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 Base Coupe 2-door 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Factory Black With Red InteriorChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1962 Chevrolet Corvette 327 340 Hp 4 Speed Convertible Honduras MaroonChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 2-door 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 327 Ci 350 Hp 4 Speed Original EngineChevrolet : Corvette 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Base Coupe 2 Door 7.0 LChevrolet : Corvette 1960 Corvette Unfinished Fresh Paint 2015 Proper 283 4 Speed Black RedChevrolet : Corvette 1962 Chevrolet Corvette 63 191 Miles Very OriginalChevrolet : Corvette 2 Door Convertible Museum Quality Restored 1953 CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Teal Blue 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 327 350 Hp Elkhart Blue 67 Great DriverChevrolet : Corvette Sting Ray 1965 Chevy Corvette Sting Ray Low Mileage Beautiful RestorationChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 2-door Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 1964Chevrolet : Corvette 1962 Bloomington Gold White CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Split Window Coupe 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Split Window CoupeChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 427ci/390hp 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 427 Ci 390 Hp 4 Speed Manual 2 Door ConvertiblChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 3 Speed Manual 2 Door ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1958 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1965 Corvette Roadster S Matching 79 K Actual Miles Two TopsChevrolet : Corvette 315hp Fuelie 61 Big Brake Fuelie Tripple Black Radio Heater Delete 4 Spd Collector OwnedChevrolet : Corvette L-89 Top Flight 1969 Top Flight Corvette 427 435 L 89 Convertible With Side Exhaust And F 41Chevrolet : Corvette Fuel Injected Roadster 1963 Ncrs Fuel Injected Corvette Roadster Shinoda Duntov Autographed InspectedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1961 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1956 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Auto 331 Cui Small Block Torch RedChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1963 Split Window Chevrolet Stingray Corvette 4 Speed 327 V 8 Rare ClassicChevrolet : Corvette Pspbtelespeedwarning 1967 Corvette Conv Elkhartblue Tealblue Ps Pb Tele Speedwarn Restored Loadedl KChevrolet : Corvette 1956 Convertible W/ Hardtop 1956 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible With Hardtop StunningChevrolet : Corvette 427 Convertible 2-door 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible 2 Door 7.0 LChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible W Air Conditioning 327 300 HpChevrolet : Corvette Z06 3lz Chevy Corvette Z06 Lt4 650 Hp Supercharged 3lz Carbon Fiber Hood InsertChevrolet : Corvette Zr1, 3zr 638 Hp Ls 9 Engine Supersonic Blue 3 Zr Only 14 K MilesChevrolet : Corvette Std 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Convertable 427 435 Matching S SurvivorChevrolet : Corvette Conv 1962 Corvette 340 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Silver Blue 1964 Corvette Coupe New Frame Off RestorationChevrolet : Corvette 327 4 Speed Rare Numbers Matching 327 4 Speed Ac Classic Mustle Vintage Collectable StunningChevrolet : Corvette Coupe Big Block 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Matching Numbers 427 425 Hp 43 K MileaChevrolet : Corvette Fuelie 360hp 63 Fuelie 327 360 Hp Certified Original Engine 4 Speed Restored Am Fm RadioChevrolet : Corvette 1967 Corvette Bloomington Gold Survivor Ncrs Bowtie Top Flight Award WinnerChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1966 Corvette Convertible 427 425 H PChevrolet : Corvette Zr1 2012 Corvette Zr 1 Carlisle Blue Metallic 104 Miles 3 Zr Package 1 Of 11 ProducedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1965 Corvette Stingray Convertible 383 425 HpChevrolet : Corvette Silver/red 4speed 1959 Corvette Convertible Incasilver Red 4 Speed Greatdriver L KChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1959 Corvette Beautiful Color Combination 283 230 Rare Automatic Very NiceChevrolet : Corvette Z06 505 Hp Z 06 Corvette 11 700 Miles All Upgrades AvailableChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Z51 3lt Chevy Convertible Z51 3lt 7 Speed Magnetic Ride Hud Bose Competition Seats 2015Chevrolet : Corvette Pspbauto 1967 Corvette Conv Rarelynndaleblue White Smatch Restored Headrests Auto L KChevrolet : Corvette White/red Hard Top Only 1958 Chevrolet Corvette White Red Hardtoponly 4 Spd L KChevrolet : Corvette 1967 Corvette Matching Numbers L 79 327 350 Hp 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1968 Corvette Convertible Big Block 427 435 L 71 3 X 2 CarbsChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1970 Corvette Convertible 454 Ls 5 4 SpeedChevrolet : Corvette Frameoffrestored427/425hpconvw/f41susp,tele 1966 Corvette Conv Frameoff Mosportgreen Green F 41 Susp 427 425 Hp Ncrsspec L KChevrolet : Corvette Body Off Restored Corvette Roadster 283/270 Hp Dual Quad V8 4 Speed 3.70 AxleChevrolet : Corvette Z51 3lt 7-speed Nav Hud 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z 51 3 Lt 7 Speed Nav Hud Yellow Custom One OwnerChevrolet : Corvette 427 Convertible 2-door 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427Chevrolet : Corvette 427 Convertible 2-door 427 Convertible 6 Speed Rare Velocity Yellow One Of Only 94 Z 06 Ls 7 Only 3 KChevrolet : Corvette 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z 06 2 Lz Convertible Nav Competition SeatsChevrolet : Corvette Sting Ray Frame Off Built Corvette Sting Ray Roadster Zz454 V8 4 Speed Qa1 Shocks PsChevrolet : Corvette Convertible Z51 3lt 8 Speed Auto 2k Miles Used 2015 Corvette Stingray Convertible * Spd Auto 3lt Z51 CertifiedChevrolet : Corvette Z06 Supercharged 6-speed Hud 2015 Chevy Corvette Z 06 Supercharged 6 Speed Hud 987 Mi 607862 Texas DirectChevrolet : Corvette Z16 Grand Sport 4lt Z51 Nav Hud 2013 Chevy Corvette Z 16 Grand Sport 4 Lt Z 51 Nav Hud 7 K 100810 Texas Direct AutoChevrolet : Corvette Stingray Z51 2lt Auto Nav Hud 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray Z 51 2 Lt Auto Nav Hud 1 K Mi 131448 Texas DirectChevrolet : Corvette Z51 3lt Supercharged 2014 Corvette Convertible Zo 6 Killer Supercharged Headers Automatic