The Chevrolet Corvette Through The Generations
The Chevrolet Corvette was presented as a dream car when it first rolled out at the General Motors Motorama Show in 1953. Fast forward 68 years and that dream has become a reality. From setting records to becoming a cultural icon, the Corvette brand has put on a lot of miles since that initial reveal and it doesn't seem to be tapping the brakes anytime soon. Here's a look back at the Corvette generations that helped drive it out of that hotel showroom in the 50's, and into its role as an American symbol of automotive performance.
1953 - 1962: C1 Chevrolet Corvette
The very first generation of Corvettes ran from 1953 to 1962 and it all started with the C1 1953 Chevrolet Corvette. It was the first car to ever be mass produced using an all fiberglass body. This allowed the car's designers to give it a sleek and curvy look, while still being faster and far more lightweight than the steel counterparts at the time. It also set a precedent for many of the design features that would stick around for future models, such as the dual cockpit interior and round tail lamps. Performance-wise, however, the C1 1953 was fairly mundane and only launched with a 150 horsepower six-cylinder engine and two-speed automatic transmission. Unlike Corvette models that would eventually follow, sales weren't moving very fast.
By 1955, the Corvette was in trouble. The design had captured the eyes of potential buyers but what was under the hood still had yet to capture their hearts. That changed when the Corvette received its first V-8. Over the next few years, the Corvette would get several tweaks and upgrades including a significant boost to its horsepower and the addition of fuel injection. When the first generation finally crossed the finish line, the Corvette was recognized as a worthy sports car.
1963 - 1967: C2 Chevrolet Corvette
The second generation of the Corvette came racing out of the gates in 1963 with the unveiling of its latest model, the Sting Ray. In contrast to other Corvettes, the Sting Ray's design opted for a shorter tail, an elongated front, and retractable headlamps. It also featured a Z06 option that contained power drum brakes, an increase of its horsepower from 250 to 360, an enlarged shock absorber, dual master cylinder, and a bigger anti-roll bar.
As the second generation drove on, several other enhancements would come to the 'Vette. The addition of an independent rear suspension gave the car a much smoother feel and an optional L88 engine introduced in 1967 could bump the cars horsepower all the way up to 430. Although, only 20 of the L88 options were ever sold.
1968 -1982: C3 Chevrolet Corvette
Generation 3 of the Corvette witnessed plenty of stylistic changes to the Corvette. The C3 StingRay, which was now only one word, introduced removable T-top panels, a longer body, and hard defined lines that gave it an aggressive feel. Underneath the hood was a different story, however. The world was hit with an oil crisis in the early 70s and, as such, the Corvette's performance was hampered by new regulations. In 1971, standard Corvettes were capable of 270 horsepower with the optional upgrade reaching 330. Those restrictions grew and by 1972, the standard small-block engines that Corvettes now ran on only reached 200 horsepower. Further government safety regulations in1973 also forced Chevrolet to include a urethane bumper cover that added on an extra 35 pounds to the car.
1984 - 1996: C4 Chevrolet Corvette
Corvettes saw an entire redesign in 1984 as they welcomed in the fourth generation and new technology along with it. The C4 became an instant classic and almost literally the poster boy for high performance 80s cars. New additions included improvements to its handling and brakes, LCD lights for both the speedometer and tachometer, and an electronic dash. In 1990, Corvette reintroduced the ZR-1. It launched with a 5.7-liter V-8 engine that was initially capable of 375 horsepower and 405 by 1993. New and improving technology was making it possible for Corvette to return to the glory days of power.
1997 - 2004: C5 Chevrolet Corvette
Despite it's larger appearance, the C4 Corvette came in at nearly 100 pounds lighter than the C3. This was largely due in part to both the increase of plastic in the body and the introduction of a hydroformed box frame chassis and aluminum-valve engine. Coupled with its new aerodynamic design, improved weight distribution, and capacity to reach 345 horsepower, the C4 was a hit.
Over the course of the generation, Chevrolet would continue to make improvements to its design. Horsepower rose to 405 by 2002, Z06 packages were introduced, and the Corvette could reach 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds.
2005 - 2013: C6 Chevrolet Corvette
Much like the C3 generation, C6 saw far more change in terms of styling than it did for performance. The car hit the market with an LS2 6.0 liter V-8 engine that put out 400 horsepower and ditched the retractable headlight for the first time since 1962 as a means to improve both weight and aerodynamics. Other body upgrades included a new interior, adjustments to its geometry suspension, and the option for either convertible or Targa-style top models of the car. The coupe design was reserved exclusively for the Z06 models that became available in 2006.
Then, in 2009, Chevrolet put out the Corvette ZR-1. This new model option came with a supercharged LS9 V-8 engine that could hit an impressive 638 horsepower and reached a top speed of a staggering 205 mph.
2014 - 2019: C7 Chevrolet Corvette
The C7 generation saw a number of changes come to the Corvette. The StingRay name was brought back to life and aluminum frames became the standard choice for all models. The C7 also used an impressive 6.2-liter V-8 engine that hit 455 horsepower as well as 460 pound-feet of torque.
In 2015, Chevrolet once again included a Z06 option. The Z06 was available as either a coupe or convertible and its supercharged V-8 was a powerhouse generating 650 horsepower. Then, a few years later in 2017, Chevrolet release the Grand Sport model that combined the Stingray's engine with the Z06's suspension. Intent on outdoing themselves, they went on to release the ZR1 option in 2019 that came in at an astounding 755 horsepower, with a top speed of 212mph, and the ability to hit 60 mph in a mere 2.8 seconds.
2020 - Present: C8 Chevrolet Corvette
There's not much to be said about Corvette's current generation considering just how new it still is. However, so far Chevrolet has switched to a mid-engine design and added an LT2 6.2-liter V-8 engine to the StingRay model.
Further Reading on Corvettes
National Corvette Museum - About Corvette
Corvette Parts at Partsgeek
Chevrolet Corvette Photos: Tracking Corvette History In Photos
The Chevrolet Corvette: History, Buying Tips, and More
More Than 6 Decades of the Corvette in Pictures
Search Chevy Parts Catalog
The Sickest Corvette Race Cars From Motorsports History
Portraits of Corvette History - Then and Now