Home Cars 20 Ultimate Chevrolet Corvettes Made By GM

20 Ultimate Chevrolet Corvettes Made By GM

Vukasin Herbez July 3, 2019

The story of the Chevrolet Corvette is one of the best tales in American car history. It runs from its humble beginnings in 1953 to the world-beating sports car of the next several decades to the mid-engine exotic of the 2020 model year. For 67 years, the Corvette has been the ultimate American sports car and a symbol of GM’s attempt to fight their expensive European competitors.

Of course, not all Corvettes were born great. Some were just ordinary sports coupes without any special features. But there were plenty of extraordinary machines in the Corvette portfolio. So, keep reading to learn more about the 20 best of them.

1. 1953 Corvette

The introduction of the Chevrolet Corvette was the biggest automotive news of 1953. Nobody expected Chevrolet to build and market such an exotic car. All of a sudden there was a brand new roadster with incredible features by a mid-class manufacturer with no sports car experience. However, despite that, the first Corvette was a well-designed, well-executed model.

But the most interesting thing about the new Corvette was the fiberglass body. Back in the early ’50s, plastic was still the material of the future, but they rarely used it in the car industry. The Corvette was the first car with a fully plastic body, making Chevrolet one of the pioneers of fiberglass construction. This incredible innovation gave the Corvette a lightweight construction and from that day, they make the ‘Vette body out of fiberglass.

Under the hood was an inline-six engine they called the “Blue Flame,” which featured a 3.9-liter displacement and a modest 136 HP rating. The engine came from Chevrolet’s standard lineup, although they equipped it with three Carter carburetors. Also, the Chevrolet engineers tried to keep the costs down by borrowing mechanical components from other vehicles and using them on the Corvette.

2. 1956 Corvette

The automotive public was amazed by the first Corvette, so the initial reactions were positive. The car was attractive and the price was reasonable yet still, sales were slow. In 1954, Chevrolet made only 3,640 cars and almost a third was unsold by the end of the year. The Chevrolet management even considered pulling the plug on the Corvette project since the sales were far below their expectations.

What was the problem? Apparently, the problem was a lack of power. The straight-six simply couldn’t deliver enough grunt and performance to interest true speed lovers. So for 1956, Chevrolet introduced a new design as well as a new engine, a 4.9-liter V8 delivering 195 HP. And that was a significant increase over the six-cylinder, which wasn’t available anymore.

The person responsible for a V8 in the Corvette was Belgian-born racer and constructor Zora Arkus Duntov. People often referred to him as the “father of the Corvette.” He was working at Chevrolet at the time and knew the Corvette had big potential, but it needed the right engine. So, he pursued the management to install a V8, although Chevrolet was close to killing the project.

His vision proved successful and the Corvette got the final piece of its puzzle, a V8 engine. And along with its low weight, it proved to be the winning formula for performance. Also, when the sales started improving, it was enough to convince Chevrolet to keep the Corvette in their lineup.

3. 1957 Corvette

Despite looking almost identical to the 1956 Corvette, the 1957 model was important in the Corvette’s evolution. In fact, it brought several interesting features that helped establish the Corvette in the sports car world. First, they upgraded the engine to a 283 CID V8 with around 240 HP in base trim, which helped with the performance.

Second, the 1957 Corvette could be had with a fuel injection system and four-speed manual gearbox. Those two options transformed this roadster into a roaring beast. And when they equipped it with the fuel injection system, the Corvette produced close to 300 HP. That was an astonishing number by the standards of the day.

This option was exclusive in the late ’50s. At the time, only Mercedes-Benz used the fuel injection system. So the Corvette was far more advanced than any of its competitors at the moment. As a result, the production was increasing, so by the end of the decade, it reached 10,000 for the first time in Corvette history.

4. 1960 Corvette Le Mans

In those days, most racing Corvettes were parts of private teams since Chevrolet didn’t have a factory racing project until 1960 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. However, 1960 was an important year for the Corvette because the factory backed the famous American racing impresario, Biggs Cunningham and his Le Mans effort.

Biggs Cunningham was one of the biggest names on the international racing scene in those days. He tried to win Le Mans several times in his own creations, but never managed to win despite his good results and lots of effort. So, on the 26th of June 1960, a highly modified Chevrolet Corvette became the first American car to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

It dominated the GT class in front of numerous Jaguars, Ferraris and Porsches with John Finch and Bob Grossman at the wheel. The success made Corvette the talk of the global sports car community. But best of all, it transformed Chevrolet into a respectable force on the racing scene.

