the LaFerrari Aperta in 2017.
Comfort and Practicality
The Ferrari 458 is a comfortable car for two people. I have sat in an 458 and I have driven a F430 and I can tell you they are extremely nice and comfortable inside. The luggage space is a little snug at 8.1 cubic ft. This is almost half of what we had in the GT4 I wrote about which has 14.7 cubic ft and my own Corvette Z06. I have told you that I can easily get two carry on bags in the back of the Vette with plenty of room left over for other items such as the “shoe bag”. You would be hard-pressed to get two carry on’s in the 458. The good news is that Ferrari makes custom luggage for the 458 to maximize your space. Hey, if you’re buying a Ferrari you should be able to afford the Ferrari “custom luggage”.
The Ferrari 458 has been my dream car since it was introduced in 2009 as a 2010 model. For me, the 2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale A (spyder) would be my choice. The added power and the super cool slide-slip angle control (SSC) would be fun to experiment with. The fact that it is a convertible is awesome too. It is so nice to feel warmth of the sun, the wind in the air and the beautiful sound of the naturally aspirated Ferrari sound bounce off those mountain walls while flying through the twisties….Let’s go for a drive!!!
It was Easter Sunday 2020………….. Things are a little different this year, with the Covid-19 adventure taking place. Here in California, the entire state is in “Shelter in Place” mode. We are only allowed to leave our homes if going to work or for an “essential” job or to go to the grocery store………. not much else is considered essential. We can’t even go to our neighborhood parks and most state parks and lakes are closed as well.
Some have embraced this situation………… I will only say that I believe the whole thing is a bit overblown and I do not believe its necessary to shut down the entire state, country or the world for that matter. With that being said, it is difficult to embrace this whole thing and we were not ready to set up a “Zoom” meeting get together for Easter Sunday.
We decided to take a little road trip instead…………….yes, it was essential as we desperately needed to get out of the house. So we decided to make a little trip to the foothills just east of our home. We were hoping the roads would be empty with everyone staying at home and this could be one of our Best California Road Trips……………. though we were very surprised by want we encountered
We planned a short little route that would take us about two hours round trip. Traveling these days can be a little tricky, its nice that gas stations and convenience stores are open, however the public restrooms in these places are closed. With restaurants also being closed or open for take out only, you really don’t have any good options to stop for a bite to eat or to use the facilities. For guys, it’s a little easier to stop on the side of the road, however it is a little more difficult for Miss Linda……………. hence our 2 hour road trip.
We decided that we would leave around 1:30 in the afternoon. It was a little cool with overcast skies in the morning, with the clouds breaking up and the sun shining through as our departure time approached. It would be between 65 to 70 degrees for most of our trip. We would go through the little towns of Lockeford and Clements as we headed toward Jackson on Hwy 88. As you go through Jackson, Hwy 88 turns left and heads up toward the Lake Tahoe area. For this trip we would continue straight through Jackson as the road turns to Hwy 49. This section of road lasts 16 miles until it hits Hwy 26. This 16 mile stretch of road was the motivation for this trip as it is a lovely two lane road with some nice esses, big sweeper turns and some nice elevation changes.
As we would merge onto Hwy 26 and head back toward home, we would pass through the little towns of Mokelumne Hill, Valley Springs and Wallace. We would then merge back on to Hwy 88 which, again takes us through Clements and Lockeford as we headed home. As it turned out, our plans changed and our route was slightly altered.
This was a bit interesting for an Easter Afternoon…………. there were a bunch of cars out on this Sunday…….. Of course, we were in the Z06 with the top off on this beautiful sunny afternoon.
As we were driving up Hwy 88 toward Jackson, we saw a bunch of cars coming in the opposite direction. It was little difficult to catch all of them as they went by……….. but we will give it a try. We see car clubs often on our road trips, they are typically a group of similar cars, like a Porsche club, or Ferrari club. We even saw a group of about 20 mini coopers cruising together on our “Need for Speed” trip on Hwy 128.
