Design: 2014-18 Corvette Taillights – A Veritable Petting Zoo on Wheels

In taking a few photos of a recent-model Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, I was reminded of an article about its chief designer. Shortly after the C7 Corvette was introduced in 2013, Tom Peters participated in a question-and-answer interview with Cool Hunting writer Evan Orensten. It’s worth reading the whole piece, but right now let’s focus on the taillights.

Peters said that he ditched the traditional dual round taillights because they “made the car look old.” He wanted to make a design statement that was heavily grounded in leading-edge aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

Those taillights, with their sharply jutting trailing edges, give the Corvette a menacing look . . . which seems to be a major design goal these days. However, I wouldn’t describe the Corvette’s rear as possessing the timeless beauty of a 1963-67 Stingray.

Peters seemed to be more interested in trendiness. “I always tell people go up there and stick their hand in the tail lamp,” he said in the interview. “Stick your hand in it. A lot of people don’t realize it’s so dimensional.”

So there you have it: The taillight has become a tactile experience — a veritable petting zoo on wheels.

I’m not one of those design fundamentalists who insist that a true Corvette must have dual round taillights. After all, it’s not like the car started out that way in the 1950s. However, I would suggest that an expensive sports car is not the place to test out every last gimmick that fascinates today’s 11-year-old boys — particularly if it’s non-functional and looks awkward.

You might point out — quite rightly — that the Corvette has always been more flamboyant than, say, a Porsche. For example, the third-generation Corvette (1968-82) had some pretty “loud” design features, such as the exaggerated fender bulges and ducktail rear end. It took some getting used to but, at least to my eyes, ultimately held together. After five years I can’t say the same about the C7 Corvette’s rear styling.

Yeah, but isn’t this as good as car design gets these days? Not really. Compare the Corvette with the rear design for the 2016-18 Chevrolet Camaro. Notice the family resemblance, such as the trapezoid taillight indents.

The Camaro has a much cleaner design — in no small part because it’s more subtle. Instead of sharp, Tonka Toy angles the Camaro has curves. And while the taillights look unusually three-dimensional, they aren’t gratuitously so like the Corvette’s.

It’s true that the Camaro’s rear is just as obese as the Corvette’s. Indeed, the 2016-18 Camaro has really bloated out compared to the first generation, which was produced in 1967-68. Even so, the Camaro’s behind has been adorned with a suit that is much better tailored than the Corvette’s. Perhaps this is the best we can hope for in an era where bloat runs wild.