When Chevrolet introduced its sports car the Corvette for 1953, consumers were underwhelmed. Intended to compete with the small, lightweight European-made cars entering the American market, the Corvette was built with a fiberglass body, eschewing traditional steel. Unlike the competing Ford Thunderbird, the early 'Vette had a relatively weak six-cylinder engine and no option for a manual transmission. In 1955, the two-seater T-bird outsold the Corvette by 24:1.

But a year later, in 1956, the Corvette ditched its clunky bath-tub look, and became a true sports car and a convertible roadster, with curvy styling and excellent handling. The new Corvettes were only offered with a V-8 engine, producing as much as 360 bhp with optional fuel injection. The body of the '57s were the same, but a larger 283-cid engine and fuel injection gave it even more horsepower. In 1958, the Corvette exterior was altered to a less-attractive heaving body with four headlamps, but it didn’t matter. The 'Vette had made name for itself as a performance sports car, and Chevy had a hit on its hands.

For model year 1961, celebrated General Motors design chief Bill Mitchell gave the Corvette its trademark “ducktail,” and the 1962 model debuted the 327-cid small-block V-8 engine that became the standard for Corvettes through 1965. When Mitchell joined General Motors in 1958, he had invested his own time and money into making the Corvette a race car, a feat he achieved in 1959. His high compression 283-cid shark-shaped “Sting Ray” retired from the track after becoming the C-modified class national champion in 1960. Then, he set about turning the beautiful Sting Ray into a street-legal vehicle.

The mass-produced Corvette Sting Ray, perhaps the most attractive 'Vette ever designed, hit the market in the 1963 model year. It was offered as both a coupe and a convertible, with a top that could be stowed out of sight. Mitchell styled a sleek, angular fiberglass body with muscular haunches and a shorter wheelbase than before. Customers complained about the split rear window of the '63 Sting Ray coupe, prompting a redesign; for that reason, '63s are particularly collectible now. That year, sales broke 20,000 units.

The Sting Rays also featured independent rear-wheel suspension, an unusual trait for an American car, engineered by Zora Arkus-Duntow. In 1965, the performance got even better with the introduction of big-block V-8 engines, and it was the final year for fuel injection and the first year for optional disc brakes. Inspired by jet-fighter planes, the dashboard had a twin-cowled effect, and the ride was a charge: This ‘Vette could go from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds flat.

In the meantime, Mitchell continued to make stunning Corvette concept cars shaped like sharks, including the Mako Shark (1961), Mako Shark II (1965), and the Manta Ray (1969). The Mako design inspired the next generation of Sting Rays, issued for 1968, which also featured an even more dramatic “Coke bottle” styling defined by a narrow middle and outwardly curving fenders. Even though car lovers admit that this new generation of Sting Rays, with their larger, more begadgeted bodies, was an admirable successor, most 'Vette connoisseurs say nothing will ever top those early '60s Sting Rays. The new Sting Rays, made until 1984, had more buyers than ever: Nearly 40,000 sold in 1969. This Sting Ray also sold as a convertible until 1975, and was even produced in a targa roof T-top in 1968, but that style was quickly outlawed by U.S. safety regulators.

Thanks to new emissions laws in 1970, Corvettes saw their horsepower performance dip; but sales never flagged since “America’s only true sportscar” was one of the few autos that ...

For model year 1984, the 'Vette was once again revamped with a sleek, aerodynamic and modern body. Characterized by clean lines, the new Corvette “muscle car” featured a hatchback and a removable roof panel as well as a whole new chassis and lightweight suspension. The latest generation, made until 1996, was one of the fastest cars on the road, able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. Much too fast, indeed.

In 1986, Chevy brought back its Corvette roadster convertible for the first time in 11 years. Four years later, the new Corvette ZR1 upped the ante, elevated the 'Vette once again to super-car status, with its technically superior LT5 375 bhp engine that could reach speeds of 180 mph, and go from 0-60 mph in a measly 4.5 seconds. This “King of the Hill” model was the priciest car in the history of GM, with a sticker price of $59,000. The ZR1 disappeared in 1997 to make way for the new 'Vette generation. America’s sport car races on, even today.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Corvette History

Corvette History

The Corvette History section of the Motorera website offers photographs and specifications (including prices, which… [read review or visit site]

Jims59.com

Jims59.com

Jim Snell’s tribute to the 1959 Chevy Impala and other Chevrolets (Bel Air, Two-Ten Wagon, etc.) from the 1950s a… [read review or visit site]

