In July, General Motors unveiled a radically new version of the Chevrolet Corvette. For the 2020 model year, the sports car’s engine will be behind the seats instead of under the hood, where it has been in Corvettes since 1953. Now GM has unveiled the convertible version with another major new development.
For the first time, the Corvette convertible has a folding hardtop rather than a cloth roof.
Retractable hardtops have existed on cars since at least the 1930s. They’ve become increasingly common in recent decades as more advanced technology has enabled them to be lighter and to take up less space when folded.
The Corvette’s new foldaway top is made from a lightweight composite material. It’s powered by six small electric motors and can fold up or down in 16 seconds while the car is driving at speeds of to 30 miles an hour.
“Our goal from the beginning was to make sure customers didn’t have to sacrifice any functionality, performance or comfort when choosing the hardtop convertible,” Corvette engineering manager Josh Holder said in a statement.
When down, the roof is stored in a compartment with heat shields to protect it from the engine’s heat. There still remains enough storage space for two sets of golf clubs in the trunk, according to GM. There’s also storage space up front under the hood.
The convertible’s suspension has been adjusted slightly to account for the weight of the machinery needed for the power top. The convertible, which weighs less than 80 pounds more than the coupé, will be capable of “nearly the same performance” as the standard car, according to GM.
When the roof is down, the area behind the seats is designed to resemble the humps over the jet engines of fighter planes. Besides looking cool, they help prevent air from swirling back around the occupants’ heads. The rear window between the humps can be raised or lowered whether the roof is up or down.
Hard roofs can offer greater security from vandalism and theft than cloth while also giving a car a clean coupé-like appearance when the roof is raised. Some automakers, like Rolls-Royce and Bentley, still have cloth roofs on their convertibles for a more classic look and experience. Some cars, like the Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, are available with both hard and soft-top convertible options. The new Corvette will not be offered with a cloth top.
The base version of the new Corvette is powered by a 495-horsepower V8 engine and has an eight-speed automatic transmission. No manual transmission will be offered. Prices for the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette will start at about $60,000, with prices for the convertible starting at about $67,500.
The new Corvette is scheduled to go into production later this year, with the convertible starting production early next year.