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Corvette: Our 70-year pictorial story of an American muscle car legend

30 December 2023

The Chevrolet Corvette celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2023. An American Muscle car icon now, the Corvette was never actually meant for production, but seven decades on is still going strong. Here, we document the pictorial highlights of the incredible lifespan of this iconic classic. Scroll down and enjoy!

If you like your Corvettes and American Muscle cars then also check out our more detailed history of this exciting marque here

1953: C1 Sensation

1953 Chevrolet Corvette Mororama Show Car

Chevrolet showed the sensational EX-122 “Corvette” concept on a rotating turntable at the Motorama auto show in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria on January 17, 1953.

Only 300 were produced — all in Polo White with red interiors

1953: False Start

1953 Chevrolet Corvette.

GM rushed it into production and the first Corvettes were produced in Flint, Michigan, from June 30, 1953. That first batch of 300 were virtually hand-built and featured a 150bhp version of the proven Blue-Flame straight-six mated to a two-speed auto. All were Polo White with Sportsman Red interiors to allow workers to concentrate on working with the new wonder material, fibreglass, as GM were unsure just how to paint it to avoid warranty issues. The plan to produce steel-body cars later was abandoned once GM realised just how good fibreglass was and it has since become part of the Corvette’s DNA.

 

1954: Proper Production

1953 Chevrolet Corvette Mororama Show Car

Corvette assembly moved to Saint Louis, Missouri. Other colours and 5bhp were added and the new factory could produce 10,000 per year, but slow sales dictated only 3640 were made in 1954. It was too soft to be a sports car and too compromised to be a ‘personal car’.



1956: The Legend Begins

1957 Chevrolet Corvette

A 195bhp V8 had been added in ’55 but a restyle with hints of the Mercedes SL about the front and a tuned 225bhp V8 turned it into a proper driver’s car with a 0-60 time of 7.5 secs. Wind-up windows and a powered hood make it easier to live with. A 283bhp engine is added for 1957 and suddenly the ‘Vette is proper competition for cars from Coventry or Maranello.

1958: Four-light style

A new dual-light front-end design is matched by an updated interior and by 1960 a Corvette could be ordered with 315 horses under the hood. Racetrack success beckons.

1961: C1’s last hurra

1961 Chevrolet Corvette convertible

The Corvette’s now iconic quad-tail light design appears and the final C1’s can be ordered with as much as 360bhp! 

1963: C2. Enter the Sting Ray.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

The sensational all-new Larry Shinoda-designed C2 ‘Sting Ray’ shocks the world by looking like no other car, before or since. It also features an independent rear suspension and a coupe body style for the first time. The split-window rear design is unique to the first-year coupes. The Corvette’s Chief Engineer, Duntov, says at the press launch “For the first time I have a Corvette I can be proud to drive in Europe”.

  

1963: The Z-0-6 legend begins

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Regular Production Option (RPO) Z-0-6, for racing appears. The package added power drum brakes with sintered metallic linings, larger shock absorbers and a bigger front anti-roll bar; limited to 360bhp and four-speed manual transmission cars. Just 199 1963 RPO Z-0-6 Corvettes were produced. Sting Ray introduces the second generation with an iconic “split-window” design. Z06 package debuts

1964: Size matters

1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Coupe — the second generation of the Corvette was produced from 1963 to 1967 and introduced the landmark “split rear window” styling

The Vette finally acquires disc brakes and needs them as Chevy squeeze in the 6.5-litre 425bhp ‘big-block’ which becomes a 7-litre the following year. 20 L88 versions are made offering 560bhp.

 

1968: C3 Shark Eats Ray

1968 Chevrolet Corvette

Larry Shinoda’s Mako Shark II concept car inspired the elegant C3 Corvette which used the C2 chassis and running gear almost unchanged. The third generation offered a 427 Big Block engine.

 

1971: Smog strangulation begins.

Power begins to decline as the emissions requirements are phased in.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe — the third generation of the Corvette was produced from 1968 to 1982 and is referred to as “shark” models by enthusiasts, for their aggressive styling. They are instantly identifiable by their prominent “blistered” fender design and long dash-to-axle proportion, which gives them an exaggerated suggestion of motion

 

1973: Impact tests impact the styling.

1973 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Chevy incorporated the impact-absorbing bumpers required by US legislation more elegantly than MG, Mercedes or Fiat but the C3 still lost some of its design appeal. Power was also falling with the base model ’75 ‘Vette offering just 165bhp. The convertible body was dropped for safety reasons in 1975.

