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]



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 Standard 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L 71 427 435 HpChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 327 4 Spd S Matching Build Sheet No ReserveChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1957 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Restomod 1958 Corvette Roadster RestomodChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 427 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 427 4 Spd S Match TradesChevrolet: Corvette 1972 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 454 Cid Ls 5 Matching Numbers 4 SpeedChevrolet: Corvette 1965 Corvette StingrayChevrolet: Corvette CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette No Reserve No Reserve 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 427 390hp 63000 Actual Miles WowFord: 5-window Coupe Street Rod Steel Body 5-window! Gm 327ci V8, 4-speed Manual, Corvette Suspension & More!Chevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe Great Driver CarChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe All Matching Number Unrestored CarChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1965 Corvette Rare Tuxedo Black Red Interior L 79Chevrolet: Corvette Base Numbers Matching C-3 Removable Top Corvette 350ci V-8 A/t Black Leather A/c P/sChevrolet: Corvette L-48 1975 Corvette Convertible 34 K Original Miles Unrestored Az CarChevrolet: Corvette Roadster Reserve Lowered!! Hot Rod Rat Rod Street Rod Custom Rare Collector RoadsterChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1964 CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Split Window Coupe 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Coupe Original Matching Numbers 327 340 HpChevrolet: Corvette Black Vinyl 1959 CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Standard 1960 Corvette Maroon On Black 4 Speed Power WindowsChevrolet: Corvette 1968 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet: Corvette 1962 Corvette Matching Numbers No Reserve Nut And Bolt Resto 4 Speed 200 PicsChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 350 V8 4-speed 17k Actual Miles! Wow! Just 17059 Miles! Amazing Condition! 4-speed Power Steering Split Bumber C3!Chevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1965 Corvette Roadster Matching S 327 350 Hp 4 Spd Very Original Great DriverFord: Tudor Sedan Tudor 1940 Ford Tudor Sedan Street Rod Corvette Engine StreetrodChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1974 Corvette Stingray Rare 454 Convertible 4 SpeedChevrolet: Corvette 1969 Corvette No Reserve Auction For A Solid Mechanically Sound VetteChevrolet: Corvette Split Indy 500 Pace Car Convertible! Extras! 1965 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 No Reserve!Chevrolet: Corvette 65 Sting Ray 1965 Corvette Sting Ray Manual 4 Spd Rwd CoupeChevrolet: Corvette Standard 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe L 79 4 Spd Fact Air S Matching Well OptionedChevrolet: Corvette Zr1 Lt5 405 Hp. 1993 Chevrolet Corvette Zr 1 40 Th Anniversary Black On BlackChevrolet: Corvette 1974 1980 Corvette Convertible 4 Speed No ReserveChevrolet: Corvette 2 Door Coupe 1968 427 390 Hp Big Block Black Corvette Resto Hotrod CustomChevrolet: Corvette Base Hatchback 2-door 1988 Chevrolet Corvette Base Hatchback 2 Door 5.7 L Low Miles No ReserveChevrolet: Corvette 1967 Corvette Convertible 327 300 Original Motor Black RedChevrolet: Corvette 2 Door 1978 Corvette 25 Th Anniversary T TopsChevrolet: Corvette 375hp Fuelie 65 Vette 1 Of Only 771 Fuel Injected 327 375 Hp 4 Spd Coupe Collector OwnedChevrolet: Corvette Factory Ac 67 W Docs Factory A C L 36 427 390 Hp Tuxedo Black Red Stinger Black InteriorChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 2-door 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Big Block Roadster 4 Speed Two TopsChevrolet: Corvette Big Block Convertible 2-door 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 427 Tri Power Big Block 4 Speed Beautiful 69Chevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1989 Chevrolet Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet: Corvette Collectors Edition 1996 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet: Corvette Chrome Rare 1962 Corvette Almond Beige With Red Interior 4 Speed Extremely NiceChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Incredible Survivor 427 390 Hp 4 Spd Ac 45 242 MilesChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1974 CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1966 Corvette Roadster Silver Pearl On Black Ps Pw 300 Hp 4 SpeedChevrolet: Corvette Standard 1970 Corvette 4 Speed Big Block T TopsChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1976 Chevrolet Corvette CoupeChevrolet: Corvette Project 1957 Corvette ProjectChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1979 Chevrolet Corvette 4 Speed Matching Numbers Project Car No ReserveChevrolet: Corvette #'s Match "fuelie" Convt. / Hardtop 1963 Corvette Fuelie California Black Plate Numbers Match Factory HdtpChevrolet: Corvette 1980 Corvette L 82 350 Ci 4 Speed Manual Excellent ConditionChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 427/425 Hp 4-speed Absolutely Gorgeous 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible 427 425 Hp 4 Speed Side Pipes RareChevrolet: Corvette 1966 Chevrolet Corvette RoadsterChevrolet: Corvette 2 Door 1990 Corvette Convertible New Zz 4 Gmci 350 Hp With Under 500 Mi On MotorChevrolet: Corvette Chrome 1961 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Base 1982 Corvette 2 Tone White Silver With Silver Leather And Mirrored T TopsChevrolet: Corvette Stringray Red W Black Int. Both Hard And Soft TopsChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1998 CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette 1978 Chevy Corvette