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 Convertible * Big Block 427 390hp * No Reserve * 1968 Corvette Convertible * Big Block 427 390hp * No Reserve * Side Pipes * BbcChevrolet: Corvette Original 1962 Corvette Sateen Silver 1 Owner Two Tops 327 Ci 300 Hp 4 SpeedChevrolet: Corvette 1969 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1964 Corvette Original UnrestoredChevrolet: Corvette Chrome 1962 Chevrolet Corvette 340 Hp 327 Ci 340 Hp V 8Chevrolet: Corvette Standard 1965 Corvette 365hp With Ac And Convertible ProjectChevrolet: Corvette Corvette 1958 Corvette Fuel Injection 290 Hp 4 Spd 4 11 PosiChevrolet: Corvette Convertible Project 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Project.Chevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1971 Corvette Ls-5 454 Big BlockChevrolet: Corvette C3 1969 Chevrolet Corvette C3 ConvertibleChevrolet: Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 1971 Chevrolet Corvette Lt-1 Sport CoupeChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1965 Corvette CoupeChevrolet: Corvette 4 Speed Stingray Convertible 1968 Chevrolet Corvette 4 SpeedChevrolet: Corvette 1969 Corvette Convertible 350ci Small BlockChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Number Matching 327 4 Spd Restored RedlinesChevrolet: Corvette 1967 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Stingray Coupe 2-door Complete Frame Off Restoration -1969 Matching Numbers Blk/blk W/factory AirChevrolet: Corvette 1968 Corvette Coupe, 454ci, Turbo 400, Recent Restoration 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972Original Used 67 68 69 Chevy Impala Chevelle Nova Corvette Wood Steering Wheel Chevrolet: Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1972 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 5.7lChevrolet: Corvette Coup 1975 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Split Window 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe 63 Splitwindow Vette Clean California CarChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1957 Corvette Restored By Owner, Fuel Injected , Powerglide, Beautiful Car++++++Chevrolet: Corvette L82 With Ice Cold Air 1979 Corvette L 82 A C Mirror Top Rust Free Pwr Windows Everything WorksChevrolet: Corvette 1970 Corvette Rare Original 454 4-speed W/airChevrolet: Corvette Coupe Father/son/daughter Project 1991 Chevrolet Corvette Project Great Father Son Daughter Wintertime Fixer Upper1968 Original Hot Wheels Redline Light Magenta/rose Custom Corvette In Blister!Chevrolet: Corvette Corvette 1973 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe,matching Numbers Car,350 Cid, Correct ColorChevrolet: Corvette T Top 1980 Chevrolet Corvette, 6 Speed Manual, Only 43k Original MilesChevrolet: Corvette Performance Upgrades 1979 Corvette Power Windows Performance Upgrades Mirror Tops Everything WorksChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 454 1974 Chevrolet Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 7.4lChevrolet: Corvette Leather 1978 Chevrolet Corvette 25th Anniversary Pace CarChevrolet: Corvette T-tops 1981 CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Chevy Corvette 1974 BlueChevrolet: Corvette Stingray Rust Free & Runs Great 1975 Corvette, Rust-free, Runs Great, Leather,pwr Windows, New Tires,low ReserveChevrolet: Corvette 1959 Corvette - Great Condition, Ready To Drive.Chevrolet: Corvette Coupe 1965 Corvette 396 425 Hp 4 Speed CoupeChevrolet: Corvette Stingray 1964 Corvette Stingray Coupe Red With Matching NumbersChevrolet: Corvette Convertible Gorgeous 29k Actual Mile 4 Owner 1995 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Nice !!Chevrolet: Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car 1978 Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car, L82, 4-speed, 16k Miles, Rare And Beautiful!Ford: Sedan Fordor Street Rod Fordor Street Rod! 350ci V8, 700r4 Auto, Corvette Rear End, Vintage A/c, Pb!Chevrolet: Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 1999 Chevrolet Corvette No Reserve--black--no Reserve--looks Great--no Reserve !Chevrolet: Corvette L-82 Corvette 1975 L-82 C3Chevrolet: Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Base Convertible 2-door 4.6lChevrolet: Corvette Original 1961 Corvette Roadster,270hp 4 Speed Two Tops 2 Owner Very Original CarChevrolet: Corvette Base Coupe 2-door Beautiful 1998 Chevrolet Corvette, Rare 6-speed Manual, Just Serviced!!!Chevrolet: Corvette Numbers Matching 427/400hp Special Order Colors Very Rare Special Order Color Combo! Power Brakes Power Steering! Automatic!Chevrolet: Suburban 2 Door 1955 Chevrolet Suburban With 1991 Corvette Motor 350 TpiChevrolet: Corvette 1973 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Used Automatic Rwd Convertible ChevyChevrolet: Corvette Convertible 1960 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Soft Top Custom Small Block 2 Nd OwnerChevrolet: Corvette Lt4 Coupe! 6-speed! Rare! 1996 Chevrolet Corvette Lt4 Coupe! Rare 6-spd Manual! Low Miles! Fresh Service!Chevrolet: Corvette CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette 2 Dr Coupe 1993 Chevrolet Corvette 40 Th Anniversary Ruby Coupe , Auto/ Loaded/ No Reserve1965 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Convertible - Amt? Dealer Promo Model Car Chevrolet: Corvette 3lt 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible 3ltFord: Steel Roadster 2 Door 1937 Ford All Steel Roadster! True Henry Ford. Corvette Motor Sweet Ride!Chevrolet: Corvette Z51 3lt 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 3lt ConvertibleChevrolet: Corvette Corvette 1960 Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet: Corvette Grand Sport Greenwood 383ci / 493hp By Purifoy 96 C4 Doug Rippie G-383 Grandest Sport Blue Red Leather 2815 MiChevrolet: Corvette L79 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Base Coupe 2-door 5.4l