5. 1963 Corvette Stingray

In 1963, a full 10 years after the introduction of the original Corvette, Chevrolet introduced the second generation. Since the Corvette was now an established sports car contender and a halo car for GM, lots of effort and money went into the research and development of the second generation. With a new platform, independent rear suspension, engines and most importantly, the stunning new body, the 1963 Corvette was one of the best-looking cars of the ’60s.

The Corvette Stingray got its name from GM’s 1961 Stingray concept and visual resemblance to a stingray shark. With its closed headlights, split rear window, bulged fenders and round cabin, the Stingray was one of the most fascinating examples of the famed Googie design language. The power came from 327 CID V8 engine and there were four power levels – 250,300,340 and 360 HP with fuel injection. The market went crazy for the new Stingray `Vette so they sold more than 20,000 units, which was a new sales record.

6. 1963 Corvette Grand Sport

In the early ’60s, Chevrolet was successful in motorsports. And with Zora Arkus Duntov and Ed Cole as the head engineers for Corvette, the racing version of the Corvette Stingray was a logical next step in its development. The Corvette has already proven itself on the market, and now it was time to prove itself on the racetrack. Back in the day, the Shelby Cobra was sponsored by Ford and dominated at the racetracks, so the Corvette team wanted to beat it.

So, Zora and his team prepared five Grand Sport Corvettes with modified bodies, special suspensions, fully loaded race engines and a host of other specially built components. The Grand Sport Corvette produced over 550 HP so it was capable of a brutal performance. The Corvette team had big plans, so they entered the Grand Sport Corvette in several races with mixed success until the decision from top of General Motors stopped all racing activities.

For some reason, GM decided to stop investing in all forms of racing in early 1963, which killed the fantastic Grand Sport program before it could prove its worth. And that made the Corvette Grand Sport one of the greatest “what if” stories of the racing world. Thankfully, all five cars survived and are accounted for.

7. 1963 Corvette Rondine

Back in 1963, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray stunned the global automotive audience with its fantastic design, sharp edges, split window feature and brutal performance. It was the epitome of an American sports car at its finest. However, in Turin, Italy the talented designers at Pininfarina thought that they could do it better. So. in cooperation with Chevrolet, they got the chance to prove themselves.

The result was the Corvette Rondine, a fully operational and usable concept car from 1963 that debuted at the Paris Motor Show. Since Chevrolet commissioned the car, it graced the General Motors stand. And better yet, they equipped it with a 327 or 360 V8 engine, four-speed manual, and disc brakes.

8. 1963 Corvette Z06

The ’63 Z06 was a factory-prepared race car Chevrolet offered to amateur racers and private teams who wanted to use the car on the tracks. It had a lot of different options and one interesting feature. And that was a big 36.5-gallon gas tank suited for long-distance racing that earned the nickname “Tanker.”

This car cost more than a regular ’63 Corvette, so Chevrolet only made 199 examples. Most of these cars were used and abused on the tracks all over America. Sadly, just a handful have survived in their original condition.

9. 1966-67 Corvette Stingray

The Corvette Stingray didn’t change much in appearance during its life on the market. They abandoned the split window set up for 1964, and in 1965 four-wheel disc brakes became standard. However, in 1966, for the first time, big block power was available for performance-craving Corvette fans.

And that is why the ’66/67 Corvette is on this list as one of the most important years in the long history of the model. The introduction of the big block engine first in the form of the 396 and then as the 427 V8 unit, turned the Corvette into a powerful monster with 390 to 435 HP on tap. And if you choose the famed L-88 option, you could get one of the fastest cars in the late ‘60s.

The 66-67 Stingray was a true muscle beast with a conservatively rated 435 HP engine under the bulged hood. All in all, 1967 was the best year for the C2 Corvette. And not only because of the availability of fantastic big-block engines but also because of subtitle design improvements.

10. 1969 Corvette ZL1

The new, third generation of the Corvette debuted in 1968. Interestingly, it brought a new, sleek design, or the so-called “Coke bottle” look. The mechanics, chassis, and drivetrain were much the same. But the car was still a great value for the money. The C3 generation included some of the most powerful Corvettes. However, none was more powerful than the ultra-rare and legendary ZL1.

