The C8-generation Chevrolet Corvette is a mid-engine marvel built for speed, but one design decision has attracted ire from many of its owners: the large, wide-open grilles at each corner up front. These direct air into the condensers for the air conditioner and the radiators that sit behind them, and the wide-open design is lets debris damage those wide-open components.
"It just gets bugs, rocks, small Honda Civics—all kinds of stuff gets sucked in there and when it does, it beats up the radiator," Justin from YouTube's HorsePower Obsessed channel said of his C8's front grilles.
Problem is, air needs to flow through the fins of the car's condensers and radiators in order for the fluid running through those parts to cool down properly. The damage isn't just ugly—it has some owners concerned about breaking the condenser and radiator and then being on the hook for the repairs.
While "stop tailgating" is a common pushback to these complaints on various Corvette forums, the reality is that there's plenty of other things that could strike, bend or gum up a wide-open condenser or radiator, from gravel on roads to bugs to a brief, ahem, off-pavement track day
adventure if you're pushing your performance car just a little too hard in the correct venue. Just thinking about Florida's notoriously sticky love bugs and largely exposed cooling parts full of hard-to-clean fins makes me a tad nervous.
As such, it hasn't taken long for some cars to rack up a large amount of visible damage to the fronts of their condensers. Ron Harris posted a customer's C8 convertible (pictured above) that had racked up a concerning amount of pits in its condensers after just 689 miles in the C8 Corvette Owners (And Friends) Facebook group.
General Motors claims that the dinged-up fins won't affect the performance of the C8, telling Motor1, "What people are seeing is cosmetic. We have determined that it does not degrade the performance of the vehicle."
Even if that's the case, it's still an eyesore to many C8 owners—so much so that the subject of installing aftermarket radiator grill guards is a frequent topic of discussion.
"This forum needs a pinned post at the top regarding the available solutions," said Jake Spruill on Harris' Facebook thread.
Many owners have wondered why GM hasn't offered a solution themselves to close up the grilles a little better. None of the posts seen by The Drive from owners who added their own grille guards have indicated any issues.
However, it is unlikely that GM will offer its own more protective grille option anytime soon. A GM spokesperson told The Drive that the grille was intentionally very open for performance reasons, and that the company currently doesn't recommend changing that.
"What owners are seeing does not impact the performance of their vehicles," a GM representative told us via email. "The design of the grille was done to provide maximum airflow. We do not currently recommend owners use any protective mesh which could impact cooling performance."
In other words, as with many other vehicular modifications since the dawn of time, change the grille at your own risk.
This isn't a brand-new issue with only the C8—watercooled Porsche owners have been adding grille inserts for years, for one—but it's definitely a frustrating one considering just how visible the condensers are on the C8 and how protective owners are of their brand-new, much-hyped, hard-to-get sports cars. Numerous
Others have made their own guards, as owner WillRockwell on MidEngineCorvetteForum.com reposted a photo of custom grille guards made out of mesh from Home Depot. Douglas Hines also posted a link to cut-to-fit grille mesh from Wish on Harris' Facebook thread that costs less than $20 per sheet. Hey, if it works, it works.
Update: Sunday, January 31, 2021, 8:50 p.m.: Added comment from GM above.
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