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    

Other Makes Custom Custom 1992 Corvette & 1967 Volvo 1800 Professionally Built Excellent ConditionChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1956 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible ProjectChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1972 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray T Tops Manual 4 Speed Rebuilt DrivetrainChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1965 Corvette Stingray C 2 Coupe Black Tan 4 Speed Low ReserveChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1958 Chevrolet Corvette ProjectChevrolet : Corvette Original #s Matching 327/340hp 1962 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Project S Matching 340 HpChevrolet : Corvette No Reserve No Reserve 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C3 Convertible Vette Red RoadsterChevrolet : Corvette Split Window Coupe 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window CoupeChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1972 Corvette Coupe 350 4 Speed Factory Ac Original Drivetrain Just RestoredChevrolet : Corvette Kustom 1954 Corvette Kustom Custom Not Rat Rod Not ChoppedChevrolet : Corvette Lt1 1971 Chevrolet Corvette Lt 1 Roadster Stunning 41 K Mile Survivor Tank StickerChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1967 Corvette Stingray Convertible Matching Numbers Sunfire YellowChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1968 Chevy Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette . 1966 Corvette Survivor Rally Red 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 427 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe 427 Factory Installed Side ExaustChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Conv Original Matching Number 327 300 Hp W DocumentsChevrolet : Corvette Convertable 1966 Corvette Roadster 350 Horse With Good OptionsChevrolet : Corvette Zr1 1995 Chevy Corvette Zr 1 405 H PChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1964 Corvette Roadster 4 Speed White W Red Interior Very OriginalChevrolet : Impala Ss Super Sport 1963 Chevrolet True Ss Super Sport Impala 327 No Reserve Auction Corvette CamaroChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1964 Corvette Roadster Super Rare Factory Triple Black 4 Spd PsChevrolet : Corvette 1962 Or 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 Corvette 327 340 Hp Original Motor Re Code Gorgeous Roman Red ExteriorChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1965 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Convertible California 1967 Fully Restored Corvette Convertible Big Block / Beautiful!!!Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1962 Corvette Convertible 81000Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible W/ Hardtop 1967 Corvette Stingray ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Convertble 1963 Corvette Convertibe W Hard Top 340 Hp 4 Spd Good DriverChevrolet : Corvette Hot Rod 1959 Corvette Old 70 S Hot RodFerrari : 360 Modena Coupe 2-door Ferrari 360. Trade: 430 355 Corvette Z06 Dodge Viper Porsche 997 993 996 TurboChevrolet : Corvette 427 Big Block 1967 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette L82 1973 Corvette L 82 Matching Numbers No ReserveChevrolet : Corvette Coupe Outstanding Rare Example 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window 4 Speed 327 V-8.Chevrolet : Corvette 300hp #s Matching Convertible 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible S Matching 300 Hp 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Base Corvette,old Corvette,convertible Corvette,classic Corvette,chevy Corvette,1959Chevrolet : Corvette Split Window Coupe 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Coupe Numbers Matching 327 300 HpChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Original Matching Number 327 300 Hp W DocumentsChevrolet : Corvette C2 Split Window Match Num 4 Spd 327v8 Excel 1963 Red C 2 Split Window Match Num 4 Spd 327 V 8 ExcelChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1961 CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette 2 Dr Convertible Chevrolet Corvette 1975 C3 ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1967 Corvette Two Top Roadster 4 Speed Red Lines And Cast Wheels TeleChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1993 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 9900 Miles Like NewChevrolet : Bel Air/150/210 2-door Sedan Corvette Fuel Injection Amazing Chevy Chevrolet 2 Door Custom Sedan Restored Corvette EngineChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 4.6 L Fuel Injection Superb RestorationChevrolet : Corvette Triple Black Conv 1967 Corvette Conv Triple Black S Match 327 300 Hp L K NiceChevrolet : Corvette Turq/turq Conv 1960 Corvette Conv Rareturq Turq Nicel KChevrolet : Corvette 2 Door Chevrolet, Corvette, 1968,1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977,Chevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1966 Corvette Coupe Trophy Blue Black 327 350 Hp 4 Sp 50 K Original All MatchingChevrolet : Corvette 4)ncrstopflights*bloomingtongoldcertified 1963 Corvette Coupe 4 Ncrstopflights Bloomingtongoldcertifed Frameoff 340 Hpl KChevrolet : Corvette Side Exhaust, Knock-offs 1966 Corvette 974 Matching L 79Chevrolet : Corvette Big Block Fact A/c 4-speed Ps Pb Pw 1971 Corvette Conv Facta C 4 Spd Smatch 454 365 Hp Loaded L K RestoredChevrolet : Corvette 1975 Stingray 79 K Very Original Rust Free Sorted Factory A CChevrolet : Corvette T-tops Original 1980 Corvette 350 Auto T-tops Air Red On Red Leather Loaded Low MilesChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 2 Door 1960 Chevrolet Corvette C 1 327Chevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1968 Chevrolet Corvette 427 L 36 4 Speed 7 L Mako Shark C 3 Clean California CarChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1971 Chevy Corvette Stingray Convertible 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1975 Burgundy Convertible Stingray 350 Sbc 4 Speed Matching Numbers RestoredChevrolet : Corvette Roadster 1968 Corvette Roadster RestomodChevrolet : Corvette Red 1962 Corvette 327 360 Hp Fuel Injected 4 Speed Silver Exterior Red InteriorChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1964 Corvette Modern Power And Comfort In A Classic Body A Well Sorted RestomodChevrolet : Corvette Sting Ray Coupe 1964 Corvette Stingray Coupe Super Nice Same Owner Last 30 Years