Dream Cars: The Red Ferrari / 1985 Corvette

It’s a tricky proposition, your dream car. The one car you could have if you could only have one. On the one hand, you might take the question seriously; space, comfort, style, speed, quality – what car has them all? What car will give you a thrill all while being eminently practical and liveable and reliable? Or you might keep your answer in the kind of fantasy that the question invites. Something fast, something high maintenance, because it’s a dream after all. Every dream car is going to have some of both of these answers in them, but there’s a kind of third category that you might play around with, and it’s the question of what color would you have your Ferrari in?


A Ferrari is a car that has a dreamlike lightness, like it has been freed from its mortal coil. Why is this? They are expensive and rare, fast and imposing. They are a little otherworldy, having cultivated a genuine myth about themselves.

You could have it in grey or green or blue (or black), and why not? It’d look great, you’d show a little class to all the people who recognize a Ferrari not just because it’s red and you wouldn’t attract too much attention from any radar gun of social disapproval. And the fantasy you wold be eminently pleased , thinking how Steve McQueen drove a brown Ferrari and you haven’t stooped to coked-out Tom Selleck fandom. And the dream continues smoothly right up until you see a red Ferrari. For those of us who only have the wherewithal to dream of Ferrari ownership, there will forever be a twinge of jealousy for the bejewelled red Ferrari driver, who might bask in its silliness, or might just love how the red glints against a clear blue sky. Wouldn’t you want to be perfectly at home in a red Ferrari, never once feeling sorry for picking that garish stereotype of more money than class?

The grey Ferrari and the red Ferrari are both very specific and crafted fantasies, both culturally and individually made, wrapped up in ideas of self-assuredness or admiration for one social class or another.There is, however, another fantasy born from various pieces of American culture, the red Corvette.

Vulgur. That pretty much could be the whole description of the car, now that twenty five years have made its once-contemporary styling altmodisch, its once-racy engine slow, and its once-restrictive price a depreciated bargain buy. The same could be said for its handling, its interior finish, or its on the road refinement; the standards of automobile design have come a long way since 1985, so all that is left of this car’s proud, low-slung manner is the puffed-up adherence to a worn out symbol of a past that wasn’t to fine to begin with.

But then there is the dream of the red Ferrari, a car that could only ever be an acquaintance but never a true friend. Always a touch wild and removed, never comfortably settling in. This Corvette plays the role better even than the Ferrari in that respect, because the Corvette does away with any real sense of tradition or craftsmanship, or continental mystique. The most romantic imagery the Corvette summons up is a kind of Detroit underdog, a V-8 American alternative to pompous European frilliness.

The discerning automobile press turned its noses up to this generation of Corvette, known as the "C4". General Motors gave the impression that it was eminently proud of its C4 and boasted of many high-tech features and symbols of modernity. Critical reports claimed that for all of its press-release wonders, the Corvette was a rough riding, ill-handling simile of a true sports car, at best.

Even then this is not much more than a big hair car. Cars can have shoulders, but this one has shoulderpads. It seemed completely rejected by the discerning eye of Lower Manhattan.

But with a dream car, you can relish in the disapproval, happily misplacing dislike for sanitized, sensible, sustainable modernity into adoration of this over-symbolized, under-endowed car. One might be able to take this Corvette as it is on the open road and honestly relish in its bassy soundtrack, but at every town and in every city you’d be pulled back into the reality of driving a worn-out cliché.

Just as the GTI Fahrer secretly envies the Mantafahrer. Just as the green Ferrari secretly envies its foolish red counterpart. With a dream car, you can toy with the irresponsible. There is a myth surrounding this red Corvette, a powerful one that is actively denied by many, but acknowledged by all. perhaps I shouldn’t give it any admiration. Perhaps I shouldn’t play Jeremy Clarkson and sing its praises while acknowledging the unmentionable itch it leaves you with. Maybe I shouldn’t play around with such an ugly, garish, clunky, horrible old car.

Sometimes though, that is what dreams are for.

For Reference:

aaaaaaand here’s why you shouldn’t ever love the C4 Corvette, as told at Curbside Classics:


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