Summer of regret: Buying, road-tripping, crashing, and selling a C6 Corvette Grand Sport…all in one-hundred days
The light turned red. On dry pavement, the car in front of me came to a full-blown panic stop. My car wasn’t on dry pavement though, it was on standing water. Physics did what physics does. The impact was relatively light, but it shook my soul.
It was less than two months earlier that I sold my Subaru. Then I flew to Chicago with my brother to buy a replacement car, and road-tripped it home. The car was perfect. A 2012 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Centennial Edition Coupe. This was a fantasy come true and I felt every bit as fortunate and humble as you can imagine. Taking a chance seemed like it was working in my favor.
And then it all fell apart. Very quickly, the Corvette devolved from a life enhancer to a source of significant stress. Distances as short as my daily commute caused serious physical pain and second-nature things like parking became psychologically taxing. So I accepted my mistake and sought out something better suited for my intended usage. What looked like the perfect vehicle showed up just a short drive away. Fearing that somebody would buy it out from under me, I jumped at the opportunity to go look at this vehicular savior.
That didn’t happen though, because I didn’t make it there that day. Instead I stood astride my now broken Corvette …and the car into which I had crashed it. What follows happened on the way to look at and put a deposit down on what was to be the replacement for the Corvette. A way of reducing my anxiety. The day’s events did everything but that.
And apologies in advance: a Corvette was harmed in the making of this story.
In hindsight, it seems like common sense. But what they don’t tell you when buying a Corvette is that the car’s run-flat tires have abysmal wet weather braking performance. On August 1st, 2018 I learned this lesson the hard way.
Rural Connecticut had seen three weeks of consistent and heavy rain. The ground was oversaturated. Drainage systems were well past maximum capacity. Both natural and human-made methods of dealing with rainwater could simply no longer handle the deluge. Amidst yet another afternoon of consistent downpours, I hopped in my still relatively new-to-me 2012 Corvette Grand Sport. Google Maps pointed me to a local shop that was doing a PPI on the Corvette’s potential replacement. Intent on ridding myself of the car that I had accepted as a mistake and could no longer stand to own, this day was supposed to be a positive step forward. Indirectly, it would be so. But in the moment, the cosmos delivered the exact opposite.
The rain was frustrating. Still, it was just another bout of wet weather during an extremely rainy stretch. I thought nothing of it and powered through. The Corvette’s wipers were working overtime to keep visibility at a maximum. Upon exiting the highway, the rain stopped and the sun broke through. Hilariously, I took this as a positive coincidence that selling such a recently purchased car was in fact somehow a logical move. A sign. Buying a more daily driver friendly vehicle (unlike my off-road abomination) would be both stress reducing and more fulfilling than the Vette I had convinced myself I could make work.
I was battling sudden heavy rush-hour city traffic and was steady on the gas as I crossed under a railroad truss. Short of my heightened anxiety, everything was totally normal. And then the light changed.
The road up ahead was dry. It had been in 90 degree weather and baking in the strong mid-summer sun for the last few minutes. Two positions ahead of me a driver saw the stoplight change and slammed on the brakes. They were able to come to a hard stop albeit a bit far into the intersection. Directly in front of me a red Nissan Altima saw this and the driver slammed on his brakes in a full panic stop as well. Also out in the dry, the Nissan stopped dramatically, but relatively without issue.
I saw the red Altima brake and knew it was trouble.
Underneath the railroad tracks, the pavement sloped downward in each direction. This makes for a perfect place for water to collect. Couple that with a drainage system already past its limit, and the inches of rain dumped by the storm had pooled in the sunken section of roadway. The Corvette was still passing over standing water when I reacted.
Blocked in by traffic on both sides, there was nowhere to go. Simultaneously depressing the clutch and brake pedals with as much force as I could muster was no match for the Corvette’s run-flats and their inability to disperse the water beneath them. I knew what was going to happen as soon as I felt the tires break free. A passenger now along for the ride rather than a driver of my own car, I braced myself as the Corvette hydroplaned directly into the back right corner of the Altima.
Having been rear-ended in my Subaru a year-and-a-half prior, accident protocol was unfortunately rather familiar. Car off, hazards on, check that I myself was unhurt. That was the case, at least physically. Mentally, I was anything but alright and I was fucking furious with myself.
After making sure the other driver hadn’t been injured I called the police and told them that we would need an officer to come by to file a report for insurance purposes. With little else to do but stare at the damage and feel the weight of the accident on my conscience, I apologized profusely to the Altima driver and assessed the damage to the best of my ability.
It could have been much worse but it certainly wasn’t good. The position of everything made it look particularly bad for the Corvette. The left front of which was lodged under the right rear corner of the Altima. This pushed the Nissan upward and forced the Corvette nose downward. Though the Altima’s bumper cover had absorbed most of the impact, the Corvette’s headlight and bumper had taken a beating.
I sat there for over an hour waiting for the police in the middle of a busy intersection. A crashed, broken Corvette was an unfamiliar sight in this old industrial city. Passers by took pictures and videos. They yelled things. They laughed and jeered. It was humiliating and it ruined me emotionally. I hated the broken car, but nowhere as much as I hated myself.
Little to do but dwell, I called the dealer selling the vehicle I was on my way to look at and told them of the situation. The salesman sounded genuinely sorry to hear of the accident and was more than accommodating. Two days later I spoke to the shop at which the Corvette was being repaired and was told that due to difficulties in sourcing C6 headlights it would be a couple weeks to complete the job.
Fearing the delay would result in another vehicle being sold out from under me, I put a deposit down on the vehicle I was initially driving to examine. Hoping all was going to pan out smoothly given all that had gone wrong, I should’ve guessed what would happen next. While the salesman I was working with was away, another employee managed to close a deal and hang a big “SOLD” tag from its rearview mirror. At this point, I just wanted get out of the Corvette before I brought any further harm upon it or myself. Then and there I expressed a desire to buy a different vehicle at a more than reasonable price. The salesman I had been dealing with then stopped responding to my calls and emails.
Things seemed to have gone from bad to worse in my Corvette dream-turned-nightmare. The turn of events with the dealer only made me more fixated on getting rid of the car and even harder on myself for the situation as a whole. It was time to step back and reevaluate what the hell I’m trying to do here. What do I want? What do I need? And how can I move on from this god damn Corvette?