The heart of the ZL1 was the fantastic and racing-spec fully aluminum 427 V8 with up to 550 HP in mild tune. This monster of an engine was far more powerful than anything Mopar or Ford had in production at the time. Chevrolet produced around 200 of those engines, but most of them went to Can-Am racing teams.

Chevrolet also made around 12 test Corvettes with that engine in late 1968. The performance potential was unbelievable so Chevrolet didn’t want to offer this wild racing engine to the public. And for that reason, they never mentioned the ZL-1 option to the press or in their official brochures. However, wealthy individuals close to the factory knew about its existence and could purchase the ZL-1.

11. 1970 Corvette LT1

The big block 427 and 454 engines were the most popular and sought-after in the early ’70s. However, Chevrolet introduced a fantastic option in the form of the 350 LT1. In contrast to those big and heavy engines, the LT1 was perfectly balanced with a lightweight V8 delivering 300 HP and great driving dynamics.

Available as a coupe or a convertible, this Corvette was one of the finest models since it offered great performance, nice driving manners and good fuel economy at a decent price. Despite the fact that big block Corvettes were the first to enjoy a price spike in today’s classic car market, more customers have been turning to the LT1 for its perfect driving feel and beautiful balance.

12. 1984 Corvette C4

Introduced in 1984, the C4 Corvette is a true ’80s classic. With its wedge-shaped body, pop-up headlights, rear hatch and bright colors, this generation is a true pop culture icon. However, there is much more about this car than funny stereotypes. In fact, the Corvette C4 was the car that singlehandedly saved the Corvette from its demise due to the recession and a lack of popularity.

But during the last couple of years, the C3 generation has become a joke with its warmed-up ’60s styling and big engines producing less than 200 HP. However, in 1984 everything changed with the arrival of the C4. The car was new from the ground up with a new chassis, engines and design. Also, it had a crazy digital dash in the interior. Over the years, Chevrolet managed to turn it into a world-class sports car. In fact, it had the performance and road-holding that could rival the European exotics that were more expensive.

The chassis of the C4 is so good, they still use it in modified form for the current C7 generation. The 5.7-liter V8 returned, but it pumped out 245 HP. Also, the new Corvette featured specially designed suspension and drivetrain components. In 1986, Chevrolet introduced the first Corvette Convertible in 12 years which further improved its appeal and boosted sales.

13. 1990 Corvette ZR1

The Chevrolet engineers knew the C4 chassis had enormous potential. So, they always looked for ways to improve its power and performance. And finally, they got the green light from management to introduce the best Corvette model in years. They wanted to show the sports car world what the Corvette was capable of. And, in 1990, they presented the mighty ZR-1 with 400 HP and performance numbers that could beat any Ferrari at the moment.

They named it the “King of the Hill,” and the Corvette ZR1 was exactly that. It was the king of all Corvettes they made up to 1990 when they unveiled the ZR1. And immediately, it was obvious that Chevrolet hit a home run. Under the hood was an LT4, a Lotus-engineered V8 engine with 375 HP and later 400 HP.

Also, it had quad cam heads and 32 valves. The engine was an engineering marvel and performed exceptionally well. With the beefed-up suspension, gearbox and a pair of extra wide rear tires, the Corvette ZR1 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. And that made it one of the fastest cars of the era and a true modern classic today.

14. 2002 Corvette Z06

The C5 Corvette debuted in 1997, bringing several improvements as well as a fresh design. Under the sleek fiberglass body was an improved chassis and a new 350 HP engine and transaxle gearbox. And that meant they had to move the whole transmission assembly to the rear axle, which improved the balance and handling.

And although the standard versions were potent and well-received, the best model from this generation is the mighty Z06. This model got its name from a special version of the 1963 Corvette which they intended to use as the basis for road racing cars before Chevrolet pulled the plug on racing.

The modern Z06 was kind of an amplified base Corvette with 385 to 405 HP from a high-revving 5.7-liter V8 engine. Also, it had a lightweight body, sticky Goodyear tires and a stiffer suspension. The car handled perfectly and looked different with a new roofline and wheels. Even today, more than 15 years after they introduced it, the Corvette Z06 C5 is a tough car to beat on the street.

