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 1970 Chevy Corvette 350 350 Hp 4 Speed Manual Easy Resto Project Needs WorkChevrolet: Corvette L79 Coupe 1968 Corvette L 79 350 Hp 4 Speed Barn Find Barnfind Numbers MatchingChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1970 Corvette Convertible 454 390 Hp 4 Speed Matching Numbers Factory A CChevrolet : Corvette Stingray 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe Build Your Dream CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Stingray Convertible Restored 1967 Corvette Stingray Convertible 427/4sp 4wdb Posi 2topsChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Restomod 383 Stroker Tremic 5 Speed Texas CarChevrolet: Corvette Collectors Edition 1982 Chevrolet Corvette Collector EditionStudebaker: Coupe Express Dictator 1939 Studebaker Coupe Express Corvette Lt 1 350 4 Sp Auto A C Pw Pb 20 Wheels 1937Chevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1960 Corvette Convertible Dual Quad 4 Carb ManualChevrolet: Corvette Convertible #'s Matching 327 4-speed One Owner 68 Chevy Corvette Convertible Matching 4 Speed One Owner Documented Hard TopChevrolet: Corvette Factory Ac Best Of Both Worlds 1966 Corvette Numbers Matching Factory Ac Resto ModChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1969 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette 2-door Coupe 1963 Corvette Grand Sport By Timeless Replicas D D Duntov Fast Corvette TxChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1975 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette #s Matching 2 Owner 1970 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe S MatchingChevrolet: Corvette Tan/tan Split Window 340hp 1963 Corvette Split Window N O M 340 Hp Saddletan Saddletan L KChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1972 Corvette Lt 1 350 Survivor Elkhart Green P S P B Am Fm 2 Nd Flight NcrsChevrolet: Chevelle Ss 1971 Chevelle Ss Ls 5 454 Rare Original Not Mustang Corvette CamaroReplica/kit Makes 350 Engine Auto Parade Show Car Lifesize Radio Flyer Wagon: Seats 4: 1965 Corvette Motor: Collectors Look!Chevrolet: Corvette #s Matching 1965 Chevrolet Corvette S Matching Convertible 2 Tops Great DriverChevrolet: Corvette Ls4 Convertible 73 Corvette Convertible Ls 4 454 C I M 21 4 SpeedChevrolet: Corvette Stingray Convertible 454 Ls5 1972 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible 454 Ls 5Chevrolet: Corvette Convertible - 327/4 Speed - 5k Mi Highly Desired Restored -1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible - 5k MiChevrolet: Corvette 1964 Chevrolet Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet : Corvette 1965 Chevy Corvette RoadsterShelby: Cobra Shelby Cobra Kit Car Project, Corvette Chassis, No Engine1950s Schwinn Hornet Mens Tank Bike Vintage Cruiser Typhoon Corvette B6 Black S7Chevrolet: Corvette Extra Clean Low Original Miles Rare Convertible Extraordinary 1975 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Numbers Matching L48 350 AutoChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1966 Corvette S Matching Factory Air Condition 4 Speed Ps Knock OffsChevrolet: Corvette Stock Corvettte 1967 427 Resto Mod Looks Like Stock 427Chevrolet: Corvette C1 1954 Corvette Pro Street Pro Touring 1954 Corvette C 1 Pro Street 1953 1955 Ls 1 Pro Touring Resto Mod C 1 NcrsChevrolet: Corvette Z07 1994 Chevrolet Corvette Rare Fx 3 Z 07 Factory Compition ModelChevrolet: Corvette L79 Coupe W/ Air Conditioning 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe L 79 A C 4 Sp Ncrs Restored Knockoff Wheels Pb Ps PwChevrolet: Corvette Stingray Split Window 4-speed 327 4-barrel 1963 Split Window Chevrolet Stingray Corvette 4 Speed 327 V 8 Rare ClassicChevrolet: Corvette Corvette Stingray 1973 Blue Corvette StingrayChevrolet: Corvette 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible StunningChevrolet: Corvette Runs Drives Sounds Excellent 402 4 Speed Ttops 1971 Silver Runs Drives Sounds Excellent 402 4 Speed TtopsChevrolet: Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 1978 Chevrolet Corvette Base Coupe 2 Door 5.7 LChevrolet: Corvette Corvette Convertible 1 Of 111 1956 Corvette 1 Of 111 Options 449 469 High Lift Cam 2 4 Barrel Carbs RareChevrolet: Corvette 454 4 Speed No Reserve! 52k Actual Miles Pure Orig Survivor 454 4spd A/c Ps Pb Leather In FlChevrolet: Corvette L68 427/400 67 Vette L 68 427 400 Frame Off Factory Ac Leather Pb Pw Ps Tele Bolt OnChevrolet: Corvette Restomod 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Restomod ConvertibleChevrolet: Corvette 2dr Converti Collector Edition No Reserve Clean Carfax Clean Title Runs ExcellentChevrolet: Corvette Stingray CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette 1970 Chevrolet Corvette 350 300 HpChevrolet: Corvette 2-door Convertible 1993 Corvette 40 Th Anniversary Convertible Auto Fx 3 67 815 Miles Extra CleanChevrolet: Corvette 1972 Corvette Rare 924 Code Silver Pewter California CarChevrolet: Corvette 1975 Corvette ConvertibleChevrolet: Corvette #’s Match! 327. 4-spd. Hard Top. A/c! 1963 Chevrolet Corvette S Match 327 4 Spd Hard Top A CChevrolet: Corvette Base 2dr Convertible No Reserve Rare 6 Speed Convertible 1992 Chevrolet Corvette Clean L@@kChevrolet: Corvette Original Very Original 1961 Corvette #'s Matching 283/230hp Extremely NiceChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 56 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 2 Tops Matching Numbers 265 Ci 225 Hp V 8 3 SpeedChevrolet: Corvette Two Door Coupe 1982 Chevrolet Corvette Crossfire Project CarChevrolet: Corvette Sting Ray 1964 Chevy CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1996 Corvette Collectors Edition No Reserve 1Chevrolet: Corvette Z06 2015 Corvette Z 06 3 Lz Z 07 27 K In Factory Options Grey W Red InteriorChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1965 Corvette Roadster Factory Air Condition 4 Speed Ps Good Original CarChevrolet: Corvette Stingray Corvette Stingray Convertible 1965Chevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1961 Chevrolet Corvette C 1 Convertible 270 Hp 4 Speed S Matching Survivor MintChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1969 Chevy Corvette Stingray Fresh From Restoration