Hemmings Auto Blogs

Hemmings Auto Blogs

This great (and frequently updated) blog from the folks at Hemmings Motor News is a visual feast of old and new pho… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible With Hardtop No ReserveChevrolet : Corvette Split Window Coupe Rare Factory Air Conditioning And Automatic Transmission, Needs RestoreChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1958 Corvette 2 Owner Nice Survivor Drives Great Rare LookChevrolet : Corvette Split Window 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Coupe ProjectChevrolet : Corvette Base 2-door Coupe 1967 Corvette Coupe Numbers Matching 300 Hp 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1964 Corvette Stingray Coupe Street Hot Rod 1963 1965 1966 1967 63 65 66 67 64Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1957 Corvette Convertible Rare Aztec Copper Beige Coves 283 3 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1969 Chevrolet Corvette 350 4 Speed Convertible Classic Video Hooker ExhaustChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1999 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Fl Kept Best Color Combination Super Low MiChevrolet : Corvette Red 1960 Corvette Restoration Project Restomod CandidateChevrolet : Chevelle Ss Original Ss 396 Engine 1965 1966 1967 1969 1970 1971 1963 Camaro Corvette 1972Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible Mint Original 1973 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible With Hard Top Best To Be FoundChevrolet : Corvette No Reserve This Week Only Huge Sale Stunning Low Mileage 1978 Chevrolet Corvette T Tops Leather Mint No Reserve,wowChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Spectacular Real Deal 1973 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 454 Big Block Must SeeChevrolet : Corvette Na 1965 Corvette Conv Parts Or Project CarChevrolet : Corvette 1962 Chevy Corvette Covertible Holiday Sale Hard Top Soft Top Great DriverChevrolet : Corvette Original Chrome Roman Red '62 Chevy CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1968 Corvette 327 V 8 Engine Numbers MatchingChevrolet : Corvette Roadster Big Block 1966 Corvette Roadster Big Block 4 Spd Looks Runs Great Very BeautifulChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 63 Corvette Convertible ProjectChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1967 Chevy Corvette 327 350 Hp L 79 4 Speed Loaded Like New Custom Sunfire YellowChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1968 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1968 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Coupe Corvette Coupe 427cid 390hpChevrolet : Corvette Fuelie 1964 Corvette Fuelie Original Black Black Car Recently Tuned Nicely RestoredChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1974 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 1998 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe 5.7 Ls 1 Black Gray Leather 6 Speed 82 K No ReserveChevrolet : Corvette Stingray Coupe 2-door 1975 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe 2 Door 5.7 LChevrolet : Corvette 2 Door ** Beautiful Original 1979 Corvette Coupe ** Selling No Reserve!!!Chevrolet : Nova No Post Corvette Torch Red Prostreet Nova Coupe No PostChevrolet : Corvette 1965 Corvette Roadster Low MilesChevrolet : Corvette Big Block 1972 Corvette Big Block Coupe Matching Numbers Factory A CChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1972 Corvette Coupe Matching NumbersChevrolet : Corvette Big Brake Fuelie 1962 Big Brake Fuelie 1 Of 246 Produced Must See Comes With 2 TopsChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Chevy,green,conv,original,small BlockChevrolet : Corvette Rare-350hp Original Motor, Black/black, Tank Sheet 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Rare Black Black 350 Hp Original Motor Tank SheetFord : Other 2 Dr 1932 Ford 3 Window Coupe Street Rod 350 Auto Cold Ac Corvette Yellow Must SeeChevrolet : Corvette Standard Numbers MatchingChevrolet : Corvette T Top 1969 Corvette 427 T Top AutomaticChevrolet : Corvette 1969 Corvette Conv Reardefrost Pw Ps Greatoriginalcar Smatching L KChevrolet : Corvette T Top Sweet 1972 Red CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette 0 73 Corvette Parts CarChevrolet : Corvette Nom 425hp 66 427 425 Nom 4 Spd Side Exhaust Teak Wheel Am Fm Radio Power WindowsChevrolet : Corvette Split Over $250k Invested! Numbers Matching! 1958 1960 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1969Chevrolet : Corvette 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe Daytona Blue Dark Blue AutomaticChevrolet : Corvette #s Matching 427ci/390hp 1969 Corvette Roadster Restored Smatch 427 Ci 390 Hp A C L KChevrolet : Corvette Project Car 1972 Corvette Sport Coupe Project CarChevrolet : Corvette 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 435 Hp 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1969 Corvette Roadster L 48 4 Spd 350 V 8Nos Delco Tune-up Tester For 1965-1981 Gm Muscle Cars, Rare!Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1990 Chevy Corvette Convertible 58 K No Reserve 6 Speed White With Red LeatherChevrolet : Corvette Roadster 1965 Corvette Roadster 350 4 SpdChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1963 Corvette Convertible 327 300 H P 4 Speed Red Both Tops High Quality DriverChevrolet : Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 1977 Chevrolet Corvette Base Coupe 2 Door 5.7 LChevrolet : Corvette 1972 Corvette Coup Project Car Lots Of New Parts IncludedChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1991 Corvette Stingrays Corvettes Hot Rod Classics 69 Camaro Sports Cars Lt 1 Zr 1Chevrolet : Corvette 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Project Car 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Project CarHot Wheels Gasser Datsun Bluebird Corvette Impala Camaro Super Treasure Hunt LotChevrolet : Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Convertible 2-door 1998 Chevy Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1976 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray