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 Convertrible 1965 Corvette Convertible Project CarChevrolet : Corvette Swc No Reserve -63 Split Window Coupe, Factory Riverside Red W/matching Red InteriorChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1958 Chevrolet Corvette ProjectChevrolet : Corvette Survivor 67 Vette Marina Blue Blue 327 300 Hp 4 Speed Tank Sticker Matching SChevrolet : Corvette Conv 1963 Corvette Convertible Project Car Both TopsChevrolet : Corvette Stingray Sport Coupe California Rust-free 427 390hp Same Owner Garaged Since 1975 Numbers MatchingChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1962 Corvette Convertible Street Rod Hot Rod 1960 S Race Car Vintage May SwapChevrolet : Corvette Convertible, 1967 Corvette Convt 300 Hp 327 4 Spd Matching S Ca CarChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Roadster 1963 Corvette Convertible Excellent Condition S Matching Rebuilt 327 Ci 340 HpChevrolet : Corvette 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe RestomodChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1970 Corvette Convertible Matching 350 350 Hp 4 Speed 31 740 Actual Miles NiceChevrolet : Corvette 1961 Corvette Fawn Biege Fawn 2 Tops 4 Spd 270 Hp S MatchingChevrolet : Corvette Rare Mosport Green Big Block 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Mosportgreen Green 427 425 Hp Rare L KChevrolet : Corvette L71 427/435h 69 L 71 435 Hp Conv Vette Frame Off Won Just About Every Award Ncrs BloomingtonChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 327 350 4 Speed Matching Numbers Sunfire Yellow Coupe With 3 Tail Light SetChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Big Block RoadsterChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1969 Corvette 427 390 HpChevrolet : Nova Hard Top 1967 Nova Pro Tour 4 Whl Corvette Disc Brakes Air Ride 18 20 Whls 4 LinkChevrolet : 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 Rare Riverside Gold Convertible CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1959 Chevrolet Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette 1967 Used White Classic VintageChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1969 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Conv 1962 Corvette 340 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette 1957 Used Red Classic VintageChevrolet : Corvette Stingray Convertible 1963 Chevy Corvette Convertible 51 K Actual Miles Matching S 327 340 Hp 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette 1972 Corvette Stingray Lt 1 ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette 1962 Or 1961 Or 1960 Or 1959 Or 1958 1962 Corvette 327 340 S Match Complete No Expense Spared Body Off RestorationChevrolet : Corvette 300hp #s Matching Convertible 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible S Matching 300 Hp 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette 427/435hp 1967 Corvette 427 435 Hp Tri Power Ncrs Validated Tank Sticker J 56 BrakeChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1962 Corvette 2 TopsReplica/kit Makes : Phillips Berlina Mercedes 540k Vette 350 V8 Berlina Corvette Motor 1936 Mercedes 540k 500k Oldtimer Look Excalibur / ClenetChevrolet : Corvette Survivor Lt1 1970 Corvette Coupe Lt 1 Tanksticker Pop L K VeryoriginaluntouchedChevrolet : Corvette Real Deal Lt1 Convertible 1970 Corvette Lt 1 Convertible 350 370 Hp 4 Speed Matching Numbers Real Deal Lt 1Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1957 Chevrolet Corvette 283 V 8 Manual Rwd Leather Rebuilt 19506 MilesChevrolet : Corvette Z06 Coupe 2-door Callaway Corvette Z06Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible W/ Hard Top 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Numbers Matching Convertible With HardtopChevrolet : Corvette 283/290hp 58 Fuelie 2 Tops Frame Off Restored Matching S Ncrs Top Flight 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1965 Corvette Roadster 327 350 Hp And Fresh High Quality Frame Off RestorationChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1966 Chevy Corvette 350 Ci Lt 1 Fuel Injectio Loaded Like New Custom Blue On BlueChevrolet : Corvette Unspecified 1957 Corvette Conv Onyxblack Red L K Automatic Powerwindows L KChevrolet : Corvette 1967 Corvette 427/435hp L71 Coupe 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427 435 L 71 Big Block Coupe Matching Numbers 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1965 Chevrolet Corvette L 78 396 425 Hp S Matching Big Block L 78 VetteChevrolet : Corvette Powerglide Tranny Canvas Soft Top Side Curtains Potential Mechanically SoundChevrolet : Corvette Coupe Pristine California 1967 Rally Red #s Matching Corvette CoupeChevrolet : Corvette Rare Lt1 Conv W/ Tank Sticker 1970 Corvette Conv Lt 1 Tanksticker Smatch L K RareChevrolet : Corvette 1964 Corvette Grand Sport Replica Autographed By Aj Foyt 408 Ls 2Chevrolet : Corvette Custom Built Shark Car 1972 Chevy Vette Convertible 388 Miles Supercharged 350 Ls 2 Rwd 6 Speed ManualChevrolet : Corvette 427 Roadster 1966 427 Corvette Roadster Numbers Matching 390 HpChevrolet : Corvette Lt1 1971 Lt 1 Corvette Convertible Beautifully Restored Matching NumbersChevrolet : Corvette 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Tiltsteeringwheel Powersteering L KChevrolet : Nomad 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad 1955 Chevrolet Chevy Nomad Resto Mod With Corvette Ls 1 Engine And SuspensionChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe 4 Speed Air Ps Pb Excellent ConditionChevrolet : Corvette Z06 Like New 2015 Z06 724 Miles, Factory Warranties,garaged CoveredChevrolet : Corvette 2dr Cpe Z06 Corvette Z06 6 Speed Manual Ac Nav CruiseChevrolet : Corvette Race Car 1958 Corvette Vintage Race CarChevrolet : Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car "only 804 Miles From New"Chevrolet : Corvette Z06 3lz Z07 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z 06 3 Lz Z 07 Performance Package 10 K 3 M ProtectionChevrolet : Corvette Must See To Appreciate 1981 Corvette 30 K Custom Restoration Work 1 St Place In Numerous ShowsChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 2-door 1973 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible All Number Matching Car