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16 Innovative Chevrolet Corvette Concepts

Vukasin Herbez July 3, 2019

Ever since the first Corvette saw the light of the day back in 1953, this model is famous for its cutting-edge approach, as well as innovative materials and features. The first Corvette was the first fiberglass production car they ever made. And soon, the Corvette models gained other impressive components like fuel injection systems, independent rear suspensions and disk brakes.

However, although the production cars were always interesting, this list will concentrate on the concept cars and prototypes. Ever since the first Corvette concept from the ’50s, this model has managed to shock and amaze car enthusiasts with a brave approach and bold designs. So here are the best Corvettes that dreams are made of.

1. Corvette Corvair

Although they used the Corvair nameplate for Chevrolet’s economy model in 1959, in 1954, it premiered on the interesting and cool-looking Corvette coupe. Just to remind you, those early Corvettes were all roadsters, so a coupe ‘Vette was a big deal. However, despite looking like it was ready for production, a Corvette Corvair just wasn’t in the cards. Sadly, Corvette customers never got the chance to buy this sleek, attractive coupe.

2. Corvette Nomad

In 1954, Chevrolet presented the Corvette Nomad. They named it the “Waldorf Nomad” since it made its debut at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Interestingly, it was practically a Corvette station wagon. The design proved to be so influential, Chevrolet presented the Nomad as a three-door station wagon and part of the mainline Chevrolet model lineup just a year later. Also, the Corvette Nomad was one of the most popular concept cars from the Motorama period.

3. Corvette SS

They revealed the Corvette SS in 1957 as a fully functional racing car. In fact, Zora Arkus Duntov, the “Father of the Corvette” developed the car himself. Duntov was a racer, so he always wanted to create the ultimate competition version. The GM management allowed him to start a racing program and the SS was the first car he introduced.

The Corvette SS featured many firsts. Also, it was a capable racing car, setting the track record at Sebring International Raceway. But most importantly, the SS was the first in a long line of racing Corvettes that dominated race tracks all over the world.

4. Corvette Stingray XP-87

The story of the 1959 Stingray Concept is interesting since this car was much more than just another styling exercise. In fact, this car not only presented the ’63 Corvette design but also based it on the 1957 Corvette SS experimental race car. And it even won the 1960 SCCA championship.

Using a lightweight plastic body, race chassis and aluminum, the Chevrolet engineers managed to keep the weight down to only 2,200 pounds. With its fuel injected 283 V8 engine delivering 315 HP, the Stingray Concept provided a fantastic performance, becoming quite successful at racing. They even featured the car in the Elvis Presley movie, Clambake, with a red paint job.

5. Corvette Mako Shark Concept

Most people know about the fantastic 1963 Corvette Stingray’s unique styling, but where did it come from? Well, in 1961, Chevrolet presented the Mako Shark Concept car. It was a roadster with all the important Corvette design cues. But best of all, it sported a special paint job that resembled a real-world shark.

The legend says the designer, Harley Earl, got the idea when he was out on shark fishing trip. When he returned, he tortured the employees in the GM design department to match the color of the fish. However, the Mako Shark became one of the most sought-after concepts of the decade as well as a true design icon.

6. Corvette CERV II

In the late ’50s, Chevrolet introduced the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle or the CERV II. It was a Formula I racer with one seat and the engine in the back. So in 1964, after they canceled the GS racing program, Zora Arcus Duntov with his team of designers presented the CERV II.

The CERV II was the fully functional concept of a future racing car. Duntov knew the Corvette would soon approach the limit of a front engine configuration. And so he was a strong advocate of moving to the rear-engine layout and participating in racing.

7. Corvette Mako Shark II

If the Mako Shark I was the main influence for the C2 generation in 1961, the Mako Shark II was the same for the legendary C3 Corvette. They introduced it as a production model in 1968. However, this concept dates from 1965 when it stunned the automotive world with its sexy lines, sharp edges and dynamic stance. Also, they made several show cars, all a bit different from each other. Some show cars weren’t functional, but at least one car was roadworthy.

8. Chevrolet Astro II XP-880

Even though they didn’t call this concept a Corvette, everybody at the 1968 New York Auto Show knew it was the study of the next generation of America’s favorite sports car. In those days, Zora Arkus Duntov, a Chevrolet engineer and Bill Mitchell, the head of GM design lobbied hard for Corvette to go mid-engine to achieve better weight distribution, balance and performance.

