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 Stingray 1969 Corvette Convertible #match 427/4sp Big Block Posi Ps Side Pipes 41k MilesChevrolet : Corvette Glen Green 1965 Corvette Coupe 396/425 Real DealChevrolet : Corvette Lt1 1971 Corvette Lt-1 Convertible 4-speed 350 V8 Owned By Roy Sinor Only 40k MilesChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1954 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 3.8lChevrolet : Corvette Survivor 26k Mile Survivor, Documented Owner History, 327/340hp, 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Corvette 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1959 1960 1961 1962 1965 1966 1967Chevrolet : Corvette 1954 CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Standard 1964 Chevrolet Corvette - Black BeautyChevrolet : Corvette Split Window Coupe 1963 Corvette *olderresto*l@@k*red/blk*#smatching*nice*Chevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1962 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 5.3l Fuel Injection 4-speedChevrolet : Corvette Stingray Incredible California Survivor - Numbers Matching 4-speed, 1 Owner For 42+ YearChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1960 Corvette - 2 Tops - Quality Driver!!!Chevrolet : Corvette 427/390hp 1967 Vette, Tank Sticker, #’s Matching 427/390hp, Original Interior & Soft TopChevrolet : Bel Air/150/210 Bel Air 1956 Bel Air Custom Hot Rod Custom Interior Corvette Fuel Injected EngineChevrolet : Corvette Collector 2 Owner Original 427 425hp 46k Original Miles Numbers Matching ShowChevrolet : Corvette 2dr Conv. 1970 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Numbers Matching : Front Disc Brakes : Show ReadyChevrolet : Corvette 1964 Chevrolet Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette 1956 Corvette, Rare Automatic, Power Windows,upgraded Power Steering,disc BrakesChevrolet : Corvette 427/435hp 1967 Corvette 427/435hp Tri-power! Ncrs Validated Tank Sticker! J56 Brake!Chevrolet : Corvette 2 Door Convertible 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427 ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray-2 Owner Unit-33,000 Actual Miles-327 4 Speed.Chevrolet : Corvette 2 Door Convertible 1969 Corvette Convertible, L36 427/390 Hp, 4 SpeedFord : Thunderbird Convertible 1965 Ford Thunderbird Convertible Lincoln Roadster Corvette Cadillac CruiserChevrolet : Corvette Factory 1964 CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1960 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 4.6lChevrolet : Corvette Standard Black Vinyl 1965 Corvette 2-top, Triple Black, Mech Fuel Injected, 2-top Roadster Resto-modChevrolet : Corvette 1961 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster RedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible - Frame Off - 1k Miles Beautifully Frame Off Restored - 1961 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible - 1k MilesChevrolet : Corvette Two-door Convertible 1966 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette T-tops 1971 Corvette, T-tops, Big Block, 5 Speed, SilverChevrolet : Corvette Lt-1 71 Vette Lt1, Docs, Classic White, 4-speed, Very Correct, Restored, LeatherChevrolet : Corvette 350hp Factory A/c Coupe 1967 Corvette Coupe *frameoff*327ci/350hp*factorya/c*ps*pb*jamup*killer*l@@kChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 4.6lChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1962 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 5.3lChevrolet : Corvette 3lt 2012 Corvette Grand Sport Convertible 3lt 4,700 Miles WarrantyChevrolet : Corvette 1 Owner Big Block Roadster 1968 Corvette Convertible *1-owner*allpaperworkfromnew*pop*origbos*#smatch400hpChevrolet : Corvette Convertible/hardtop 1965 CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Z51 Stingray..z51..3lt..removable Roof..carbon Fiber..wheel Upgrade..hard To Find!Chevrolet : Corvette Z06 Z06 Manual Coupe 7.0l Cd Am/fm Stereo W/cd/mp3 Playback/navigation 7 SpeakersChevrolet : Corvette Z51 3lt 2014 White Z51 3lt!Chevrolet : Corvette Stingray 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray Convertible Crystal Red Metallic NavigationChevrolet : Corvette Supercharged 2012 Chevy Corvette Zr1 3zr 638hp Nav Hud Ride Ctrl 8k Texas Direct AutoChevrolet : Corvette Roadster 1967 Corvette Roadster, Big Block, Greenwood Green, 1967 Big Block Roadster,Chevrolet : Corvette Grand Sport 3lt Corvette Grand Sport One Owner Low Miles A/t A/c Leather 3lt Power Top Nav ChromChevrolet : Corvette 2dr Cpe Z06 **stunning**08 Corvette Z06~3lz~7.0l V8~505hp~heads Up~chrome Whls~$80k Msrp! Chevrolet : Corvette Base Coupe 2-door Jetstream Blue Tintcoat, 3lt, 8200 Miles Showroom ConditionChevrolet : Camaro Watch Video 68 Camaro Rare 4 Speed Corvette Bronze Gorgeous MuscleChevrolet : Corvette Grand Sport Z16 2012 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible, Z16 2-door 6.2l, Only 3300 MiChevrolet : Other Pickups 3100 1949 Chevrolet 3100 1/2 Ton Pickup Ls3 6.2l 430hp Corvette EngineChevrolet : Corvette Matching #'s 350 Ci Lt-1 Engine! 4-speed Manual! 1972 Chevrolet Corvette Lt-1 Coupe, 1 Of Only 1,741 Lt-1's Produced In 1972!Chevrolet : Corvette Grand Sport Convertible 2-door 2012 Chevrolet Corvette Grandsport ConvertableChevrolet : Corvette 2lt 2014 Corvette Stingray 2lt W/ Z51 PackageChevrolet : Corvette 3lt Loaded 14 C7 Vette, 150 Miles, 3lt, Perf. Exh, Chrome Wheels, Carbon Roof And InteriorChevrolet : Corvette Split Window Investment Grade Corvette Split Window 327/340 Hp 4 SpdChevrolet : Corvette Leather 1969 Corvette L-89 427 / 435 Side ExhaustChevrolet : Corvette 427 Convertible 2-door 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible 2-door 7.0lChevrolet : Corvette Z06 - We Finance Navigation Chrome Wheels Memory Pkg Heated Seats Head-up DisplayChevrolet : Corvette Grand Sport Grand Sport Coupe 1-piece Removable Body-color Roof Panel Heads UpChevrolet : Corvette Big Brake 58 Vette, Big Brake, Fuelie, Duntov Award, Silver Blue, Posi, Power Windows