15. Corvette C5 R

The C5 R debuted in 2005 and stayed in racing use until 2013, which is quite a long time for a high-tech racing machine. The car was built on a Corvette Z06 base featuring several V8 engines with the displacement varying from 5.5 liters to 7.0 liters.

The Corvette C5 R proved extremely dependable and fast so it was well-received by racing teams all over the world. In 2006, this yellow beast managed to repeat history and win the class victory at the Le Mans. And that is a success that it has since repeated a few times.

16. 2009 Corvette ZR1

They presented the sixth generation Corvette in 2004 and it brought an improved design, drivetrain and engine choices over the outgoing C5 ‘Vette. Interestingly, the C6 had normal headlights. And that was the first time since 1962 and the last year C1 Corvette. The engine lineup started with a 6.0-liter V8 that delivered 400 HP, which was more than enough for a convincing performance.

The Z06 package returned with a 505 HP engine and brutal performance. But the biggest news was the return of the fantastic ZR1 model in 2009. The development of this ultra Corvette took several years under the code name “Blue Devil.” The Chevrolet engineers were given the task to deliver the best, fastest and most powerful street-legal Corvette up to date.

So in 2009, the new Corvette ZR1 saw the light of day. And immediately, it stunned the whole automotive world. Under the glass hood was a supercharged 6.2-liter LS9 engine that pumped out 638 HP. And that was enough to launch this hand-built sports car from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.

Also, it could top an insane 205 mph. But best of all, the ZR1 was the fastest and most powerful Corvette. But unfortunately, it was also the most expensive new Corvette in history with an MSRP of over $100,000.

17. 2015 Corvette Z06

In late 2013, the world witnessed the premiere of the seventh generation Corvette they called the Corvette Stingray, And that was the first time they used this name since 1967. Despite the fact that the C6 was a good car, the competition had evolved so Chevrolet needed to introduce a new, much-improved model to keep the Corvette relevant on the sports car market.

Even though the base C7 Corvette is more than capable of delivering an exhilarating performance, Chevrolet quickly introduced the crazy Z06 package. And that transformed the design, including the 650 HP supercharged engine and a host of performance upgrades. Basically, the Z06 is a hot-rodded C7 Corvette with nervous handling, fantastic power, and dramatic appearance. And those are all the things sports car fans rave about.

18. 2017 Corvette Grand Sport

Chevrolet realized the Z06 was too much to handle for some buyers. And, despite its fantastic looks and brutal performance, the car was close to the limits of the front engine/rear-wheel drive configuration with little space for improvement. So that is why they made an interesting hybrid model that proved to be one of the best Corvettes they ever made. And that is the 2017 Grand Sport.

They named the car after those ill-fated racing Vettes from the early ’60s. However, the modern Grand Sport has a 460 HP engine from the regular Corvette with a wide body and track from the Z06. This combination proved to be a winning formula since the Grand Sport has the normal handling and driving dynamics they improved with a wider stance. And they did that while still retaining the dramatic looks of the Z06.

19. 2019 Corvette ZR1

Just when Corvette fans thought Chevrolet abandoned adding more power to the C7 Corvette and was concentrating on holding and balancing the already powerful car, the Corvette guys surprised them with the insane 2019 Corvette ZR1. This version of the C7 Corvette features an improved Z06 chassis, suspension, and drivetrain as well as an absolute beast of an engine.

The 6.2-liter heavily supercharged LT4 engine pumps out 755 HP with 527 lb-ft of torque. It sends all its power to the rear wheels through an automatic or manual gearbox. They still don’t have the exact acceleration figures or full specs, but most drivers can safely say this is the most powerful and craziest Corvette so far.

20. 2020 Corvette C8

The revolutionary C8 Corvette came out in July 2019 as a 2020 model and already this is one of the most important Corvettes they ever made. First, it has a totally new architecture since the early ’80s and C4 generation. Second, it is a completely new concept with a mid-engine layout.

Third, it has a new design and last but not least, they gave it much-improved engines and upgraded performance. We can expect that this car will be a Ferrari-beating beast from GM as the Corvette always has been.

These are 20 of the best Chevrolet Corvettes GM has ever made. They manage to improve this model with every new offering. So, ‘Vette fans can hardly wait to see what’s next in this ultra-special line of cars.

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