So the Astro II was one of the first in a long line of mid-engine Corvette concepts. And for a while, it looked like Chevrolet would produce it. The concept was a fully functional prototype with the engine behind the passengers. It was a 390 HP big block V8 that powered the rear wheels and gave the Astro II convincing performance numbers.

9. Corvette ZL-1

Although it was sort of a production car, the 1969 Corvette ZL1 was basically an experimental car. It came with a special, all-aluminum 427 V8 engine they designed for racing. But because they never marketed the car, most dealers never knew it was available. It looked like a stock big block 1969 Corvette, but it was far from it.

Only factory insiders and people who were well-informed of Chevrolet’s activities knew the ZL-1 even existed. However, they only produced two examples, but the rumor is that there was one more.

10. Corvette Aerovette Wankel Concept

The mid-engine layout has been the obsession of Corvette engineers for decades. So between 1960 and 1977, there were around 10 fully functional Corvette prototypes with this drivetrain layout. However, one, in particular, is a little bit more interesting than the others. And that is the 1973 Aerovette Wankel concept. The most important feature of this car was the engine.

It was an advanced four-rotor Wankel unit producing more than 400 HP from 390 CID. In the early ’70s, most car manufacturers experimented with Wankel rotary engines. They were looking for a less expensive, more powerful and efficient alternative to standard piston-type engines. Chevrolet realized its car retained the power level of those big-block V8 engines with the Wankel unit, but in a much lighter and higher-revving package.

11. Turbo Corvette C3

The late ’70s were sad times for the American performance car. In fact, all the cars lost their power and became increasingly boring. And the Corvette wasn’t an exception. So, to gain some power back, the Corvette engineers designed the C3 Turbo Corvette as a factory prototype.

The car used an L82 350 V8 engine with a turbocharger and Cadillac’s fuel injection system. Allegedly, the 1979 Turbo Corvette prototype could deliver up to 300 HP, which was insane by the standards of the day. However, you needed some racing 103-octane fuel to produce such power.

12. Corvette C4 Prototypes

The Corvette C4 was the car that singlehandedly saved the Corvette from its demise due to the recession and a lack of popularity. During the last couple of years, the C3 generation was a joke with its warmed-up ’60s styling. And although it came with a big engine, it produced less than 200 HP.

However, in 1984 everything changed with the arrival of the C4. In fact, those C4 prototypes and concepts they released in the early ’80s were important for Corvette history. Those cars showed Chevrolet was on the right path with a new design and improved suspension, as well as much better performance numbers.

13. Corvette Conan ZR-12

The C4 chassis was a state-of-the-art component when they introduced it in the mid-80s. All during the production, Chevrolet knew it could handle much more power than stock. So, to test exactly how much power the C4 chassis could withstand, the Corvette team built the Conan ZR-12 prototype.

This custom Corvette had a frame that was five inches longer than stock as well as an enormous V12 engine under the hood. The engine delivered 700 HP and an insane 750 lb-ft of torque. And even with that kind of power under the hood, the C4 chassis proved to be a perfect match.

14. Corvette CERV III

As you may know, Chevrolet has been playing with a mid-engine Corvette idea since the ’60s. However, in the early ’90s, it looked like they would finally present a roadgoing and fully production version. So, they revealed the CERV III concept in 1990, and it was stunning.

It was a proper supercar with a 225 mph top speed and 650 HP, which was impressive. Also, it came with all-wheel drive and special brakes. The prototype looked mature so everybody expected that Chevrolet would introduce the CERV III as a production model. But unfortunately, GM decided not to do that.

15. Corvette Stingray Concept

In 2009, Chevrolet surprised the automotive public with the gorgeous Stingray Concept. This was a show car they designed to appear in the Transformers movie, but they also showed it all over America. The Stingray Concept featured a beautiful retro-inspired design reminiscent of the legendary 1963 Corvette.

For a few years, the public speculated that the Stingray would be the next C7 Corvette. But as we all know, Chevrolet decided to go with a more modern look for the still current generation, abandoning the retro route.

16. Corvette C8

After 67 years of the front-engine/rear-wheel drive configuration and dozens of mid-engine prototypes over the last seven decades, Chevrolet finally introduced a proper 21st-century sports car in the form of the Corvette C8. The C8 features all-new technology, a mid-mounted V8 engine, and a new design.

They have already presented dozens of prototypes and the roadgoing model was revealed in July of 2019. The new C8 generation model marks the beginning of a new era for Corvette and all of its fans.

These are 16 of the most interesting and innovative Corvette concepts and prototypes they ever made. It’s too bad they never offered most of these concepts; however, they did use some of their elements on future Corvettes. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the ‘Vette.

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