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by Steve Siler

Chevrolet Corvette
2003 Chevrolet Corvette
The fifth-generation Chevrolet Corvette is now in its last year of production, making way for what will surely be a much improved, more advanced and more contemporary-looking '05 Corvette that everyone will say is the best 'Vette yet. But today, the '03 Corvette featured on these pages is without a doubt the best 'Vette yet, one with a talent set so vast that there's no way that the next one will ever completely eclipse it. Besides, think back: is there any Corvette from the past that you would be embarrassed to own? Doubt it. Any past 'Vette that's anything less than a sheer hoot to drive? Didn't think so. The 2003 Corvette is something that will be a collector's item in the future, and a blast to own every day in the meantime.

So what about the 2003 Corvette? Well, it's still the siren it's always been. With its billowing fiberglass body and thunderous exhaust, it's about as subtle as Pamela Anderson in a string bikini (does she ever wear anything else?). But with all due respect to our buxom blond icon, we speculate that the Corvette, now celebrating its 50-year anniversary, looks better at the half-century mark than Ms. Anderson will (without some serious gravity-defying "interventions").

Beyond its relentlessly extroverted exterior, the '03 Corvette is blessed with excellent ergonomics and a comfortable interior. The 50th Anniversary edition, available in fastback coupe (with a removable roof panel) and full convertible bodystyles is painted your choice of one color, an unbelievably lustrous Xirallic Red Metallic, and comes with one interior choice: light tannish shale color that is equally easy on the eyes. It comes with every option, including the cool magnetic selective ride control that irons out rough pavement and is also found on the new Cadillac XLR.

Regardless of whether you choose to commemorative edition or not, the Corvette is most satisfying once you jab the gas pedal. No fewer than 350 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque will pin you to your seat as if you were a dead moth at a science fair, and the brakes will can unpin you with such force that you'll brace yourself for airbag deployment. Opt for the hardtop-only Z06 Coupe and power goes up to 405 horsepower. Yikes.

Ultimately, what the 2003 Corvette represents is a playful companion, a sound investment and a timeless sports car whose performance credentials will be valid long after the next Corvette arrives…and the next one after that and the one after that and the one after that….

Price: $44K-$54K