I trusted the sun and lowered the top. It was a desperate act of faith. I had only a few days left with the 2003 Corvette C5 convertible, the 50th anniversary edition. Rain was in the forecast.
I hadn't been able to enjoy a convertible in weeks. Topless cars came with downpours.
So I chanced it on a late spring afternoon and took the C5's top down. This wasn't easy. It was a manual top. I lowered the side windows, pushed aside the sun visors, unlatched the headers and lifted the front end of the car's beige cloth roof.
I got out of the C5 and lifted the roof's rear, thus bringing both ends together in the manner of an accordion. I pressed a yellow button beneath the car's tonneau cover, lifted the cover, dropped the top into that space and shut the cover tight.
It all took 90 seconds, which is why I was chary about lowering the C5's top on a cloudy day. But rain worries disappeared with the deep, throaty noises of the car's 5.7-liter (LS1) V8. That engine is a mighty beast, developing 350 horsepower at 5,600 revolutions per minute and 375 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm.
Trust in filtered sunlight became trust in thrust. There is something about driving a powerful car that fuels bravado. Maybe, as a friend once said: "It's like balancing on the edge of disaster and genius. You know you're holding all of that power in your hands. It's up to you to control it -- or crash."
He might have a point. But I think the attraction goes beyond power. It's the feel of the thing, such as the sensation of the optional six-speed manual gearshift moving through its gates -- impatient in first gear; anxious in second, ready to run to third; pliant in third and fourth; liberated in fifth; totally free in sixth, which is ironic.
Running in sixth gear for more than a few minutes in the C5 could mean running into jail, or at least into several months of living without your driver's license. On most U.S. highways, running in fifth is running fast enough.
But the temptation to go faster in a Corvette always is there, especially in the 50th anniversary C5, which comes equipped with General Motors Corp.'s Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) system.
In brief, the system uses a magnetized fluid to control the damping action of the C5's shock absorbers. It automatically smooths the ride over bumpy roads; and it works with the car's traction control system on slippery surfaces to keep you from sliding into trouble. Put another way, the MRC system does a wonderful job of compensating for many acts of driver incompetence.
But I was thinking about none of that on that partly sunny day. I just wanted to take the top down, crank the engine and cruise.
The sun felt good. It played on my skin and the C5's special "Anniversary Red" paint -- a burgundy hue brought to life by aluminum oxide flakes dancing beneath a clear, polyurethane coat. It mattered not that clouds gathered in the distance, mocking my joy.
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