C8 Corvette vs. 1991 NSX Visual Comparo


by Jeff Ritter

30 Years of Technology...and Mass!

A generous customer of ours plans to spend a considerable amount of time with his new C8 Z51 on the racetrack, so he loaned us his car so we can equip it with a proper track-focused brake system. He's been running our AP Racing by Essex Radi-CAL Competition Brake Kit on his C7 Z06 for the past couple years, so he fully understands the confidence boost, competitive advantage, and long-term cost savings they provide. As such, we were fortunately one of his first stops after taking delivery of the car.

Ever since the details on the C8 Corvette emerged, I've been dying to line one up next to my '91 NSX. I've owned a couple generations of Corvettes over the years, as well as several mid-engined cars. While I've enjoyed them all in some capacity, they've gone about their business in very different ways.

My MR cars have been defined by their delicate steering feel, the clattering and growl of the engine behind my head, and the sensation of the car pivoting around my hips at turn-in. Mid-engine cars put you on 'out on the road' with their short hood, and generally make you feel like you're carving the road with something special. Conversely, my Corvettes have been sledgehammers dipped in plastic. Yes, they've been continuously refined; yes they handle very well; and yes the interiors keep getting better. That said, the Corvette has always been about the engine, and the rush you get when you pin yourself in the seat with the accelerator (and the giggling that ensues).

For years, Ferrari, McLaren, and Lamborghini have been launching vehicles that combine all the above facets in a single package, but not at prices the typical enthusiast can afford. That's why I was admittedly a bit giddy when I heard the now infamous $59k number during the unveiling last year. It was pretty obvious that the C8 was going to be something special.

I saw the C8 in person for the first time at SEMA 2019, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The striking Rapid Blue convertible GM had on display grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go as I circled it during the early pre-show hours. One of my first thoughts was, "Wow...it's gigantic." That thought was further reinforced when I saw this one, particularly parked next to my NSX. The NSX is rather small by today's standards vs. any car, and when you drive it you're perpetually looking up at everything else. When parked next to the C8 it feels diminutive in every dimension. Those numbers are verified on paper:

1991 NSX

2020 Chevy Corvette Z51

Length (inches)



Wheelbase (inches)



Height (inches)



Width (inches)



Curb weight (lbs.)


3,546 (measured)

Let's take a look at these two from a few different angles.

I was never a fan of the original '91 NSX 'fat five' wheels, so I run the '94-'01 16"/17" setup. They remind me of a dream car poster I had on the wall after buying my first sportscar over twenty years ago, a 1998 Acura Integra Type R. The 19"/20" factory C8 wheels obviously dwarf the NSX wheels, and regulations now insist that cars can't chop pedestrians directly at the ankle while cruising the boulevard. The front lip on the NSX is therefore quite a bit lower.

Ankle-breaker vs. shin-splitter

You quickly notice a theme when walking around these cars...just a LOT less going on with the NSX styling. Less vents, creases, angles, openings, fins, louvers, and angles. I've always thought of the NSX as a rather angular wedge, but the C8 takes angles to a whole other level!

LEDs allow some cool headlight shapes these days, but damn were pop-up lights clean!

Whoa...dat ass! The rear of the C8 would make Nicki Minaj envious. That is one serious booty. While the NSX elegantly integrates the standard low spoiler and tail lights into the rear of the car without much fuss, the optional high wing on the C8 is perched atop a giant stack of horizontal lines. It's thankfully not Civic Type R busy, but there's definitely a lot going on back there. Yes, it does have a little more Camaro in it than I'd prefer, but it looks tough as hell. I think the lower exhaust/diffuser area is a lot more visually interesting on the vette than it is on the NSX (which is a bit boring).

The slots and vents don't stop at the rear wing on the C8. They travel up towards the roof as well. The little stingray on the trunk lid is a nice touch.

Although it's only a couple inches taller, the C8 feels a lot taller. I think the considerably lower front end and the larger greenhouse on the NSX bolster that impression.

Where did it go? The C8's silhouette completely consumes the NSX. All you can see of the NSX is its roof peeking through the c8's window.

The NSX side mirror sits completely below the C8's mirror. As with every other car on the road, you're looking up from the NSX.

Just like the rear, the hood and nose are a covered in creases on the C8. The jagged hood line, the angular headlights, the gaping maw, extended front splitter...lines, lines, and more lines. Again though, I think it looks mean as hell. The lines create a tension that makes it look like it's going fast even while it's sitting still.

