Sixty-three years ago the first Chevrolet Corvette arrived on the scene at the General Motors Motorama Show in New York City. Since then this legendary sports car has captivated the country and raced its way into the cultural zeitgeist—from Prince’s 'Little Red Corvette' to Austin Power’s shagadelic flag-wrapped Sting Ray.
Now Chevy’s latest model is sleeker, sharper, and more badass than before—while still staying true to those features that crowned its classic ancestors. See for yourself what’s made the Corvette one of the most coveted cars on the market for over six decades and counting as we highlight its evolution.
Making its big debut in 1953, the Corvette was the first mass-produced car to feature an all fiberglass body. Lightweight and faster than steel mobiles, the material also gave designers greater flexibility to create that cool curvy shape which captured the attention of potential buyers. Although the C1 years only produced convertibles, those preliminary models set a design precedence—including dash-to-axle proportion, dual round taillmaps, and a dual-cockpit-style interior—for future generations.
The revolutionary second generation, often considered to be one of the best-looking cars ever made, took sleek and sporty to a whole new level. Dubbed the Sting Ray after the concept race car that inspired its design, this ‘Vette featured a lower center of gravity, retractable headlamps, and the landmark ‘split rear window’ styling supported by its all-new coupe body. With the addition of independent rear suspension, the C2 also dramatically improved the car’s road-holding performance and made for a much smoother drive.
Introduced as the new Stingray (now branded as one word versus the previous two-word Sting Ray), the C3 later became known as the “shark,” thanks to its long shape and aggressive styling. A “transitional” generation for the Corvette, this model saw some big changes from ’68 to ‘82 including a smaller block engine and less horsepower due to new regulations. By 1973, the material composition had also changed to include less traditional fiberglass and more lightweight plastic. The longest span of all the generations, this period proved the popularity of the car was still going strong—in fact, the 58,307 sales in 1979 remains the Corvette’s annual sales record.
Synonymous with acid-wash jeans, big hair, and muscle tees the C4 was the iconic poster car of the 80’s (if you grew up in that era we’re going to bet you had a picture of it plastered on your wall). This new model, built on the technology of the times, featured a sleek new style and backbone frame structure. It also saw significant high-tech changes on the inside as well, starting with electronically-controlled performance and safety features and an electroluminescent instrument panel with digital readouts. And thanks to Turn Port Injection, the C4 moved into the category of high-performing sports cars with great fuel economy.
Although it looked large and in-charge, Corvette’s fifth generation model weighed almost 100 pounds less than its predecessor (a rare occurrence in the automotive world). While its body contained more plastic than ever before, the car’s lighter weight was also a result of a hydroformed box frame and a new, aluminum-valve small-block engine. Jumping on the green bandwagon with this generation, Corvette was one of the leaders in changing over to a more environmentally-friendly waterborne paint system that drastically reduced solvents.
In order to reduce weight and aerodynamic drag on the sixth generation, Corvette nixed the retractable headlights for the first time since the 1962 edition and fixed them to the car instead. By 2006, the Corvette had a lighter, aluminum-based structure, giving it a power-to-weight ratio not seen in many luxury sports cars. These changes were all a preview of what was to come with the release of the new and improved C7.
While it may share the same name as the ‘63 model, don’t get confused—the 2014 Corvette Stingray is far from your father’s car. Blending the ideal mix of technology and performance, the C7 has an estimated 450 horsepower, 450 lbs.-ft of torque, and goes from 0-60 in less than 4 seconds—not to mention, it’s extremely fuel-efficient at 25 mpg. Some new updates included a 6.2L LT1 V-8 engine, a seven-speed (yes, seven!) manual transmission and a smaller-diameter steering wheel. This was also a significantly lighter vehicle, thanks to a carbon fiber hood and removable roof panel, plus a new aluminum frame. Keep clicking through to get a closer look.
This is a 21st-century masterpiece as far as sports cars go. The latest Chevy installment boasts a 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 engine that puts out 460 horsepower and leaps from 0 to 60 mph in just about four seconds. Perhaps best of all, the Stingray a steal of a value, coming in at at $73,655. Well, comparatively at least, to the equally impressive but three-times-as-expensive Lamborghinis and Ferraris. The 2016 Stingray even features an eight-speed automatic transmission, a Bose audio system, and a head-up color instrument display that projects on the windshield so you can keep your eyes level with the road ahead.