This trip, most of the cars were different. It was difficult to tell if they were all together or just a bunch of exotic cars that were out for a drive on the same day. Let’s see if I can remember all that we saw………… two Audi R8’s, two Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio’s, three Alfa Romeo 4C’s, one Ferrari F430, one Lamborghini Gallardo, one Lamborghini Huracan, two Ford Shelby GT 350’s and another Z06 that was all black. Quite a collection of cars you don’t typically see on this drive, though it was pretty cool!!
As I mentioned earlier, the motivation for this trip was this 16 mile stretch of road just outside of Jackson on the Hwy 49 bypass. I have been trying to catch this section of road empty of cars for many years and have so far been unsuccessful. The only time I have ever been on this stretch of road without traffic and to be able to truly enjoy it, was when my beautiful wife Miss Linda was driving her 97 Porsche Boxter……. I was simply a passenger and extremely jealous as she got a bit aggressive and enjoyed the road.
The drive to Jackson is a nice two lane road with some long straights and some big lazy turns………… not a lot of real aggressive corners. This section of road is usually always busy with the Highway Patrol waiting to write you a ticket and today was no exception. We saw one of the a fore mentioned Alfa Romeo’s pulled over……….. we knew then this was not going to be a great aggressive driving day.
When we hit that 16 mile stretch of road we were stuck behind quite a few cars…………… unfortunately they were not some of those exotics I mentioned earlier………….. no they were your local pickup trucks and SUV’s that were not even going the speed limit…………… I was super frustrated but decided to enjoy the nice weather and enjoy the road………………. this was OK for a while, however i soon found myself aching to get a little more aggressive, at one point we even pulled over to the side of the road in hopes of letting the slow traffic get way ahead but also looking out for other slow cars coming from behind…….this helped a little, but we always seemed to catch up to those slow cars again way to fast.
Our plans changed as we approached the main section of Hwy 49 to head home. We decided to turn around and head back the way we came in hopes of a chance of less traffic and a chance to enjoy the road. We definitely had better luck and we were able to enjoy the road a little more, though we did end up behind slower cars again.
The original plan was to make a big circle and get home in about 2 hours. This is one of those rare trips that we did not have an actual destination or a cool dive bar to be found along the way…………. they were are all closed.
As we had mentioned we ended up turning around and going back the way we came. Our route home was just the opposite of the drive there.
Any road trip is a good trip. Just the joy of the drive, the feel of the wind and the perfect temperature for a great drive. We did not have the same adventure or opportunity to see or do new things, however the car and drive still reminded us of the true value of a road trip and the freedom it provides!!
Have you ever been asked what car would you most like to drive if price was no object ? Well for me it is the 2020 Porsche Cayman GT4. What………….. really……….. yes really. Of course, I would also like to drive a $300,000 Lamborghini, Ferrari or McLaren…….. I will get to these later. The GT4 to me is the best driver’s car on the market today!! This is why it is the first car on my exotic car reviews.
My wife, Miss Linda has a 1997 Porsche Boxter with a manual transmission. It is one of the most fun cars to drive. If you read one of my other post, the “Next 140 Miles”, you know that two of my Buddy’s on that trip had the Porsche Cayman S. There was just something about those cars and the graceful way they went through the twisties and back roads, so smooth and fast. Whether I was watching through my windshield as I followed or watching in my rear view mirror when I was leading……………… I just kept thinking I want to drive that car.
There are other exotic cars with more power that are faster…………… but for the pure joy of driving, the balance, power and manual transmission make for one of the best driving experiences ever!!
A Little History
The original Porsche Boxster (the 986) was introduced in late 1996 as a two seat mid engine convertible sports car. It was Porsche’s first originally designed roadster since the Porsche 914. The original 986 was powered by a 2.5 liter flat six cylinder engine.
In 2005, Porsche debuted the second generation of the Boxster, type 987, with a more powerful engine and styling inspired by the Carrera GT. That was followed by the introduction of the 2006 Porsche Cayman. The Cayman is a coupe derived from Porsche’s second generation Boxster roadster. The car is not named after the Cayman Islands. Both the car and the islands are named after the caiman, a member of the alligator family. When the first Cayman arrived at dealerships for sale, the automaker adopted four caiman alligators at Stuttgart’s Wilhelma Zoo.
