A Bargain Sports Car?
Bargain luxury sports car seems like an oxymoron. And while the most basic model and trim of the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette rings in at over $55,000, bargain remains a relative term. Still, when you consider the car's design and what is under the hood compared with its European counterparts, for power and performance, there just isn't a better sports car at comparable price.
First Generation Corvette (C1) 1953-1963
Named for a highly maneuverable naval escort ship, the first Chevrolet Corvette debuted at the Waldorf Astoria in January 1953 as part of the New York Auto Show. Originally a "concept car," the Corvette represented GM's first foray ever into creating a sports car. It proved so popular that by June, the car had gone into production and 300 Polo White Corvettes, all convertible models, were built by hand.
The first generation is often referred to as the "solid-axle models," as independent rear suspension wasn't introduced until later.In 1954, the colors were expanded to Sportsman Blue, Pennant Red and Black in addition to the Polo White. 3,640 cars were
built. Sales were slow, and at the end of the year Chevrolet had a large stock of unsold cars, but they weren't ready to give up on the Corvette.
In 1955, Chevrolet added a 4.34 L V8 engine as an option in the Corvette line. They also limited production to just 700 cars.With the V8, the Corvette could go from 0-60 mph in just 8.5 seconds. GM's Chevrolet Corvette had now become a contender in the international field of sports cars, and had ensured its requisite exclusivity in severely limiting its production run. By the year's end, six cylinder engines were permanently removed as an option for any Corvette.
1956 marks the first year that a factory installed hardtop is offered for the Corvette. It's also the first year that seat belts are an option. Exposed head lamps and roll up windows are added to the exterior. Four barrel carbs are added under the hood to soup
up the V8 engine. Sports Cars Illustrated begins to take notice of GM's sports car, writing, "without qualification, General Motors
is now building a sports car." In 1957 the Corvette impressed again, offering an option for a fuel-injection system, leading to Corvette's being a pioneer at creating a mass produced car capable of 1bhp per cubic inch , and led to Chevrolet's ad campaign,
"one hp per cubic inch."
Second Generation Corvette (C2) 1963-1968
In 1963 a major shift occurred to the Corvette when General Motors introduced the Corvette Sting Ray and the performance line Z06. The second generation Corvette is often referred to as the "mid-years." These cars were smaller than the first generation,
and took a design cue from nature, looking for inspiration in a mako shark that one of the designers had recently caught. The C2 was the first to offer a Corvette coupé. The headlights were changed to hidden, and cars were built with an independent rear
The Corvette began this period with maximum power of 360 bhp (270kW). In 1965, four-wheel disc brakes and a larger engine option of 6.49 L V8 were added. This spelled the beginning of the end for the fuel injection innovation of the 1950s. The larger
block engine was priced at $292.70 while the the fuel injection option was $538.00. Although the fuel injection option had the advantages of better gas mileage and race car handling, the fact that the size of the block engine achieved higher horsepower for
$245.00 less, meant that very few people chose the fuel injection option.
Third Generation Corvette (C3) 1968-1982
Although the Corvette had been making steady innovation under the hood and had been putting out a car with impressively increasing performance, sales nonetheless began to slip at the end of the Corvette's second generation. While the main elements of the chassis and engine were kept from the C2 to the C3, the body and interior saw major changes.
The C3 returned to that mako shark that had been such an important design element early on in C2 line. Although the look of a beloved icon was replaced by this new design, the Mako Shark II outsold the previous line, moving 9,936 coupes and 18,630 convertibles for Chevrolet. In 1969, the Stingray model was brought back, this time though it was one word. In 1970 a new performance model was introduced, called the ZL-1. "The ZL-1 has Ferrari speed plus," Motor Trend raved about the aluminum body engine that was 25 lbs. lighter than a small block engine. The third generation Corvette was also the first to serve as a pace
car in the Indianapolis 500.
Fourth Generation Corvette (C4) 1984-1996
There are no 1983 Corvettes that were ever sold to the general public, as the fourth generation changes put into effect were so major that the Kentucky plant that manufactured the car had to be fully shut down and refitted to make them. The first fourth generation Corvettes boasted 205 horsepower and 290 lb./ft. torque.
The car is given a smaller perimeter frame and a 96.2-in. wheel base. Power rack-and-pinion steering is added and the control arms are now constructed of solid aluminum. The car kept hideaway headlights, but were now single units on rotating mounts.Transverse leaf springs were added to both front and rear suspension. Some of the early innovation proved to be overkill,including an electronically engaged overdrive on the top three gears, that was not a success. Nonetheless, the car sold extremely well, and Chevrolet moved 53,877 units during the first model year of the fourth generation.
