The Evolution of the Corvette: The Generations of a Chevrolet Classic

Few things are more American than the Chevrolet Corvette. Since its 1953 debut, Corvettes have been the dream car of young and old alike. On 7/18/19, Chevrolet will unveil the 2020 ‘Vette, the first mid-engine platform for the flagship General Motors muscle car. To celebrate this new 8th Generation Corvette (C8), let’s look back at this American automotive icon through each generation of Corvette.

C1 – First Generation (1953-1962): The Birth of an Icon

The Corvettes in both 1953 and 1954 only came with a six-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, that left them slightly underpowered in comparison to their European counterparts. This resulted in them selling a little slower than Chevy anticipated. In fact, by the end of 1954, as many as 1/3 of that years models were still unsold. In 1953 the only color option was Polo White, but for 1954 they expanded the options to also include Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red and Black. For the 1955 model year, Chevy added a 265 V8 option with the hopes of appealing to European sports car fans who wanted more power. By 1956 the straight-6 engine was gone, the 265 V8 offered better horsepower and other design improvements. 1958 and 1961 model years both saw significant design updates and in 1962 the small-block 327 V8 was introduced easily making it the fastest of the First Generation Vettes. Because of the limited production numbers, C1 Corvettes have been, and continue to be, one of the most collectible generations.


C2 – Second Generation (1963-1967): Introducing the Sting Ray, America’s Sports Car

The Corvette Sting Ray, introduced in 1963, featured a new design, better handling and a lighter body. More than 21,000 units were built, the most to date and a significant increase over 1962. In addition to the standard 327 Chevy small block engine, a big-block 396 V8 with 425 horsepower was available just in the 1965 model, becoming a 427 V8 through 1967. Throughout the Second Generation, the Sting Ray received great reviews in the press and sold well to the public as being truly worthy of comparison to European sports cars of the time. As a result, C2 Corvettes, especially the iconic 1963 Split Window, remain some of the most valuable on the market today.


C3 – Third Generation (1968 – 1982): The “Convertible” Coupe

Chevrolet decided to go with a complete redesign in 1968, launching the C3 generation. It included optional an “T-Top” roof, becoming the first U.S. built production car with this feature. From 1968 – 1976 Chevy had the “Stingray” script on the front fenders, in one word as opposed the two word Sting Ray Corvettes in the previous generation. Engine options for C3 Vettes generally ranged from the small block 327 to the big block 454 which was available from 1970 – 1974, including a 1970 option with 460hp. Today, while not quite as valuable as a ’63 Split-Window, third gen Corvettes are still quite affordable and are trending up in value, making this generation a great investment for the future.


C4 – Fourth Generation (1984 – 1996): A Futuristic Refresh

43 Corvettes were produced with a 1983 VIN but none were made available to the public. Chevy had some very ambitious upgrades planned for the 1983 model year and multiple delays caused them to just label them as 1984 models, which were produced for 17 months. The ’84 Vette was built on a new chassis and was one of the most advanced production vehicles in the world including an electronic dashboard with LCD speedometer and tachometer. 1986 saw the first convertible Corvette produced in over a decade. 1990 brought the ZR-1 Corvette which was fast, expensive and had a very durable engine, setting numerous speed over distance records including the 24 hours endurance record of 175 mph. C4 Vettes also include two Indy 500 Pace Cars in 1986 and 1995. With their iconic ’80s style lines, demand for fourth gen Corvettes is relatively modest, making them an incredibly affordable choice for an entry-level Corvette enthusiast.


C5 – Fifth Generation (1997 - 2004): Introducing The LS Engine

1997 brought an improved platform and handling with a newly designed frame and body, as well as the LS1 engine, a variation of the popular LS engine used in most read wheel drive cars and trucks made by GM at the time. Corvettes continued to use LS engines through the 2013 model year. During this span of the C5 Corvettes, most of the annual changes were cosmetic or variations in optional equipment, as well as some power increases. High tech options became popular, including a heads-up display (HUD) and an Active Handling System. In 2001 the Z06 replaced the ZR-1 and though it had less horsepower than the ZR-1, the Z06 was much lighter, allowing it to outperform its predecessor in almost every category. The 1998 convertible became the Indy 500 Pace Car that year, and 2003 saw a 50th Anniversary Corvette which was actually the Indy Pace Car in 2002.

C6 – Sixth Generation (2005 – 2013): Here’s to 50 More Years and More LS Engines

New bodywork, larger passenger compartment and exposed headlamps (a first for Corvettes since 1962) were among the biggest changes for the 6th generation. 2008 saw a new engine option, the LS3 with power increased to 430hp. In 2006 Chevy introduced the largest displacement small-block engine ever produced, the 427 V8 named the LS7, with a power output of 505 hp. It became the Pace Car for both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 in 2006.


C7 – Seventh Generation (2014 – 2019): Return of the Stingray

The 2014 Corvette was the first to have the “Stingray” name since the 1968 model year. The C7 included an all-new LT1 6.2L small-block V8 engine with 455 hp that could do 0-60 in 3.8 seconds. It included both an exterior and interior redesign and took inspiration from the recently reintroduced Chevy Camaro’s more squared rear-end garnering mixed reviews from some Corvette enthusiasts. Minor changes occurred through the C7 years and included both Z06 and ZR1 editions.

We stock a number of Corvettes here at Ellingson’s from the various generations. Take a look at our inventory to see which one of these classics would look best in your driveway.

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