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    

Cherry Bomb Camaro Style Stainless Exhaust Tips Corvette Muscle Car One PairChevrolet : Corvette Factory A/c No Reserve - 69 Vette, 427/400hp, Factory A/c, Tank Sticker, P/b, P/s, Tilt/teleChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1956 Corvette Barn Find Ncrs Project Needs Restoration 265 Rare ColorChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1954 Corvette Vintage Race Car Barn Find Project Bonneville Salt Flat 1953 1955Chevrolet : Corvette Big Block Coupe Project 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Project Must Look Needs FinishedStudebaker : Avanti Coupe 1971 Avanti Restored Factory 350 Corvette EngineChevrolet : Corvette Base 1967 Chevy Corvette Convertible Parts Car ProjectBuick : Other Corvette Power Fuel Injected Buick Super Western Car 88 Corvette Drivetrain Show Stopper Hot RodChevrolet : Corvette 300 1964 Chevy Corvette 4 Speed Side Pipes Hot Rod Nice Car Whole Sale PriceChevrolet : Corvette Split Rear Window 1963 Chevrolet Corvette CoupeChevrolet : Impala Sport 2 Door Coupe Sport Coupe 1959 1960 1961 1963 1964 Split 1965 1966 Ss 1967 1968 1969 CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette 1970 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe 4 Speed A C With DocsChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Beautiful 1961 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible! Great Driver! Not Matching NumberChevrolet : Corvette Hardtop Convertible 1969 Corvette Convertible For RestorationChevrolet : Camaro Camaro 1979 Chevrolet Camaro No Reserve Trans Am Corvette Mustang Gto 75 76 77 78 80 81Chevrolet : Corvette Split Window 1963 Corvette Frame Suspension And Running GearChevrolet : Corvette Convertable 1962 Chevy Corvette Convertable Nice Car Whole Sale Price Beautiful Color ComboChevrolet : Corvette L89 427/435 68 Vette L 89 427 435 Hp Highly Documented S Matching Frame Off RestorationChevrolet : Corvette Mild Resto - Mod 1966 Corvette StingrayChevrolet : Corvette Fuelie 1964 Corvette Coupe Fuelie Red RedChevrolet : Corvette 2 Door 1965 Convertible Corvette In Great ConditionChevrolet : Corvette Convertable 1971 Chevy Corvette Convertable Nice Car Very Orignal Whole Sale PriceChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1972 Corvette Coupe Frest Rebuilt 350 350 New Paint Brakes Front End No ReservChevrolet : Corvette Sting Ray 1966 Corvette Convertible Body Nice Project Resto Mod Rod Factory Black RedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible S Matching Ac 4 Speed Telescopic WheelChevrolet : Corvette 1965 Chevrolet Corvette 5 Speed Manual 2 Door CoupeChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1971 Convertible CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1969 Corvette Stingray ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 72 Chevy Vette Convertible 10000 Miles V 8 Rwd Automatic OverdriveChevrolet : Corvette Convertible With Modern Upgrades 1961 Corvette Ls 1 Motor 4 Speed Disc Brakes Modern Upgrades To Nice Solid AxleChevrolet : Corvette Split Window Coupe Fuelie 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe Fuelie L K ChristmassaleChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1963 Corvette Convertible 327 300 H P 4 Speed Red Both Tops High Quality DriverChevrolet : Corvette Zr1 90 Zr 1 Vette 12 K Miles 2 Tops Clean Carfax Show Condition ThroughoutChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1998 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2 Door 5.7 LChevrolet : Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Coupe 2-door 1978 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Pace Car Edition CoupeChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1964 Chevy Corvette 327 300 Hp 4 Speed Loaded Like New Custom Riversidered Cold AcChevrolet : Corvette 327 1964 Corvette Stingray Convertible 327Chevrolet : Corvette L82 1974 Chevrolet Corvette L 82Chevrolet : Corvette 2dr Convertible 1960 C 1 Soft Top Only 283 Cid 230 Hp V 8 4 Speed Manual Roman Red Red InteriorChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster 427 390 HpChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1966 Original Matching Numbers L 72 Harry Mann Survivor CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible S Match Documented 4 Speed Nassau BlueChevrolet : Corvette Split Over $250k Invested! Numbers Matching! 1958 1960 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1969Chevrolet : Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 08 6.2 Ls 3 Engine 33 K Driving Donor Rolling Chassis 430 Hp Salvage Theft RecoveryChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 67 Corvette Coupe L 36 427 Cid 390 Hp V 8 M 21 4 Speed Manual A C Power WindowsChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 383 Stroker T-top Must See 1974 Chevrolet Corvette 383 Stroker Coupe 2 Door T Top Must SeeChevrolet : Corvette Convertable 1962 Chevrolet Corvette 350 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Restored 327 V8 4 Speed BlueChevrolet : Corvette 270hp 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster 2 X 4 Dual Quad Solid Lifter 283 270 Hp S MatchChevrolet : Corvette Base Coupe 2-door Black 1998 Manual Coupe In Great Condition- Only 36,100 Miles!Chevrolet : Other Convertible 1971 Corvette Roadster S Matching Low Miles 4 Speed Very Nice PaintFord : Other Coupe 1948 Ford 2 Dr Coupe W 1957 Corvette EngineChevrolet : Other Pickups Coe 1946 Chevy Coe C 4 Corvette Flatbed PickupChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1966 Corvette Coupe 3 Rd Body Produced In 1966 Documented From NewChevrolet : Corvette 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster 327 365 Hp Solid Lifter With 4 SpdChevrolet : Corvette Beige Top 1963 Corvette Stingray Convertible RestoredChevrolet : Impala Sedan Clean Survivor 1959 1960 1961 1962 1964 Split 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Base 1973 Corvette Coupe Numbers Matching Frame On RestorationChevrolet : Corvette Base 1959 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1992 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 5.7 L 67 K Original Miles And Paint No Res