Monday, September 28, 2015

A victim of fashion...and accessories! A Day at Zip Corvette, Mechanicsville, Virginia, September 28, 2015

The Book of Danger

"You say I'm a narcissist
I say I'm image conscious
I'm a victim of fashion
Fashion and accessories
Fashion, fashion and accessories"

                                           Rough Trade, "Fashion Victim," 1980

Shortly before buying our Corvette, I was warned by a Corvette owner that buying one of these cars would mean I would spend a lot of time discussing cleaning products with middle-aged men and that all my money would go towards buying accessories.  

This is turning out to be disturbingly true.  When I look at what I have in my bathroom cabinet as far as my person cleaning care--toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, razor and shaving cream, hairbrush--and compare that to what is in my garage for the Corvette it is to laugh.  What does the Silver Bullet get?  How about this list:

car wash with carnauba;
clay bar;
paintwork cleansing lotion;
mist detail spray;
high-end paste wax;
waterless wash for road trips;
bug and tar remover;
windshield cleaner;
leather cleaner and conditioner;
carpet spray cleaner;
vinyl and rubber treatment;
tire cleaner;
rim cleaner;
tire shine;
all purpose cleaner (for engine detailing);
special purpose brushes for rims, engine;
2 large buckets, one with a grit guard;
and a large collection of microfibre towels.

Of course, some of these products were already in the garage.  The wax, which is amazing stuff, was bought in 1995 specifically for a black car and gives a marvellous shine and, delightfully, smells like fruit salad.  It comes from Pinnacle, which has expanded its line greatly as men throughout North America discovered a hidden fetish for cleaning their cars.  "Detailing" has become huge business but I do have to admit I have always enjoyed washing my cars.

But we are here to talk about accessories!

The headquarters of Zip Corvette, Mechanicsville, Virginia
When we went to Corvettes at Carlisle, we came home with a big pile of catalogs from eager suppliers wanting us to make our cars more than what they are.  Why should this be?

In my view, the Corvette is built to a price, with a focus on performance, meaning that you can get a high-performance car for a reasonable price.  The product of a huge corporation, the Corvette engineers have access to extensive parts bins to keep costs down.  The 6.2 litre V8 engine in my car is a variation on the engine you will find in the Silverado pick-up truck, one of the most popular vehicles made in North America.  What you will not get is top-quality leather, finely stitched, like in a Ferrari, or highly-refined components that, for example, you will find under the skin of a Porsche 911, such as the fasteners.  But to get the performance of a Corvette, the Porsche model will cost $50,000 more.

So this is where the huge after-market comes in.  Chevrolet did not spend to upgrade your Corvette but you can do it.  There is a huge range of products available for all generations of Corvettes, for restorers or "improvers" like me.  It began when I purchased a curb sensor for the front of the car and had it installed at a local radio shop.  Then at Carlisle I bought aluminum billet replacement radio knobs, a set of six chrome fluid cap covers, "Corvette" script for the bumper, and stainless rings for around the taillight lenses, where the lack of trim always bothered me.

By mail-order I had also purchased a 3-piece leather set, replacing the cheap vinyl shift boot and parking brake boot and padding the hard plastic console cover with cushioned leather.  I have since purchased a leather-wrapped shift knob and a pair of door armrests in the correct titanium interior colour.

Stopping off at Zip, where products would not only be sold to you but installed, meant we could really go to town.  Arriving early in the morning, we went through our list of pre-ordered parts and the car went into the garage for the work.  It took a few hours and Zip loaned us a minivan so that we could go off for a nice lunch.  So we really did go to town.

Here is what we had installed:

a colour-matched rear license plate frame;
a flip-down front license plate holder (purchase elsewhere);
side vent laser stainless mesh inserts;
rear exhaust stainless mesh panel;
A-pillar aluminum panel, colour-matched;
spoiler and door handles in body-colour;
stainless console insulation panel.

What we took home to install ourselves:
mirror chrome "Corvette" script for the dashboard;
very fancy Lloyd floor mats in grey with "Corvette" script and logo;
aluminum door button bezels;
sunvisor label covers (to hide the airbag instructions);
shoulder belt pads;
rear bumper protector;
stainless steel travel mugs;
perforated roof panel solarshade

Needless to say, this was not inexpensive but not only has personalized our car but has added to its comfort and utility.  The best things so far: the leather console cover, along with the other leather bits; the laser mesh inserts; and the A-pillar matching pieces.  The least useful: surprisingly, the bumper protector, which you roll out over the rear of the car when loading or unloading.  But I am sure there will be more things coming!

Fully-accessoried!  Visible here are the colour-matched door handles and spoiler, the mesh inserts in the side vents and around the exhaust, the matching license plate frame, bumper lettering, and the stainless rings around the taillights.  I also could not resist the stainless steel "Z51" badge (reflecting the sport package the car has) to liven up the side a bit; it is located where a "Z06" badge would be on those cars.  The only item I really had no choice but to buy was the rear Corvette insignia, which was oddly faded on an otherwise impeccable car.  I found an OEM part from a dealership which is far better than the cheap knock-offs that are also available.
The best floor mats I will ever buy, along with the dashboard script in mirror chrome, leather shift boot and knob, leather parking brake boot, leather console cover, selt belt pad and, just visible, aluminum billet radio knobs and door bezel.

The exciting stainless trim that should have been around the taillights from the factory!

My trick front license plate holder, which only comes into use when driving out of Ontario or parked at a car show.

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