What year is that Corvette?
In 2003 Corvette owners celebrated the 50th anniversary
of the Corvette. In 2004 Chevrolet will begin production of the
sixth generation of the Corvette. Over the years, the Corvette has
changed quite a bit. In 1953 only 300 Corvettes were built.
You could have bought a brand new Corvette for $3,498 plus $91.40 for
an optional heater and $145.15 for an auto-seeking AM radio. It
was available in any color as long as it was Polo White.
You may see Corvettes referred to as a C5, or a
C4. This refers to the Generation of the Corvette. In July
of 2004 Chevrolet began production of the C6 model. The body, performance,
and technology has changed over the years. But the excitement and
thrill remains constant. Here is a walk through of each Corvette
1953 - 1962
/ Solid Axles
|The first generation is most commonly
referred to as a solid-axle, based on the fact that independent rear
suspension (IRS) was not available until 1963. The first generation
started in 1953 and ended in 1962, with the noteworthy addition of
optional fuel injection in mid-1957 (also available on Chevrolet Bel
Air). Fuel injection first saw regular use on a gasoline engine two
years prior on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL "gullwing" roadster.
Although the Corvette's GM-Rochester injection used a constant flow
system as opposed to the diesel style nozzle metering system of the
Mercedes', it nevertheless produced about 290 hp (216 kW) (gross).
The number was listed by Chevrolet's advertising agency for the 283
hp/283in³ (4.6L) "one hp per cubic inch" slogan, making
it one of the first mass-produced engines in history to reach 1 hp/in³.
In 1962, the GM small block was enlarged to 327 cu in (5.4 L) and
produced a maximum of 360 hp (268 kW). Other early options included
power windows (1956), hydraulically operated power convertible top
(1956), four speed manual transmission (late 1957), and heavy duty
brakes and suspension (1957). The car nearly died in 1955, but that
year a V-8 replaced the six-cylinder used in 1953 and 1954.
1963 - 1967
|The second generation,
or mid-year, was designed by Larry Shinoda with major inspiration
from a previous unproduced design called the "Q Corvette"
by Peter Brock and Chuck Pohlmann, and under the styling direction
of Bill Mitchell, started in 1963 and ended in 1967. 1963 would see
the introduction of the new Corvette Sting Ray coupé with its
distinctive split rear window and fake hood vents as well as an independent
rear suspension. The split rear window was discontinued in 1964 due
to safety concerns. Because they made the design too busy, the hood
vents were also cut. Power for 1963 was at 360 hp (268 kW) hitting
375 hp (280 kW) in 1964.
Four-wheel disc brakes were introduced in
1965, as was a "big block" engine option (the 396 in³
(6.5 L) V8). Side exhaust pipes appeared on the 1965 Sting Ray and
persisted through 1969. Chevrolet would up the ante in 1966 with
the introduction of an even larger 427 in³ (7 L) version, creating
what would be one of the most collectible Corvettes ever. 1967 saw
a L88 version of the 427 introduced which was rated at 430 hp (321
kW), but unofficial estimates place the actual output at 550 hp
(410 kW) or more. Only twenty such engines were placed in the 1967
Corvette, and the cars can fetch US$1,000,000 or more in auction
today. From 1967 to 1969, the 1282 ft³/min Holley triple two-barrel
carburetor, or Tri-Power, was available on the 427. The 1967 Corvette
originally was going to be the first of the C3 generation; however,
due to delays the C3 had to be put off until 1968. Other early options
available on the C2 included an AM-FM radio (mid 1963), air conditioning
(1963), a telescopic steering wheel (1965) and headrests, presumably
to prevent whiplash (1966).
The 1965 introduction of the 425 hp 396 in³ big block was ultimately
the harbinger of doom for the Rochester fuel injection system. The
396 in³ option cost $292.70 while the fuel injected 327 in³
engine cost $538.00. Few people could justify spending $245 more
for 50 hp less. When only 771 fuel-injected cars were built in 1965,
Chevrolet stopped the program.
The popular Z06 performance package on the
C5 and C6 model Corvettes is named after a Z06 performance option
dating back to the 1963 model year
1968 - 1982
|The third generation,
patterned after Chevrolet's "Mako Shark II" (designed by
Larry Shinoda), started in 1968 and ended in 1982. This generation
has the distinction of being introduced to the motoring public in
an unorthodox — and unintended — fashion. 1968 marked the introduction
of Mattel's now-famous Hot Wheels line of 1/64-scale die cast toy
cars. General Motors had tried their best to keep the appearance of
the upcoming car a secret, but the release of the Hot Wheels line
several weeks before the Corvette's unveiling had a certain version
of particular interest to Corvette fans: the "Custom Corvette",
a GM-authorized model of the 1968 Corvette.
