The first Corvette looked fast, but used a six-cylinder
engine and two-speed automatic from Chevy's
family cars. Each year brought further
improvements. In 1955, Chevy's new small
block V-8 became standard. In 1956, the
Corvette gained a three-speed manual
transmission, roll-up windows and door
locks; in 1957, fuel injection. That year
also saw the first Corvette race car, the
SS, which raced at Sebring. The Corvette
also received design updates in 1956, 1958
The 1963 Corvette is, perhaps, the most
iconic, due to its split-window design, which lasted one year. Lasting
longer; hidden headlights. While engines
carried over, the Corvette gained an
independent suspension and, in 1965,
four-wheel dish brakes. Power continued to
grow. By 1967, the optional 427-cubic inch
V-8 was modestly rated at 430 horsepower,
but said to be closer to 550 horsepower.
Still, the 1963 Grand Sport, with 550
horsepower, would be the last factory-built Vette race cars for decades.
Development woes delayed the release of the
1968 model, which featured new
styling atop a carry-over chassis. It was an
omen. This would be the longest-lived of any
Vette model, but one that fell victim to
increasing government regulation. Not only
did styling suffer, horsepower plummeted to
165 in 1975 from 4665 in 1970. The
convertible was axed for 1976; the Sting Ray
name in 1977; the manual transmission in
1982; the car itself for 1983. But the 1984
would mark a rebirth.
The 1984 model debuted in spring 1983 as a
coupe with a targa roof, 205-horsepower V-8
and a four-speed manual transmission. It was
the first all-new Corvette since 1963.
Horsepower grew as performance once
more became a priority. Anti-lock disc brakes
became standard in 1986, the same year the
Corvette convertible returned. In 1990, with
help from British sports car maker Lotus,
Chevrolet unveiled the ZR-1 with a
375-horsepower V-8. It would last through
Counting the modest design updates in the
1950's, for only the sixth time in 44 years,
the Vette was totally redesigned. It's all
new aluminum V-8 engine, mated to a
six-speed manual, produced 345 horsepower.
the coupe was followed by a convertible in
1998 and a fixed-roof coupe in 1999. In
2001, the Z06 debuted with enough horsepower
-- 405 -- to reach 60 mph in 3.9 seconds.
Corvette CR-5 race cars reappeared, racking
up impressive class wins at the 24 Hours of
Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12
Hours of Sebring and others.
The 2005 Corvette -- the first since 1962
with exposed headlights -- continued to
build on the car's performance heritage.
Power from its standard 6.0-liter V-8 was a
healthy 400 horsepower. The high-performance
Z06 debuted in 2006 with 505 horsepower. But
Chevy didn't stop there. For 2009, the ZR-1,
returned with a supercharged 638-horsepower
V-8 and a 0-60 mph time of 3.3 seconds. It's
the fastest production car ever sold by GM,
with a top speed of 205 mph.
The just-completed North American
International Auto Show in Detroit will be
remembered for the debut of the 2014
Corvette. Chevy revived the Stingray name --
one word -- for the seventh generation. The
new Stingray is the most powerful standard
model ever, with an estimated 450 horsepower
and 450 foot-pounds of torque that send it
from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. The
new Vette shares only two parts with the
previous generation, riding on a new frame
structure and chassis, a new powertrain and
supporting technologies, as well as new
exterior and interior designs.