More bang for your buck: That's what the latest Corvette iteration promises - to the delight of drivers demanding the highest performance.

General Motors Corp. revisits its muscle car roots with the '99 Hardtop, the first fixed-roof 'Vette to grace the fold since the venerable Stingray era came to a close in 1967. Conspicuously absent is much of the high-tech gadgetry and hotrod-in-suburbia comforts that have recently come to be associated with this once-pure sports car.

The sole chassis setup available for the Hardtop is Chevy's mega-stiff Z51 suspension package, offered only as an option for the '99 Coupe and Convertible models. The Z51 improves Corvette's already superior road handling capabilities by featuring stiffer springs, larger stabilizer bars and large monotube shocks.

All 345 satisfying horses cranked out by the all-aluminum 5.7L LS1 V-8 run through a smooth shifting 6-speed manual gearbox mounted in front of the rear axle.

You can load the Hardtop up with some expensive features, but if you think Chevy's not serious about this being the "performance/value" model, note that the manual is the only transmission offered and the racetrack-hard Z51 package is the only suspension. And forget the wussie stuff like the power tilt and Twilight Sentinel: definitely not offered.

Engineering the Hardtop cost GM relatively little because it shares body panels and design features of the convertible.

Pricing should start in the mid-$30,000s, making the '99 Corvette Hardtop - insert cliche now - one of the performance bargains of all time.