Introduced in 2016 for the 2017 model year, the Porsche Boxster and Cayman were renamed the Porsche 718 Boxster and Porsche 718 Cayman. The bad news at this time was the fact that Porsche had replaced the flat six cylinder engines with turbo charged 4 cylinder engines. While performance in most cases was a little better with the turbo 4, the soul of the 718 was not the same. There is nothing quite like the sound of a Porsche flat six cylinder engine with its steady linear acceleration!!
The first Cayman GT4 was available in 2015 and 2016. It had a slightly detuned 3.8 liter from the 911 GT3 making 385 HP and 310 lb-ft torque. It road 1.2 inch lower than a standard Cayman and came with a six speed manual transmission. The GT4 was a track focused car with limited production. The production numbers were supposed to be around 2500 worldwide with approximately 1200 coming to the US………….. not sure where the final numbers ended up.
The Porsche 718 Cayman is considered by many to be the perfect sports car. It handles with precision and engages the driver like no other car can. The proportions and mid engine design and weight make this one of the best handling cars on the road today.
The new 2020 GT4 takes all that the Cayman has to offer and enhances it with precision and poise. The best part of the new GT4 is the return of a naturally aspirated six cylinder engine along with a six speed manual transmission with auto blip feature, which is also referred to as rev matching. If you are not familiar with rev matching…………in my opinion it is one of the coolest features ever! If you are like me and only get to the track once a year or even once every other year, your track skills are not at their peak. One of the things I never got good at was the whole heel toe thing. This is where, during braking, you keep a portion of your foot on the accelerator to keep the rpm’s up as you downshift so you can accelerate faster out of the corner, the auto blip or rev matching does this for you………… it is so cool!!
The engine is based on the turbocharged 3.0 liter from the 911 GT3 RS. It has been bored and stroked to 4.0 liter and is now turbo free for use in the GT4. The free breathing six cylinder can rev to 8000 rpm and makes 414 HP at 7600 rpm and 309 pound-fee of torque from 5000 to 6800 rpm. The suspension technology and brakes have also been borrowed from the 911 GT3 RS where the lower control arms have ball joints instead of bushings and the rear control arms have helper springs to offer incredible handling, the brakes have 15 inch rotors all around with six-piston calipers up front and fours in the rear. You can also option for the 16.1 inch fronts and 15.4 rears with optional carbon ceramics and adaptive dampers.
Comfort and Practicality
The GT4 is a track focused car. Most of the suspension parts can be manually adjusted for track use and it has only one driving mode………… sport. Most cars these days have multiple driving modes for comfort, sport or track………… not here as this car again is focused for the track. That being said, for the pure pleasure of driving, this would be a fabulous car for a road trip. You would want make sure that the roads you are headed for are in good repair and mostly smooth as the ride in the GT4 will be stiffer than most.
The interior is plenty comfortable for two people. I have experience riding as a passenger in Miss Linda’s Boxster and have also ridden as a passenger in my Buddy’s Cayman S. I was comfortable and had plenty of room in both. The GT4 interior is very similar save for the strap door handles.
With two luggage compartments, the Cayman GT4 is a surprisingly practical. The rear compartment measures 9.5 cubic feet and the front 5.2 cubes. At 14.7 cubes combined, that’s about as much cargo space as in some sedans. Of course, because the GT4 doesn’t have one large trunk, larger items will struggle to fit, however you should have plenty of room for luggage for a weekend get away.
The Cayman has always been recognized as a great driver’s car, though in recent years it had lost its soul with the turbo 4 cylinder. With the new GT4 and its new 4.0 liter six cylinder singing the tunes we love while being engaged in the driving experience as we roll through gears while braking for corners and then accelerating out of them……….. could there be anything better. Yes, there are cars out there that have more power, more features for less money, but you won’t care if you are driving a GT4 because you will be having more fun than any of them.