A story over six decades in the making, Chevrolet Corvette is pretty much universally known as just Corvette or ‘Vette. Over sixty-four years of production, minus one of you count that break in 1983, Corvette has gone through seven generations, C1 through C7, more than a few body styles, design changes, and dozens of powertrain combinations.
Corvette C1 – 1953-1962
Introduced in 1953, the car was never really expected to go into production, which seems to indicate that General Motors didn’t quite understand that appeal of sports cars. The response after the 1953 New York Auto Show was overwhelming, so Chevrolet reconsidered, eventually producing a limited number, just 300, in the first year. The very next year, full production totaled 3,640 units. The only color scheme available was Polo White and Sportsman Red. Later years saw a much-expanded palette, but the White and Red is iconic of the generation.
Corvette C2 – 1963-1967
The first generation ‘Vette was decidedly unlike what people had come to expect as a “sports car,” since the only sports cars on the road at the time were European imports, such as Lotus, Ferrari, and BMW. That changed with the C2 Corvette, with a whole new look and new name, to boot. The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray (two words) was decidedly more European in styling, designed after a 1959 race car belonging to Corvette design lead Bill Mitchell. The 1963 introduced a streamlined popup headlight system and a split-window fastback body, though that feature would only last a year.
Corvette C3 – 1968-1982
A General Motors show car, the 1965 Mako Shark II, became the basis for the C3 Corvette. Gorgeous convertibles and coupes are still in full production, and the 1968 ‘Vette introduced yet another option, the T-Top. Though the C3 body was beautiful enough, safety changes in the mid-1970s forced General Motors to make a few changes for the worse. Up front, the 1973 Corvette’s front chrome bumper was replaced by a body-colored plastic 5-mph-crash bumper. The very next year, the 1974 Corvette’s rear chrome bumperettes were replaced by more body-color plastic. Inexplicably, the 1976 Corvette was no longer available as a convertible, a body style absent for a decade.
The 1978 ‘Vette was also available in a limited-edition, the Silver Anniversary Edition, the first of many special editions to come, such as the 1979 Indy 500 Pace Car Replica.
Corvette C4 – 1984-1996
The C4 ‘Vette lost some of its curves, as well as the Sting Ray name and its most powerful engine options, but its aerodynamic body improved fuel economy, an important consideration for the time. Enthusiasts couldn’t help but be shocked by the boxy exterior and liquid crystal instrument cluster. Though underpowered in comparison to previous generations, the new generation was quite the performer. The 1986 model year saw the return of the convertible, every single one of 7,315 an Indy 500 Pace Car Replica, complete with decals. Corvette number 1,000,000 was a 1992, White-exterior Red-interior model, just like the entire 1953 production run.
Corvette C5 – 1997-2004
After further lightening and redesign, the C5 Corvette really started to return to its roots, finally breaking the 300-hp barrier with the iconic aluminum-block LS1 V8, pumping out 345 hp, then 385 hp from the 2001 LS6, and 400 hp from the 2002 Z06. New front fascia grilles improved airflow, and 2004 Corvette’s new carbon-fiber hood was the first painted carbon-fiber panel in North America.
Corvette C6 – 2005-2013
Stylistically, the C5 wasn’t a drastic change, and neither was the C6 Corvette. What really set the C6 apart was the sudden disappearance of the retractable headlights, an iconic Corvette fixture for over four decades. The convertible top was now powered, but like the previous generation, Corvette designers were focused on refining and not so much inventing. Lighter and refined materials did much to reduce weight and refine the driving experience.
Corvette C7 – 2014-
The current-generation C7 Corvette has a familiar muscular profile, and also got its Stingray (one word this time) back, as befitting the most powerful Corvettes ever. Again, there have been minor changes to the latest generation, but more under the hood and inside than meets the eye. Technology upgrades have given the C7 ‘Vette all the tools it needs to be both a stunning performer and daily driver.
Though Chevrolet Corvette isn’t America’s first sports car, it certainly has cemented itself in American culture as such.Tags: corvette evolution