In 1986 the convertible, which had been out of production from Corvette for a decade, was once again offered. This year also marked the addition of anti-lock brakes. Some other notable highlights of this generation included breaking the 7 second 0-60 acceleration barrier and a 138 mph max speed. By the mid-eighties, the Chevrolet Corvette had fully established itself as a sports car to be reckoned with, and innovation focused on being not just a contender, but one of the best. This trajectory extended into the 90s as the latest engineering innovations were added to the car to increase both safety and performance. The Corvette got its first airbag for the driver in 1990, while in 1994 one was added for the passenger. This long generation of Corvette culminated with the creation of the ZR-1 which was rated high for engine performance and handling, but criticized for user experience as it
was hard to enter, felt cramped and was enormously loud.
Fifth Generation Corvette (C5) 1997-2004
Again, major changes were introduced to the Corvette in 1997. The transmission was moved away from the engine and put in the rear of the car. The engine was all new. While still being a single block and a 5.7 liters, the C5 introduced a "Gen III LS-1"
which had a fully aluminum body and achieved 345 hp.
It was a huge hit, and at its first year's Decathlon it left a serious impression on Motor Trend, "Despite being the least expensive car gathered for the Decathlon, its 4.8-second clocking to 60 mph is as quick as the most expensive car's and matches that Ferrari's quarter-mile elapsed time as well." The car was also praised for using good design to improve the comfort and feel of the later C4 models.
Where the Corvette always fell short was in the luxury feeling of cars like the Ferrari. The chief engineer, Dave Hill, focused on the details that determine top of the line. Small changes in both the exterior and interior was made to create a more refined Corvette. By 1999 a coupé, convertible and hardtop were all offered. The 1998 model convertible weighed an impressive 114 pounds less than the 1996 model, but displayed much greater torsional rigidity.
Sixth Generation Corvette (C6) 2005-2013
Rather than a major departure from the previous generation, the C6 built on the improvements of that the C5 had made. From a distance it might seem that the shift was purely superficial, but there were some important changes that marked this period. The
base model offered an upgrade of a 6-speed transmission.
C6 marks the first time a Corvette was put into production with stationary headlights since the last C1 models in 1962. The car's body is lighter and shorter, but on a longer wheel base, innovations of this period include an LS3 6.2 L V8 engine, capable of 430 hp, introduced to the base model in 2008 as well as the reintroduction of the high performance ZR1, capable of over 200 mph with its supercharged LS9 6.2 L V8.
The Z06 performance model was re-released in 2006. Built with aluminum frame rails, the car boasted a 7.0 L engine and 505 hp. And forget breaking the 7 second 0-60 barrier, the 2007 Corvette was able to reach 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and complete a quarter mile in 12 seconds, while 2008's cheapest model got to 60 in just 4.5 seconds. In 2009, the performance model could hit 60 in 3.8 seconds and complete a quarter mile in only 11.5 seconds. The year 2010 saw a performance model, called the Grand Sport, that offered a wider bodywork and wheels. This generation ended with an anniversary model for Corvette's 60th called the 27 Convertible that offered a 505 hp 7.0L engine in a drop-top body.
The Corvette of today. The Seventh Generation (C7) 2014 to the present
Today's Corvette gets an EPA estimated 29 MPG highway. The more basic Stingray has a max torque of 465 lbs./ft., 460 V8 horsepower and can go from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The high performance Z06 model bumps the torque up to 650 lbs./ft. and the 6.2L engine has an SAE certified 650 horsepower, lowering the time to reach 60 mph to as little as 2.95 seconds.The latest model of the Stingray weighs in at 3298 lbs. with a height of 48.8 inches and a length of 176.9 inches.
The latest generation offers the latest technological innovations, including electronic power steering and electronic limited-slip differential. Innovation was not spared on the engine and transmission, either. The C7 has direct fuel injection and a 7 speed
transmission, even in the basic models. The lowest priced model remains an undisputed powerhouse amongst sports cars, being able to get to 60 mph in only 3.8 seconds.
With a debut in Detroit of 2013, the seventh generation Chevrolet Corvette began life as a 455 hp vehicle in the standard Stingray model. This generation of Corvette has continued the tradition of bringing world class performance, handling and speed to both the sports car and performance models (currently the Z06). This generation also boasts an unprecedented attention to the car's interior, adding luxury touches that takes this world class sports car to a whole new level. For $55,000, the Chevrolet Corvette gives you an incredible amount of car for the money.