History of the Chevy Corvette

History of the Chevy Corvette

History of the Chevy Corvette

The Chevrolet Corvette is a two-door, two-passenger luxury sports car manufactured and marketed by Chevrolet since 1953. With eight design generations, noted sequentially from C1 to C8, the Corvette is noted for its performance and distinctive fiberglass or composite panels. It was front-engined through 2019 and mid-engined since. The Corvette is currently the only two-seat sports car produced by a major United States auto manufacturer, and it serves as Chevrolet’s halo vehicle.

First Generation C1 1953–1962

The first generation of Corvette was introduced late in the 1953 model year. It first appeared as a show car for the 1953 General Motors Motorama. Unique to Corvette was its hand-laid-up fiberglass body. This generation was often referred to as the “solid-axle” models, with independent rear suspension. 1953, 1954, and 1955 models were the only Corvettes equipped with a 235 cubic inch version of the second-generation Blue Flame inline-six rated at 150 horsepower. In addition, the 1955 model offered a 265 cu in V8 engine as an option. With the new V8, the 0–60 mph time improved by 1.5 seconds, and three new competitors, the Ford Thunderbird and the Studebaker Speedster, were introduced that same year, and the larger Chrysler C-300.

Second Generation C2 1963–1967

The second generation Corvette introduced the Sting Ray to the model, continued with fiberglass body panels, and overall, was smaller than the first generation. Production started for the 1963 model year and ended in 1967. Introducing a new name, “Sting Ray,” the 1963 model was the first year for a Corvette coupé, and it featured a distinctive tapering rear deck with, for 1963 only, a split rear window. In addition, the Sting Ray featured hidden headlamps, non-functional hood vents, and an independent rear suspension. Maximum power for 1963 was 360 horsepower and was raised to 375 horsepower in 1964. In 1965, a “big block” engine option was offered with 396 cu in V8. The introduction of the 425 horsepower 396 cu in big block in 1965 spelled the beginning of the end for the Rochester fuel injection system. In 1966, Chevrolet introduced an even larger 427 cu in Big Block. Although the 1967 model year had the first L88 engine option rated at 430 horsepower, only twenty such engines were installed at the factory.

Third Generation C3 1968–1982

The third-generation Corvette, patterned after the Mako Shark II concept car, was introduced for the 1968 model year and was in production until 1982. C3 coupes featured the first use of T-top removable roof panels. Engines and chassis components were mainly carried over from the C2, but the body and interior were new. In 1970 small-block power peaked with the optional high-compression, high-revving LT-1 that produced 370 horsepower. The 427 big block was enlarged to 454 cu in with 390 horsepower. The 1981 models were the last available with a manual transmission until well into the 1984 production run. In 1982, a fuel-injected engine returned, and a final C3 tribute Collectors Edition featured an exclusive, opening rear window hatch.

Fourth Generation C4 1984–1996

The fourth-generation Corvette was the first complete redesign of the Corvette since 1963. Production was to begin for the 1983 model year, but quality issues and part delays resulted in only 43 prototypes for the 1983 model year produced that were never sold. All 1983 prototypes were destroyed or serialized as 1984 model year except one with a white exterior, medium blue interior, L83 350 ci, 205 horsepower V8, and 4-speed automatic transmission. New chassis features were aluminum brake calipers and an all-aluminum suspension for weight savings and rigidity. Beginning in 1985, the 230 horsepower L98 engine with tuned port fuel injection became the standard engine. In 1986, the first convertible Corvette since 1975 was released. For the 1992 model year, the 300 horsepower LT1 engine was introduced, an increase of 50 horsepower over the 1991’s L98 engine. Chevrolet released the Grand Sport (GS) version in 1996 to mark the end of production of the C4 Corvette.

Fifth Generation C5 1997–2004

The C5 Corvette was redesigned from the ground up after sales from the previous generation began to decline. Production of the C5 Corvette began in 1997 and continued through the 2004 model year. The C5 was a completely new design that featured many new concepts and manufacturing breakthroughs that would be carried forward to the C6 & C7. It had a top speed of 176 mph and weighed less than the C4. In addition, an all-new LS1 aluminum engine was rated at 350 horsepower. For its first year, the C5 was available only as a coupe, although the new platform was designed from the ground up to be a convertible, which returned in 1998, followed by the fixed-roof coupe in 1999.

Sixth Generation C6 2005–2013

For the C6 Corvette, GM wanted to focus more on refining the C5 than trying to redesign it. Car & Driver, and Motor Trend, described the C6 as an “evolution of the C5, instead of a complete redo”. The C6 wheelbase was increased, while body overhangs decreased compared to the C5. In addition, the C6 brought a new and improved interior compared to the C5. As a result of the upgraded interior, the C6 had a slight increase in passenger hip room. It also sported an updated LS1/LS6 engine called the LS2. This engine offered a bump in displacement from 5.7L to 6.0 liters, bringing the horsepower up by 50. Thus, the LS2 could produce 400 horsepower,  giving the vehicle a 0–60 mph time of under 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 190 mph. The new Z06 arrived in 2006 with 427.6 cubic inches of power, the largest small block ever offered by General Motors. Official output was 505 horsepower and had a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds. The top speed was 198 mph. The last C6 Corvette was manufactured in February 2013.

Seventh Generation C7 2014–2019

Development for the seventh-generation Corvette started in 2007. However, it was not released until 2011. The mid-engine and rear-engine layouts had been considered, but the front-engine, rear-wheel drive platform was chosen to lower production costs. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette includes an LT1 6.2 L V8 making 455 horsepower or 460 horsepower with the optional performance exhaust. Transmission choices include a 7-speed manual or a 6-speed, 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The 2015 Z06 Corvette had 650 horsepower from the supercharged LT4 aluminum 6.2 L V8 engine. For the 2015 model, Chevrolet began offering a transaxle version of the 8L90 8-speed automatic to replace the previous 6-speed 6L80. For the 2019 model year, the ZR1 variant returned with a new LT5 engine. The long block of the LT5 is the same as the LT4, but the supercharger displacement was increased from 1.7 liters to 2.65 liters. The C7 ZR1 power output is 755 horsepower.

Eighth Generation C8 2020–present

The 2020 Corvette model, offered as a coupe and convertible configuration of the base-model Stingray, made their debut within a 3-month gap. The Corvette C8 is the first production Corvette to have a rear mid-engine configuration. The base engine is a 6.2 liter naturally aspirated V8, which generates 495 horsepower and 470 lb/ft of torque. In addition, the C8 is the first Corvette to be offered without a traditional manual transmission, while the convertible is the first Corvette with a retractable hardtop. The Corvette C8 Z06 is expected to debut in the 2023 model year. It will feature a 670 horsepower 5.5 liter naturally-aspirated DOHC flat-plane crank V8. This engine, the LT6, is the most powerful naturally aspirated production V8 engine.

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