The Ultimate Corvette Page

Enthusiasts describe Corvettes as the coolest, most awesome, hottest cars that ever rolled off an assembly line. All that glowing praise is because, well, they are!

When they came home after World War II, American GI's brought the European cars they’d fallen in love with - Alfa Romeos, Jaguars, MGs, and such. General Motors (GM) designer Harley Earl wanted to build an American-made car that captured the thrill of the road the way these two-seater European sports cars did. Project Opel, the code name for the development phase of the Corvette, was born and the world’s first Corvette was showcased at GM’s 1953 Motorama car show.

Named after a small, highly maneuverable fighting ship, Corvettes sported fiberglass bodies that decreased the weight and thus boosted the speed of the car but also because steel was in short supply due to rationing as an aftermath of the war. In spite of the promise its name implied, the first series, C1, Corvettes didn’t quite live up to expectations. Zora Arkus-Duntov (nicknamed the Father of the Corvette) stepped in, revamped the car’s performance capabilities, and history was made.

1953 to 1962 (C1 Series)

The 300 Corvettes made in 1953 were built and assembled by hand, making them the most highly prized Corvettes ever made. Until the V8 engine was introduced in 1955, Blue Flame straight-6 engines were standard. Fuel injection was added in 1957, producing about 290 horsepower (hp), or about one hp per cubic inch (an automotive first), as its advertising campaign boasted. Other C1 upgrades and innovations included the hydraulic convertible top, electric windows, heavy duty brake and suspension systems, and four-speed manual transmission.

On the outside, the 1958 model was the flashiest ever made, heavy with chrome, quad headlights, hood louvers, twin trunk spars, and bumper-exit exhaust. Later models gained speed by dropping some of the chrome. The 1961 model featured a boat-tail rear and four round tail lights. The engine was enlarged in 1962 to 327 cubic inches (cu in) (5.4L), producing 360 hp at full performance.

1963 to 1967 (C2 Series)

The Sting Ray debuted in 1963, Corvette’s first coupe and first to feature independent rear suspension. Its body design was inspired by the mako shark the program’s styling director caught while fishing. Split rear windows and nonfunctional hood vents were eliminated by 1964. 1963’s maximum horsepower reached 360 but jumped to 375 in 1964.

Four-wheel disc brakes and a big block engine (396 CID [cubic inch displacement]/6.5L) V8 were standard for the 1965 Corvette and side exhaust pipes were optional. Engine size continued to grow during the C2 series, culminating with the L-88 427 CID (7L) engine in 1967, which produced, unofficially, a whopping 530 hp; only 20 such Corvettes were made, making them so coveted they sell for no less than a million dollars at auction today. 

Other innovations of the C2 series include the WonderBar auto-tune AM radio, AM-FM radio, air conditioning, telescopic steering column, and head rests. Sports Car International listed the Corvette Sting Ray as the #5 top sports car during the 1960s.

1968 to 1982 (C3 Series)

By 1982, the mako shark style was the longest running body style in automotive history, remaining relatively the same for 14 years. Beginning in 1969, the cars were Stingrays, not Sting Rays, and only in 1969 the engine was an all-aluminum 427 cu (7L) ZL-1 big block. Engine size and performance output increased each year until 1972, when government regulations - adaption of the SAE Net power measurement system, catalytic converters, emission controls, and unleaded fuel - led to decline in performance until 1975, when its ZQ3 engine produced only 165 hp.

The C3 series’ fiber-optic monitoring system was discontinued in 1971 due to cost concerns. In 1973, the front bumper made of chrome was replaced by a urethane-compound bumper, thanks to more government regulations. The rear chrome bumpers were replaced in 1974. The convertible top was discontinued in 1975 and the name, Sting Ray (or Stingray), was dropped in 1977.