In 1969, GM enlarged their small block again
to 350 cu in (5.7 L), and in 1970, the 427 big block was enlarged
to 454 cu in (7.4 L). Power peaked in the 1970 and 1971 models,
with the 1970 LT-1 small block putting out 370 hp (276 kW) and the
1971 454 big block having its last year of big power with 425 hp
(317 kW). In 1972, GM moved to the SAE Net measurement for power
(away from the previous SAE Gross standard), which resulted in lower
values expressed in HP. Along with the move to unleaded fuel, emission
controls, and catalytic converters, power continued to decline and
bottomed out in 1975 — the base ZQ3 engine put out 165 hp (123 kW),
and the optional L82 engine put out 205 hp (153 kW). Power remained
fairly steady for the rest of the C3 generation, ending in 1982
with the 200 hp (149 kW) L83 engine.
Styling changed subtly over the generation.
Minor trim changes occurred through the 1972 model. In 1973, the
Corvette dropped the front chrome bumpers for a urethane-compound
"5 mph" bumper but kept the rear chrome bumpers. In 1974,
the rear chrome bumpers became urethane as well, resulting in the
first ever chrome-less production Corvette. 1976 was the last year
in which the Stingray badge was used, and 1978 saw the introduction
of a glass bubble rear window. In 1980, the Corvette got an integrated
aerodynamic redesign that resulted in a significant reduction in
drag. In 1982, an opening rear hatch was offered for the first time
on the Corvette available on the collectors edition model only.
A new engine featuring cross fire injection, a fuel injection carburator
hybrid, was also introduced that year as the L83. It was the only
engine available in 1982, and was not offered with a manual transmission.
1984 - 1996
|The highly anticipated
fourth generation Corvette began production in March 1983 as a 1984
model. The 1983 model year was skipped due to production problems,
although 44 prototype 1983 models were completed. All 44 1983 model
year prototypes assembled were crushed except for one (the 23rd produced),
which is displayed at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green,
Kentucky. The C4 was praised for its sleek styling and its groundbreaking
aerodynamic design. The C4 coupe incorporated a rear glass hatch,
like the 1982 Collector's Edition, for much improved cargo access.
It also had all new brakes with aluminum calipers. The Corvette C4
came standard with an electronic dashboard with digital liquid crystal
displays for the speedometer and tachometer. The C4 was a complete
and total redesign except for its engine, and the emphasis was on
handling. The C4 Corvette was proclaimed the best handling production
car ever when it was released. This handling came
with the penalty of a harsh, uncompromising ride.
From 1984 through 1988, the Corvette used an unusual "4+3"
transmission — a 4-speed manual coupled to an automatic overdrive
on the top three gears. It was designed to help the Corvette meet
U.S. fuel economy standards. The transmission was problematic and
was eventually replaced by a much more modern ZF 6-speed manual gearbox
in 1989. This new transmission was also the first to feature Computer
Aided Gear Selection (CAGS), which used a solenoid to lock out 2nd
gear during certain driving conditions. Beginning in 1985, the 230
horsepower L98 engine with tuned port fuel injection was installed
in most Corvettes, replacing the throttle body fuel injected powerplant.
For the 1992 model year, the 300 horsepower LT1 engine was introduced,
which significantly improved the performance of the base C4 cars.
Also introduced in 1992 was Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR), a
form of traction control which utilized the Corvette's brakes, spark
retard and throttle close-down to prevent excessive rear wheel spin,
and possible loss of control. The traction control device could be
switched off if desired. In 1996, the final year of C4 production,
the 330 hp (246 kW) LT4 V-8 was installed in all manual transmission
equipped Corvettes; all 1996 Corvettes with automatic transmissions
utilized the LT1. The C4's incredible handling characteristics and
cornering ability allowed it to dominate SCCA events and races during
This first year model of the C4 carried over the L83 engine from the
previous generation of Corvette. The L83 engine had a unique fuel
delivery method, named "Crossfire", a dual-throttle-body
injection system. The 1984 and 1985 were the only C4's to lack the
third brake light (CHMSL, Center High Mounted Signal Light) which
was required by federal law beginning in 1986
1997 - 2004
|The Chevrolet Corvette
C5 is a sports car which started in 1997 and ended with the 2004 model
year. It is the fifth generation of Chevrolet Corvettes built and
marketed by Chevrolet. The C5 was a radical change from the previous
generation. Designed from the outset as a sturdy convertible (as opposed
to a coupé that was subsequently weakened by the removal of
the roof structure in order to accommodate demand for a convertible
model), the car now had a hydroformed box frame. The transmission
was moved to the rear of the car to form an integrated, rear-mounted
transaxle assembly which was connected to the all-new LS1 engine via
a torque tube; this engine/transmission arrangement helped facilitate
a desirable 50-50 (percentage, front-rear) weight distribution for
the vehicle. The LS1 engine initially produced 345 hp, but that was
increased slightly in 2001 to 350 hp (261 kW). The 4L60E automatic
transmission carried on from previous models, but the manual was replaced
by a Borg-Warner T-56 6-speed. Gone were the squeaks and rattles of
the C4, and in replacement was an incredibly strong frame that
would last for at least two more generations. By all measures, the
new C5 was better in every aspect than the C4 it replaced.
