The Chevrolet Corvette is a two-door coupe with aggressive looking angles. The car has been manufactured for 60 years, and it has been a fan favorite for those who love the Chevrolet brand. Many wonder if the classic Corvette can be classed as a supercar.
The Corvette is a supercar since it can comfortably take on some of the fastest cars in the world. It also has a rich history and a strong motorsport pedigree which only helps consolidate its place in history as one of the best supercars.
The Corvette has long been looked at as the American supercar that can take on Europe. For over 60 years, that is exactly what Chevrolet did with this model. Below, we’ll take an in-depth look at the history of the Corvette, and compare it to some other supercars too.
History Of The Corvette
First Generation – 1953-1962
After receiving a lot of attention from the public at a motor show, Chevrolet decided to put their concept car into production. The very first Corvette C1 rolled off the production line in 1953. The first year was slow, with only 300 models being hand-built, and only in white.
In 1954, extra color selections were added, and the production level increased to 3,640 cars. The first Corvettes used a 3.9L Blue Flame inline 6 engine which could produce 150 horsepower. For the 1950s, that was a lot of power.
In 1955, Chevrolet offered a 4.3L V8 engine with their Corvette, and in that year, only 6 Corvettes were built with the inline 6 engines. This proved to Chevrolet that Corvette owners wanted more powerful engines.
In 1956, the Corvette had somewhat of a facelift and new cosmetic panels were added on the exterior of the car. The fuel injection system was first introduced in the Corvettes halfway through 1957.
In 1961, shortly before production of the C1 generation of the Corvette came to an end, Chevrolet gave the car a complete redesign. The fuel injection version of the C1 produced 360 horsepower, making it the fastest Corvette of its generation.
Second Generation – 1963-1967
The Corvette C2 introduced the famous Stingray model. The C2 model received a fresh new look which was very well received. The C2 was also smaller and sportier than the previous generation of Corvette.
In 1964 the C2 Corvette was able to produce a mighty 375 horsepower. In 1965 new brakes were introduced as well as a massive 6.5L V8 engine that could produce 425 horsepower. In comparison, the production car with the highest horsepower output of all in 1965 was the Shelby Cobra, which put out 485 horsepower.
In 1963 the famous Z06 performance package was also introduced. This package pushed the Corvette up to motorsport-like performance levels with stiffer suspensions, lighter overall weight, and bigger brakes.
In 1967, the final year for the C2 model, Chevrolet introduced a new 7-liter engine, and made various cosmetic changes to the exterior of the car as well as the interior. Despite this, the sales for the 1967 C2 Corvette dropped.
Third Generation – 1968-1982
The C3 Corvette was once again received with great enthusiasm from fans. The 25th anniversary of the car was celebrated with a new two-tone silver color scheme. Engines remained mostly the same as the C2 model, however improvements were made to the interior and exterior of the C3 models.
The Corvette also served as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, which was quite a significant event. To have a car feature as a pace car at the Indy 500 is a big deal for petrol heads and motorsport fans alike. This was a huge marketing boost for Corvette.
The exterior styling remained mostly the same throughout the entire lifespan of the C3 Corvette, with some small changes made over the years. The car largely looked the same throughout all of its production years.
The most significant body-related changes came in 1980, when the designers really began to focus on the aerodynamics of the Corvette in an attempt to reduce drag. In addition, the weight of the car was significantly cut down following a huge incremental increase over the years with new components and new technology fitted to the car.
Fourth Generation – 1984-1996
For the first time since 1963, Chevrolet started from scratch. The C4 Corvette was to undergo a complete redesign. Chevrolet hit some troubles though as the production of all of their 1983 C4 models were hindered by quality problems and delayed parts deliveries.
As a result, only 43 cars were built in 1983 and they were never sold. All of the models built in 1983 were either destroyed or shifted over to become 1984 models, except for one. This lone survivor from that challenging 1983 year is now at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The 5.7L V8 engine from the 1982 C3 generation was carried over to the C4. The most significant performance updates were a new chassis with bigger brakes and improved suspension, with an overall lower weight.
In order to comply with U.S fuel economy standards, Chevrolet had put a new gearbox into the C4 between 1984 and 1988. All in all, this transmission ended up causing the American manufacturer more problems than it was solving. A modern ZF-6 gearbox replaced this transmission in 1989.
The fourth generation Corvette also featured as an Indy 500 pace car in 1986, once again establishing the Corvette’s strong image in the automotive world. In 1988, Chevrolet launched the 35th anniversary edition, which can be identified from a special badge next to the gear selector.
In 1990 Corvette introduced the ZR1 model which featured performance upgrades as well as a 4-cam engine that produced 375 horsepower. This model was produced up until 1995. In total, 6,939 of these ZR1 models were built.
In 1993, Chevrolet launched their 40th anniversary edition of the Corvette’s special edition color, Ruby Red. This model also featured special badges in and around the car, and was the first GM car to feature keyless entry. The final year of Corvette C4 production saw a number of special models and options on offer which were well received by petrol heads.
Fifth Generation – 1997-2004
Again, Chevrolet decided to start over with the C5, as it saw a complete redesign from the ground up. This was needed as sales began to slow down on the C4 Corvette. The C5 had a top speed of 176 mph, which was seen as a significant breakthrough for the Corvette.
