The Greatest American Sports Car and Perhaps the Greatest Sports Car of All Time
The Corvette is without a doubt the most well known of all sports cars to come off an assembly line in the United States. First introduced in 1953, the Chevy Corvette is the longest running sports car in the U.S. and the longest running car model in the U.S. There are some truck models that go back a bit farther. The generations of the Corvette are labeled from C1 to C6. The generations break down like this: C1 1953-1962, C2 1963-1967, C3 1968-1982, C4 1984-1996, C5 1997-2004, C6 2005-Present. In 1983 there was no Corvette as Chevy was getting ready for the C4 which was the first all new Vette in 14 years.
|C1 1961 Corvette|
When the corvette was first built it came with a rather under whelming straight six from the Chevy sedans of that time, but after only two years GM decided to put a V8 in their hot little roadster and from that time on the Vette has always come equipped with a V8. Putting a V8 under the hood also made the car a legitimate sports car, and it has been the stuff of legends ever since.
The most powerful of the old Corvettes came in the 60’s. While the 1963 with a split rear window might be the most famous from the time period, the 1967 L89 with the 427 V8 was the most powerful of all the old Corvettes putting out somewhere in neighborhood of 475 horsepower. Many believe that the actual horsepower from this engine was much higher and most likely it was. Horsepower numbers were often very conservative back in the day to appease the lawyers and the insurance people.
|C2 1967 Corvette|
These high-powered classic Corvette models came along under the management of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the engineer who put the Corvette in the map. Arkus-Duntov was the reason that the original straight 6 was scrapped, and the reason that the Corvette got into racing in the 60’s. Without his guidance during the early years of the Corvette, it might not have survived and become the legend that it is today.
The dark days of the Corvette came during a dark time for the automobile in general. The energy crisis in the U.S. was on, and at the same time automotive engineers were trying to figure out how to build cars that performed well, yet complied with new emissions laws. In 1975 the most powerful engine available in a Corvette was the L82 option 350 V8, good for all of 205 horsepower. Because of the new emissions standards performance engines were severely detuned in order to put out less pollution. Manufacturers should have redesigned their engines rather than detuning them but they were caught off guard by the new laws.
|C3 1970 Corvette|
|C3 1980 Corvette|
The Corvette suffered because of things going on around the world but each year after 1975 the power output slowly began to climb. 205 hp may seem bad but let’s compare apples to apples. These Vettes were the weakest and slowest ever, but what other car from the mid to late seventies is better? Mustang II? I don’t think so! Even in the darkest days of the Corvette it still represented the best that America had to offer.
From 1990 to 1995 the Corvette was offered for the second time around with an option called ZR1, but this time it was different. This car came with the LT5 5.7L DOHC V8. This is the only over-head cam engine ever offered in a Corvette. This engine was designed by GM and Lotus and built by Mercury Marine because they had extensive experience building all aluminum engines, and they were better able to tool their manufacturing facilities for the low volume production of the LT5. This amazing engine put out anywhere from 375 hp to 405 hp, and was supper modern, arguably more modern and high tech than the engines used in today’s Corvettes.
|C4 1984 Corvette|
This ZR1 really took the Corvette to a new level. The corvette has offered the best bang for the buck, of just about any sports car in the world for years. The ZR1 made the car world class. The car was now on a stage where it could compete with the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini and others, and it could compete for a fraction of the cost of the European exotics. The idea of being able to get a car with exotic power and exotic feel, but without paying exotic prices is the thing that has really helped to make the Corvette one of the greatest cars of all time.
|C4 1995 Corvette ZR1|
In 2009 the ZR1 was brought back for the third time, and this time Chevy managed to up the ante in a way that they had never done before. This ZR1 that is available today has a supercharged 6.2 liter V8 good for 638 neck snapping horsepower. Once again we are talking world class. Any car that has a top speed over 200 mph such as the ZR1 Corvette is not messing around. This car is amazingly fast.
|C5 2000 Corvette|
Of course the ZR1 is the top of the line model but there are other models that have plenty of go fasters bolted on. The Z06 Corvette that has come and gone over the years is currently good for 505 hp. The Grand Sport Corvette which was originally conceived by Zora Arkus-Duntov is another high performance variant that reappears every few years to give the Corvette buyer yet another performance option.
The Chevy small block has been the staple for the Corvette since the first year that a V8 was offered. This engine has served the Corvette very well because it is so easy to adapt it to any platform, and it is very easy to make it fast. The LS engines of the last 15 years or so have proven to be even better then the old small blocks that were used in the older corvettes. The LS2, LS3, LS6, LS7, and LS9 are some of the iterations of the LS that can be found under the hoods of the newer Corvettes. These LS engines are not that modern in design but they are so effective, and so easy to tune that it’s hard to argue for anything else.
|C6 2009 Corvette ZR1, the fastest Vette ever!|
The C7 is very near introduction to the market. Most likely it would already have been introduced were it not for some of the financial troubles that GM has had lately. What will it bring? Chevrolet has kept it very effectively under wraps, but perhaps the most exciting thing will be a new small block engine family. The LS will be retired in favor of a new design that will be all aluminum and be capable of better fuel economy without sacrificing performance. The one thing that will be certain about the C7 Corvette is that it will be amazing, and it will continue to be the greatest American sports car of all time.