1978: Shake that booty

Indy 500 1978 Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car

The C3 gets a new fastback rear to celebrate the Corvette’s 25th anniversary and 300 replica Indy 500 Pace Car editions were made. By the end of 1981, Corvette production was moved exclusively to the company’s new Bowling Green, Kentucky, factory.

1984: C4 arrives late.

1984 Chevrolet Corvette

The fourth-generation Corvette finally appeared in 1984, redesigned from the ground up. An underwhelming 205-hp 5.7-litre V8 is the only engine offered. Fourth-generation also introduced the  all-new “backbone” chassis.

1986: Convertible reborn.

Chevrolet at Indy Centennial

The convertible returns and, in celebration, an example paces the 1986 Indianapolis 500, driven by all-American supersonic hero Chuck Yeager.

 

1990: It’s back! ZR-1 is number 1.

1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

The ZR-1 featured a twin-overhead-cam 5.7-litre V8 developed by Lotus and built by Mercury Marine. With 375bhp and a ZF-built six-speed manual, it could hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and top 175mph. It even beat the 911 Turbo in some magazine tests. The Corvette was back where GM felt it belonged.

 

1992: Million Car Milestone

The 1 millionth Chevrolet Corvette

On July 2, 1992, the 1 millionth Chevrolet Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Bowling Green, Ky. It featured a white exterior, a black convertible top and a red interior, just like the first production Corvette in 1953.

The Corvette was profitable and a great image builder for GM but it took until July 2, 1992, nearly 40 years, to build a million.

 

1997: The C5 is no Sinclair

The C5 arrived late (almost traditional for all-new Corvettes), because of GM’s financial traumas but was worth waiting for. It debuted a new engine, the Gen III small-block V8, and a new layout; the gearbox being mounted at the rear ahead of the differential to improve weight distribution by Chief Engineer David Hill.  The styling by John Cafaro was aerodynamic (CD:0.29), attractive and timeless. Fifth-generation also introduces LS1 V-8.

2001: Z06 returns

The Z-0-6 tag offered in 1963 makes a welcome return on a 385bhp relatively lightweight version of the C5.

 

2006: C6 refines C5

Exposed headlamps return for the first time since 1963 in what Chief Engineer Hill describes as a ‘comprehensive upgrade’ of the C5 concept. A revised 6-litre 400bhp LS2 V8  kept the car at the sharp end of the performance league tables but the 7-litre LS7 V8 powering the ZO6 used its 505bhp to deliver a supercar-bating 0-60mph time of 3.4 seconds.

 

2009: The 200mph ‘Vette

The muscle cars wars were back and Chevy strapped a great big supercharger to their 6.2-litre V8 to create the LS9, and achieve 638bhp@6,500rpm. The result was the ZR1, which had a limiter set at 210mph!

 

2013: Party like its 427

The 505bhp Corvette 427 Convertible is launched to celebrate the ‘Vette’s 60th birthday.

 

2014: The C7 revives the Stingray name.

Another clean-sheet Corvette, this time designed around hollow-cast aluminium chassis subframes with unequal-length double wishbones for both the front and rear suspension. Amazingly the C7 continued to use composite transverse leaf springs, (they allowed that long low sleek look), working with adaptive magnetorheological dampers.

 

2019: Return of the King?  

A supercharged 755bhp Corvette that was fully road legal despite sporting a wing to make a Sierra Cosworth blush, the 2019 ZR1 was the fastest ever Corvette at that time and could crack 60mph in less than 3 seconds. It was electronically limited to 212mph yet cost only $125,000. Unbeatable bangs per buck and the ultimate factory front-engine ‘Vette. 

 

2020: C8 Shock! A mid-engined Corvette.

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Driver’s side view of 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 in Elkhart Lake Blue Metallic driving down a road.

After 67 years of traditionally laid out muscle sports cars, GM shocked fans of the plastic fantastic in 2020 by launching the C8, the first mid-engined Corvette.  It takes the fight straight to Ferrari and Porsche and is even available in RHD.

 

2023: Septuagenarian supercar   

White Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 70th Anniversary convertible finished in White Pearl Metallic Tri-coat.

The Corvette 70th anniversary edition can be based on the 670bhp Z06 or the slightly less fearsome 490bhp Stingray and is available in two colours, White Pearl metallic or Carbon Flash Metallic with numerous trim and exterior features plus custom matching luggage.

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