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 Coupe 1966 Air, Automatic Coupe One Of 700 No ReserveChevrolet : Corvette 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Project Car. Very Complete!!Chevrolet : Corvette Original Engine #s Matching 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible. Original 350hp #s Matching Engine.Chevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1965 Corvette L79 Numbers Matching Factory Air Conditioning Rally RedChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1966 Corvette L79 327 350hp 4 Speed Side Exhaust StunningChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Base Coupe StingrayChevrolet : Corvette 350hp Factory A/c Coupe 1967 Corvette Coupe *frameoff*327ci/350hp*factorya/c*ps*pb*jamup*killer*l@@kChevrolet : Corvette Black Interior 1967 Chevy 2-door CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Corvette Convertible 1960 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Coupe Frame Off Restored 1964 Corvette Coupe With Power SteeringFord : Other Fuel Injection Mint A/c Loaded No Reserve 1937 Ford Cabriolet Convertible Show Car Street Rod Hotrod CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Z06 Z06 Corvette Ls7 Vette One Owner Muscle Collector 07 Chevy No Reserve Nav 2lzChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe 327/300hp #s Matching 4 Speed Side Pipes Knock OffChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1961 Corvette Fuelie N C R S Top Flight Certified 315 Hp Original PaintChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1965 Corvette Convertible *4spd*greatdriver*l@@k*Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1963 Corvette Convertible RedChevrolet : Corvette No Hit Body!!! Clean Frame 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible!!! Chassis Has Been Restored!!!! Good DriverChevrolet : Corvette Lt-1 1970 Chevrolet Corvette Lt-1 CoupeChevrolet : Corvette Roadster 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427/390hpChevrolet : Corvette Roadster - See Video 1967 Corvette Convertible - 454/427. Dealer Restored. See VideoChevrolet : Corvette Sting Ray Corvette Sting Ray Pro Touring 427 V8 815 Hp 6 Speed AcChevrolet : Corvette Sting Ray Corvette Sting Ray Pro Touring Ls7/505 Hp 5 Speed W/acChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe 4 Speed Numbers Matching 427/390Chevrolet : Corvette Rare Fuelie 1961 Corvette Roadster 283 Fi - 315hp Fuel Injection Cs 4spd Ncrs Top Fight ShowChevrolet : Corvette 1961 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster RedChevrolet : Corvette Convertible W/ Modern Engine 1960 Corvette Convertible *tuneportfuelinjection*killercosmetics*l@@k*Chevrolet : Corvette Sting Ray 1965 Corvette Convertible California Original Black PlateChevrolet : Corvette Ncrs Awarded 64 Vette, Matching #'s, N.c.r.s. Top Flight Award Winner, Powerglide AutomaticChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window 327/300 #s 4 Speed Frame Off RestoredChevrolet : Corvette Blk Leather 1965 Nassau Blue CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette 283/283 Fuli Ultra Rare 57 Fulie , Convertible, Full Body Off Restoration, Red Ext/red Int,Chevrolet : Corvette Na 1971 Lt1 Corvette Convertible One Owner Original TitleChevrolet : Corvette 2dr Coupe Ha 93 Zr1 1 Of 245 Made Only 12000 Miles New Corvette TradeChevrolet : Corvette Standard 1959 CorvetteChevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1967 Corvette Convertible 327/350hp Ncrs Top Flight CarChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1962 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 5.3lChevrolet : Corvette Corvette 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 327/300 #s 4 Spd Factory AcChevrolet : Corvette 2 Dr Really Nice Award Winning 1966 Corvette CoupeChevrolet : Corvette Red Corvette 1967 Coupe 327/350hp-factory Air Conditioned 71,000 Miles-stored 15 YrsChevrolet : Corvette White Original '64 Corvette Coupe, Air, Auto, Power Windows And SteeringChevrolet : Corvette Z51 Coupe 14 C7 Vette, 1,421 Miles, 3lt, Z51, Nav, 7-speed Manual, Performance ExhaustChevrolet : Corvette Lt-1 1970 Corvette Lt-1Chevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1967 Corvette 427 400hp Tri Power CoupeChevrolet : Corvette Sting Ray Split Window And Removable Targa Sunroof 1963 Corvette Sting Ray Split Window And Targa Sunroof A George Barris CreationChevrolet : Corvette Leather 1969 Corvette L-89 427 / 435 Side ExhaustChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1967 Corvette Coupe - L79 327ci 350hp - National Aaca Award Winner! Wow!!Chevrolet : Corvette 1 Owner Big Block Roadster 1968 Corvette Convertible *1-owner*allpaperworkfromnew*pop*origbos*#smatch400hpChevrolet : Corvette Outer Limits 63 Custom Split Window Coupe. Show Car. Pearl White W/white/red InteriorChevrolet : Corvette Big Block A/c 4spd 1972 Corvette *frameoff*tanksticker*#smatch454*a/c*4-spd*jamup*killerkiller*Chevrolet : Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1960 Black With Silver Coves 2 Door Corvette Roadster, With Black Soft Top.Chevrolet : Corvette Convertible 1962 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 7.0lChevrolet : Corvette 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1961 Corvette 283/230 Hp Matching Numbers 4 Speed Complete Body Off RestorationChevrolet : Corvette Big Block 1966 Corvette Coupe, 427/425hp, 4 Speed, Numbers Matching, 40 Years Of ReceiptsChevrolet : Corvette Z51 3lt 3lt Z51 Package Navigation Dual Tops Ride Control Mulit Exhaust LoadedChevrolet : Corvette Coupe 1966 Corvette Coupe, 327, Auto, Ac, Red With Red Leather Int, Headrests Loaded!Chevrolet : Corvette Coupe Z06 7.0l V8 Ls7 6 Speed Manual 3lz Leather Navigation Heads Up Black Rims Bose 505hpChevrolet : Corvette Stingray Corvette Resto Mod 1965Chevrolet : Corvette Blue L-89 1968 Top Flight 427 / 435 Hp Blue W/ White L-89 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette Z51 3lt Z51 3lt Convertible 6.2l V8 Nav Locking/limited Slip Differential Alloy Wheels