The 1978 Corvette, a celebration of the model’s 25th anniversary, featured a revamped interior and fast back glass rear window. This Silver Anniversary edition was the Pace Car at the Indianapolis 500 that year, a first for Corvette and perhaps a factor that made 1979’s model the peak year for Corvette production. An integrated aerodynamic design was introduced in 1980 and an opening rear hatch and cross fire injection came in 1982, when the only transmission produced was automatic.

1984 to 1996 (C4)

Thanks to production issues, there was no 1983 Corvette but early production of the 1984 model was begun instead. This 1984 design was leaked to Mattel’s Hot Wheels division, where production of the scale model toy hit store shelves before the car itself hit the showrooms, a situation that created a great deal of friction between toy maker and car maker.

Except for its engine, the L83 used in the latest C3 models, the 1984 Corvette presented a completely redesigned car featuring rear hatch for ease in accessing the cargo area, aluminum brake calipers and suspension, one-piece targa top, electronic dashboard utilizing liquid crystal displays for the tach- and speedometers. The front transverse composite leaf spring, still used but improved for later models, presented handling issues for the 1984 model.

US fuel economy standards led to the introduction of an unpopular 4+3-style transmission from 1984 until 1988, when it was replaced with the ZF 6-speed manual gearbox which featured a computer-aided gear selection (CAGS) mechanism for 1989’s model. The 230 hp (L98) engine with tuned port fuel injection, introduced in 1985, became standard for the C4 series.

The convertible top returned for 1986, as the only option, as did Corvette’s invitation to serve as the Indy 500 Pace Car, where, in stock form, it was able to keep pace with the high-performance race cars. Also added in 1986 was the center high mounted signal light as required by federal law. The 1988 35th Anniversary Edition sported a commemorative identification badge adjacent to the gear shift and was entirely white - inside, outside, and wheels, too.

The 1992 Corvette came with a 300 hp LT1 engine and acceleration slip regulation (ASR) traction control system. 1993’s 40th Anniversary Edition, ruby red with embroidered back seats, introduced GM’s first passive keyless entry system. Special models and options were available in 1996, the last of C4 series production. During the run of the C4 series, newly introduced upgrades included antilock brakes, airbags, climate control, computer-controlled 6-speed manual transmission, a digital instrument panel, overhead cams, and four valves per cylinder in the ZR-1 engine.

Optional models produced during the C4 series included the B2K Callaway Twin-Turbo in 1987, the ZR-1 from 1990 to 1995, and the Grand Sport and Collector Editions in 1996.

1997 to 2004 (C5 Series)

The C5 series, with major changes from the C4, is said to present improvements in almost every aspect, including its top speed, clocked at 168 miles per hour (mph). The C5 introduced GM’s latest engine, the LS1 small block, new cylinder firing order, and distributor-less ignition. Its original 345 hp rating increased to 350 hp in 2001.

A hard-top only in 1997, the convertible returned once again in 1998. In 2001, the Z06 was introduced as a modern version of the race-ready 1963 Corvette, featuring a LS6 engine producing 385 hp. Although the LS6 produced less horsepower than its ZR-1 predecessor from the C4 series, the Z06 model was lighter than the C4 models, making it faster with quicker maneuverability. To complement the added power of the Z06, the body, suspension, wheels and tires, transmission, gearing, and brake cooling ducts were improved, too. A titanium exhaust, thinner glass, and wheels and battery less heavy than the C5 fixed roof coupe (FRC) made the Z06 38 pounds lighter than its hard-top counterpart.

Enhancements to the electron blue 2002 Z06 include revised rear shock valving and steel links, spun cast wheels, and fender badges proclaiming 405 hp. The 2003 model, a 50th anniversary model, features silver badges, a redesigned headliner, and can go from zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 198 in fifth gear. The LeMans blue 2004 Z06 Commemorative Edition sports a lighter-weight carbon fiber hood, polished aluminum wheels, and Nurburgring-tested suspension tuning for improved handling.