Ground-breaking technology and components that were first introduced in the C5 would eventually be carried over to the C6 and C7 models. Some of these innovations were the aerodynamic efficiency, an almost 50/50 weight distribution, and stability control, which Chevrolet named ‘active handling’.
By 2001, the C5 Corvette could produce 350 horsepower from a new LS1 aluminum engine. Following that, the Z06 model came around and featured a lighter, more powerful engine that could produce 385 horsepower. This made the Z06 the fastest Corvette at the time.
Not only was it lighter and more powerful, but the Z06 also had much better handling, thanks to a more rigid fixed roof and more efficient brakes. This essentially helped stiffen the suspension of the car, making it more responsive.
Sixth Generation – 2005-2013
Following the success of the C5 Corvette, it was decided to simply evolve it to the next generation rather than rebuild it from the ground up. The C6 was the first Corvette to feature fixed headlights – rather than retractable ones – since 1962.
The C6 features an updated interior as well as an improved LS1 engine which was renamed LS2. The engine evolved from 5.7 liters to 6.0 liters, giving it an extra 50 horsepower. The LS2 engine could produce 400 horsepower with a top speed of 190 mph, and a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds.
The C6 Z06 model arrived in 2006 with 7.0 liter engine, codenamed the LS7. The LS7 engine put out 505 horsepower with a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph. In addition to the improved engine, the Z06 also had a full aluminum chassis which significantly dropped the overall weight. With this model, it was clear that Chevrolet was taking the fight to the European supercars.
In 2007 Chevrolet revealed their ZR1 version of the C6. This car had an improved engine codenamed the LS9. A 6.2 liter supercharged engine that produced 638 horsepower really put the C6 well into supercar territory. This is the most powerful engine ever to be put into a GM vehicle. The ZR1 C6 had a top speed of 205 mph.
Seventh Generation – 2014-2019
Development for the C7 actually began in 2007, with plans to launch the car in 2011. However, once again the car was delayed and only officially released in 2014.
With the development of the C7 Chevrolet had a very specific goal in mind, and that was to cater to the younger generation. Previous versions of the Corvette had mostly been purchased by people who were 55 or older, and so it became known as “an old man’s toy”.
With that in mind, Chevrolet gave the C7 a fresh and modern look that would appeal more to younger people. Once again in 2013, the Corvette was used as the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 in an attempt to market the new and modern look of the car.
The 2014 C7 corvette featured a 6.2-liter V8 engine that produced 455 horsepower. The car remained rear-wheel drive which kept the tail-happy nature of the car firmly intact. The C7 also saw updated interiors with a much more modern and a lot of new tech.
The C7 Z06 was released in 2015 and featured a 650 horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine. The C7 model also brought back the famous Stingray edition of the car, which was last seen in 1976. In 2019, the final year of C7 production, the ZR1 was released again with a power output of 755horsepower. This was also the last front-engine Corvette ever built.
Eighth Generation – 2020-Present
The C8 is the first in the Corvette’s history to have a rear-mid engine. It features a 6.2-liter V8 engine, named the LT2, which puts out 495 horsepower.
The C8 is still very new to the market, so it’s uncertain when the Z06 and ZR1 models will be released. However, rumors have been circulating about the Zora C8 Corvette being released soon, which will be the fastest ever Corvette, and also one of the fastest cars in the world.
Below are the specs of some of the fastest Corvettes in history, including the upcoming C8 Zora, set to be released in 2025.
|Engine||5.5-liter V8 hybrid||5.5-liter V8||5.5-liter twin-turbo V8|
|Power||1000 horsepower||650 horsepower||850 horsepower|
|Top Speed||200 mph||200 mph||194 mph|
|0-60 mph||2.0 seconds||2.5 seconds||3.5 seconds|
Comparing The Corvette To Other Supercars
Modern corvettes such as the C7 and C8 are fully capable of taking on some of the fastest supercars in the world today. With the predicted specs of the Zora, it could easily become one of the fastest production cars in the world.
The C8 Zora and Z06 will be faster than the likes of many Lamborghinis and Ferraris both in terms of top speed and 0-60 mph times. With statistics like these, the Corvette can most definitely be considered a supercar.
Is The Corvette Reliable?
With proper care and maintenance, a Corvette can be a reliable vehicle. Most Corvettes see problems when they are not taken care of, but there are many reports of Corvettes covering over 200,000 miles without any major issues.
Is The Corvette A Good Track Car?
The Corvette is a fantastic track car. Although it might be a bit difficult to handle out of slow corners with its signature tail-happy handling model, it can still be quick in the right hands.
If you are able to control the massive amounts of torque and power that is sent to the rear wheels of the Corvette, you could certainly take on some of the best supercars in the world on a track day.
However, with the C8 Corvette moving its engine slightly more to the rear it will provide more stable traction. With more weight being pushed down on the rear axle and the driving wheels, it will be much more stable and easier to control under acceleration.
The Corvette has a rich motorsport history. It has featured as the Indy 500 pace car numerous times and is seen as a legend in motorsport. The C8 corvette is also used in various racing leagues across the world including the World Endurance Championship and some other sports car championships.
The Corvette has a rich and deep-rooted history in the automotive world. It has had some challenging times, but it has produced some magical cars that are well respected by all petrol heads. Chevrolet isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. With their new C8 Z06, ZR1 and Zora models planned to release in the next 4 years, we have yet to see the full potential of the latest generation of Corvettes.