DETROIT—The much-heralded 1997 Corvette that was introduced in early January is not only the first redesign of the venerable Chevrolet sportscar in quite a few years, but it's also the first car in the U.S. to eliminate its spare tire and jack. Older Corvette models carry a full-sized spare.
But according to Goodyear and Chevrolet, the new Corvette makes a spare unnecessary by featuring Goodyear's new Eagle F1 GS EMT, a run-flat tire, as stan-dard equipment.
The car also has a new air pressure monitoring system which provides the driver with psi readings for each tire.
Since the 1994 model year, another Goodyear run-flat—the Eagle GS-C EMT (extended mobility tire)—has been available as an option on the Corvette.
In the 1996 model, buyers who took the run-flat option also could delete the spare at a savings of $100, but there were no other real benefits because of the car design, according to Fred Gallasch, assistant brand manager for the Corvette.
``In '97, the customer gets a lot of benefits,'' Mr. Gallasch said.
The removal of the spare reduces weight and, along with other design changes, doubles last year's model's cargo space, he said.
In addition, the spare's absence allows Chevrolet, a division of General Motors Corp., to move the transmission and axle to the rear of the car for more passenger room up front and better distribution of weight.
When Chevrolet was considering removing the spare, the big concern was customer acceptance, Mr. Gallasch said. Only about 3 percent of customers took the $395 run-flat option in 1994. That number increased to nearly 25 percent in 1996, but only 5 percent took the no-spare option.
Customers don't have a choice in 1997, but the Chevrolet official doesn't expect that to affect the historically strong demand for the Corvette—even a Vette without a spare tire.
Mr. Gallasch said people are impressed by the tire technology. ``When they hear what this tire can do, they ask, `When can I have this on my car?' ''
He hopes the new Corvette will lead to other spare-less vehicles at GM. However, the current run-flat technology may have a tougher challenge, he said, when it comes to tires with higher aspect ratios—that is, the ratio of the tire's standing height to its section width.
The Eagle run-flat tire, made in Goodyear's Lawton, Okla., factory, uses mold shape, sidewall reinforcements and bead area to remain mounted to a conventional wheel, even during severe cornering, the tire maker said.
``The EMT virtually eliminates the inconvenience of disabling flats,'' according to a statement issued by Bill Brophey, Goodyear's vice president of original equipment.
``The tire can run up to 200 miles at 55 mph at zero inflation pressure.
``A major engineering challenge was to develop a tire that can run without air and stay mounted on a standard Corvette wheel during cornering and yet maintain the ride, handling, rolling resistance and speed rating of a standard Eagle GS-C ultra-performance tire,'' Mr. Brophey said.
Goodyear also is offering a mud-and-snow version of its EMT—the Eagle M+S—which the company said is the first run-flat tire made specifically for those conditions.
In late March, Chrysler Corp. will work without a spare for the first time when it begins making its new, low-volume Plymouth Prowler, which will feature Goodyear's Eagle GS-D EMT.
Without the spare, which for the Prowler would be as large as a fuel tank, Chrysler's engineers had a lot of freedom in designing the unique vehicle, a Chrysler spokesman said.
The other domestic auto maker, Ford Motor Co., offers Michelin MXV4 ZP run-flat tires as an option on its Lincoln Continental, but the vehicle still carries a spare and jack, said a Michelin North America spokesman.
A Ford spokeswoman said the automaker is reviewing the option of eliminating the spare tire in its vehicles.