The C5-R, featuring an enlarged engine, improved aerodynamic body design, wider track, and longer wheelbase designed for the race track, has seen competition in Daytona and Sebring and at LeMans series events in the US and Europe.

2005 to Present (C6 Series)

Like the C5 series’ C5-R racing model, the C6.R, introduced in 2005, was built for competition but results proved disappointing in GT1 class events. The 2009 C6.R, based on the ZR1 design, is designed for GT2 class competition.

Not seen since 1962, the C6 series models feature exposed headlamps as well as larger passenger compartments, overhaul of the suspension geometry, a larger 6.0L engine (about 366 cu in). The body is both shorter and narrower, innovations intended to enhance the car’s appeal in Europe. Low drag and curb weight enhance fuel efficiency (18 city/27 highway miles per gallon) even though it can go from zero to 60 in less than 4.2 seconds.

2008’s Corvette produces about 430 hp from a 6.2L engine, its 6-speed manual transmission features improved shift linkage, and its automatic transmission shifts quicker than any previous Corvette model. Options include a full-leather interior and five-spoke wheels.

2010 will see the return of the Grand Sport designation, along with the wide body of the Z06 models, the C6 powertrain available in both the convertible and targa coupe models, and a launch control system. The 2010 model Grand Sport features 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels, optional chrome finish instead of paint although paint is available in all standard Corvette colors, wider front and rear fenders, TREMEC manual transmission, and many features similar to but improved from previous Grand Sport models.

The 2006 model Z06, with its aluminum frame beat the Porsche 911 GT3 and Lotus Exige S in Car and Driver’s 2007 performance analysis and its Pace Car edition officiated at both the Daytona and Indianapolis 500 races. The 2007 model was listed as an automobile all-star in Automobile Magazine. For 2008, the Z06 got a TR6060 six-speed manual transmission and improved steering rack. Spider-style wheels grace the 2009 model, as do an electronic pull-down rear hatch, variable steering ratio, and updated software for its handling and traction control systems. From this model forward, parts are supplied by BOSCH instead of Delphi.

2008’s ZR1, with its sticker price of $100,000 and top speed of 205 mph, features a new LS9 engine - Eaton supercharged 6.2L engine producing 638 hp and 604 foot-pounds of force; it’s the most powerful engine ever put into a GM sports car. Ceramic brakes, adjustable suspension, wider tires, carbon-fiber body parts, and a weight distribution that puts 52% at the front end complete this package.

Check out these links to see how the Corvette has evolved over the years:

  • The Corvette Story provides Corvette photos and data for every model ever made.

  • Kerbeck Corvette is home to the 1952 Corvette prototype, the oldest Corvette ever made. 

  • Motorama was an annual event during which GM showcased its cars of the future.

  • The C1 Registry is devoted entirely to the C1 Series Corvette.

  • Muscle Car Club World Wide Muscle Car Registry provides C2 Corvette history.

  • Corvette C3 provides everything anyone would want to know about the C3 series.

  • The Idaho Corvette Page provides details of the C4 design and development process. 

  • Roger’s Corvette Center can tell you how long it took to build a car from the C5 series.

  • Corvette Valley describes the 2006 Z6 as a radical departure in Chevrolet history. 

  • Corvette Action Center features photos, info, trivia, and a month-by-month account of Corvette history.

  • Edmunds helps potential buyers and sellers price Corvettes competitively.

Loyalty runs high in Corvette ownership and interest is rather equally distributed across the United States, with highest interest apparently in Michigan, where 3.47 of every 1,000 residents owns a Corvette, according to 2009 data supplied by Experian Automotive and the Specialty Equipment Market Association. The typical Corvette owner is 53 years old although 82% of all owners are between 40 and 69 years of age. Corvette owners are better educated than the norm, with 47% holding college degrees, versus 27% of the general population. There are currently about 750,000 Corvettes registered to drivers in the US.

Follow these links to find like-minded Corvette enthusiasts:


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