Here are a couple more shots that show how much lower the NSX mirrors sit.

The side inlets on the NSX are more or less invisible from the angles below, but the ones on the Vette are huge! They protrude a long way out to the sides, and are big enough to swallow both big gulps of fresh air and small household pets. They really give the car some hips. Porsche has focused on the hips of their wide-body 911 variants forever, but they're always smooth and rounded. Not so with the C8.

When you look in the mirror you see those hips...very aggressive. I can't wait to see the Grand Sport, Z06, and ZR1 if this is what the narrow body variants look like! :O

Two ways to skin a cat, or scald a cat with a hot engine. The NSX uses separate lids for the engine and cargo areas, while the C8 uses one long rear hatch. The good news? Two less struts to wear out over the next 30 years. While the NSX sadly hid its little V6 under a plain black engine cover, the C8 proudly displays its monster V8 in a carbon fiber-trimmed and lighted cradle.

Don't worry...I have my OG NSX fuse box cover. I just pulled it off the trickle charger for the photos.

The trunk on the NSX is arguably a bit more usable due to its more uniform shape, but it doesn't have the depth of the C8's trunk. My car is a fixed roof coupe, so no need to store a targa roof anywhere.

While the C8 loses the long hood of prior generations of Corvettes, it still felt like a long way from my eyes to the bottom of the windshield. Even though there are a couple inches more headroom in the C8, it feels a lot more confined vs. the airy NSX greenhouse. The dash is more vertical in the NSX, so it gives you more of the "There's nothing in front of me" feeling than any other car I've owned. There's also a lot more glass around you overall in the NSX, so it feels more open, with greater 360 degree visibility. The C8's zoom-able rear view mirror camera is fantastic though...what a cool feature! I took both pics below from over my right shoulder. You can see considerably more daylight in the NSX.

ps In case you were wondering, yes my NSX is a manual (proof...you can see the knob peeking in the pic below). How could you possibly think otherwise?!? :p

Driving Impressions and Conclusion

The C8 we measured is still being broken in, so I unfortunately didn't get the chance to drag race the owner and watch his tail lights quickly disappear over the horizon. Hopefully I'll get to do that in a future installment here on our Essex Blog. I did enjoy the visual comparison though, and I'm thoroughly impressed by the C8's aesthetics. It is a beautiful design, and I'm sure GM will sell every one they can build in the years to come.

So, tell me again why you were measuring the C8?

Certain things in this world complement each other perfectly. Laurel and Hardy, pen and paper, and of course PB&J. One lesser-known pair of complementary entities that bring out the best in the other are AP Racing Brakes and fast Corvettes. AP Racing brakes have been the anchors of choice for the fastest Corvettes at the pinnacle of sportscar racing for the past two decades. Most prominently are well over 100 race wins on the iconic Corvette Racing/Pratt & Miller C5.R, C6.R, and C7.R, including eight victories at Le Mans, thirteen manufacturer titles, and 12 driver titles. AP Racing brakes also helped carry the Action Express Corvette Daytona Prototypes to three consecutive championships in IMSA from 2014-2016.

Besides continually pushing brake technology forward at the elite level of sportscar racing, Essex Parts Services and AP Racing have helped privateer teams throughout the pro ranks, club racers, time trialers, and autocrossers pedal their Corvettes to victory every week. We have a lengthy list of championships in SCCA, NASA, USTCC, etc. For those who don't necessarily race but still want to go fast, we've provided the stoppers that allow them to spend less time cursing and wrenching, and more time driving!

While OEM brake bits are fine for light to moderate duty, they aren't explicitly designed for relentless thrashing on the racetrack. Watch the video below to see how and why our Radi-CAL Competition Brake Kits are so unique vs. the 'racing inspired' systems that come from the factory on modern sportscars.

We'll go into more detail on the OEM C8 Z51 brakes vs. our AP Racing Radi-CAL system in a future blog post, but below are a couple pics of our prototype kit installed on the front of the C8. We'll be offering systems that are very similar to our current Radi-CAL offerings for the C7, C6, and C5. We're also planning something really cool and unique for the rear of this chassis, so please stay tuned for more details on that solution. :)

Our front CP9660 system will clear the OEM wheels without a spacer.

Our AP Racing Radi-CAL six piston calipers weigh 6.1 lbs. vs. the OEM four piston which weighs roughly 11 lbs.!

Weight below includes attached brake line.


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