The styling of the C5 was also a departure from the trend set by the
previous-generation Corvette. Whereas the styling of the C4 had largely
been a simplification of the C3 hatchback design, straightening out
the complex curves of the car to give it sleeker lines, the C5 reversed
that somewhat. The vehicle now had a more rounded and graceful appearance
that helped to recapture some of the aggressive looks of the C3 without
compromising aerodynamics. In the inaugural model year (1997), only
the hatchback coupé was offered, with the convertible — the
first to offer a trunk since 1962 — following in 1998. 1998 also saw
the C5 convertible pacing the Indianapolis 500, and a replica pace
car edition was sold; C5 Corvettes subsequently paced the 2002 and
2004 Indianapolis 500 races, but no replica pace car versions were
offered during those model years. In 1999, a third body style, the
hardtop (also referred to as the "fixed-roof coupé"
or "FRC"), was added to the lineup. This body style, as
its name suggests, featured a fixed top (no removable targa top panel
as with the hatchback coupé) with a roofline shape and trunk
space similar to that of the convertible. The hardtop became the top-performance
Z06 in 2001, but for two model years was offered as a variant of the
Aside from cosmetic differences (new rim styles, paint colors, pace
car/commemorative editions in 1998, 2003, and 2004, etc.) and new
offerings for optional equipment, there were few fundamental changes
from one model year to the next within the production run of the C5.
One of the more popular "high-tech" options introduced to
the Corvette line was a head-up display or HUD, while another innovation
was the Active Handling System (first available as an option in 1998,
then standard on all models in 2001).
In contrast to the (largely deserved) reputation of high-performance
vehicles for poor fuel economy, the C5 achieves comparatively high
EPA ratings of 18/26 mpg (city/highway) with the automatic transmission,
and 18/28 with the manual transmission, allowing it to avoid the "gas
guzzler" tax that is levied against most other vehicles in the
Corvette's class. Suspension choices for the base model C5 were limited
to the standard suspension (RPO FE1), with options for either the
autocross-inspired FE3 Sport Suspension (included with the Z51 Performance
& Handling Package and standard on the 1999-2000 FRC); or the
F45 Selective Ride Control Suspension, which permitted "on-the-fly"
driver selection of different ride characteristics (sport or touring).
Late in the production run (starting with the 2003 model year), the
F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension replaced the F45 as
the third suspension choice. The racing-inspired FE4 suspension used
for the Z06 is stiffer again than any offered on the base model C5,
and is unique to that model with no optional suspensions offered.
Factory performance figures give a 0-60 mph acceleration time for
the C5 convertible (2004 model year with a 6-speed manual transmission)
of 4.66 seconds; a standing quarter mile is quoted by Chevrolet as
12.98 seconds at 114 mph. With the automatic transmission, the performance
figures are slightly poorer: 0-60 mph in 5.13 seconds, with a standing
quarter mile in 13.63 seconds at 108 mph.
|The new sixth-generation Corvette
gets an overhaul of the suspension geometry, all new bodywork with
exposed headlamps (for the first time since 1962), a larger passenger
compartment, a larger 6.0 L engine, and a much higher level of refinement.
Overall, it is 5.1 inches (13 cm) shorter than the C5, but its wheelbase
has increased by 1.2 inches (3 cm). It is also one inch (2.5 cm) narrower,
making for a smaller, sportier Corvette. The reduced dimensions were
in response to criticism that the fifth-generation Corvette looked
too wide—the new body gives the impression of a much sleeker, faster
car. The 6.0 L LS2 V8 produces 400 hp (298 kW) at 6000 rpm and 400
ft·lbf (542 N·m) of torque at 4400 rpm. Its redline
is increased to 6500 rpm. The C6 retains its relatively good fuel
economy, in part by upshifting to higher gears as soon as possible
and in part due to its relatively low drag coefficient and low weight.
Equipped with an automatic transmission, the C6 achieves 18/27 mpg
(city/highway), and the manual transmission version is slightly better