The Chevrolet Corvette, known colloquially as the Vette, is a sports car manufactured by Chevrolet. The car has been produced through seven generations. The first model, a convertible, was designed by Harley Earl and introduced at the GM Motorama in 1953 as a concept show car. Myron Scott is credited for naming the car after the type of small, maneuverable warship called a corvette. Originally built in Flint, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri, the Corvette is currently manufactured in Bowling Green, Kentucky and is the official sports car of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
A Corvette has been used as the Indianapolis 500 pace car 12 times.
The first generation Corvette was introduced late in the 1953 model year. Originally designed as a show car for the 1953 Motorama display at the New York Auto Show, it generated enough interest to induce GM to make a production version to sell to the public. First production was on June 30, 1953.
This generation was often referred to as the "solid-axle" model (the independent rear suspension was not introduced until the second generation). 300 hand-built polo white Corvette convertibles were produced for the 1953 model year.
The 1954 model year vehicles could be ordered in Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red and Black, or Polo White. 3,640 were built, and sold slowly.
The 1955 model offered a 265 cu in (4.34 L) V8 engine as an option. With a large inventory of unsold 1954 models, GM limited production to 700 for 1955. With the V8, 0-60 mph time improved to 8.5 seconds.
The second generation (C2) Corvette, which introduced Sting Ray to the model, continued with fiberglass body panels, and overall, was smaller than the first generation. The C2 was later referred to as a mid-year model. The car was designed by Larry Shinoda with major inspiration from a previous concept design called the "Q Corvette", which was created by Peter Brock and Chuck Pohlmann under the styling direction of Bill Mitchell. Earlier, Mitchell had sponsored a car known as the "Mitchell Sting Ray" in 1959 because Chevrolet no longer participated in factory racing. This vehicle had the largest impact on the styling of this generation, although it had no top and did not give away what the final version of the C2 would look like. The third inspiration was a Mako Shark Mitchell had caught while deep-sea fishing.
The third generation Corvette, patterned after the Mako Shark II concept car, was introduced for the 1968 model year and was in production until 1982. C3 coupes featured the first use of T-top removable roof panels. It introduced monikers that were later revived, such as LT-1, ZR-1, and Collector Edition. In 1978, the Corvette's 25th anniversary was celebrated with a two-tone Silver Anniversary Edition and an Indy Pace Car replica edition of the C3. This was also the first time that a Corvette was used as a Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500.
Engines and chassis components were mostly carried over from the C2, but the body and interior were new. The 350 cu in (5.7 L) engine replaced the old 327 cu in (5.36 L) as the base engine in 1969, but power remained at 300 bhp (224 kW). 1969 was the only year for a C3 to optionally offer either a factory installed side exhaust or normal rear exit with chrome tips. The all-aluminum ZL1 engine was also new for 1969; the special big-block engine was listed at 430-hp (320 kW), but was reported to produce 560 hp (420 kW) and propelled a ZL1 through the 1/4 mile in 10.89 seconds.
The fourth generation Corvette was the first complete redesign of the Corvette since 1963. Production was to begin for the 1983 model year, but quality issues and parts delays resulted in only 43 prototypes for the 1983 model year being produced, which were never sold. All of the 1983 prototypes were destroyed or serialized to 1984 except one with a white exterior, medium blue interior, L83 350 ci, 205 bhp V8, and 4-speed automatic transmission. After extensive testing and modifications were completed, it was initially retired as a display sitting in an external wall over the Bowling Green Assembly Plant's employee entrance. Later this only surviving 1983 prototype was removed, restored and is now on public display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It is still owned by GM. On February 12, 2014, it was nearly lost to a sinkhole which opened up under the museum. Eight Corvettes were lost.
Production of the fifth generation (C5) Corvette began in 1997 and ended with the 2004 model year. Chevrolet used cars like the Nissan 300ZX and Mazda RX-7 as benchmarks for quality and styling due to criticisms the C4 Corvette received when compared to Japanese rivals. The C5 had a top speed of 181 mph (291 km/h) and was judged by the automotive press as improved in nearly every area over the previous Corvette design with the inclusion of a torque tube and rear transaxle along with the car's much increased structural rigidity and much more curvaceous design.
Also introduced with the C5 was GM's new LS1 small block. This third-generation small block V8 was completely redesigned. Now all-aluminum, it featured a distributor-less ignition and a new cylinder firing order. It was initially rated at 345 bhp (257 kW) and 350 lb·ft (470 N·m), but was increased to 350 bhp (260 kW) in the 2001 edition. The new engine, combined with the new body and its low 0.29 drag coefficient, was able to achieve up to 28 mpg on the highway.
The sixth generation (C6) Corvette retained the front engine and rear transmission design of the C5, but was otherwise all-new, including new bodywork with exposed headlamps (for the first time since 1962), a larger passenger compartment, a new 6.0 liter engine and a reworked suspension geometry. It had a longer wheelbase than the C5, but its overall vehicle length and width were less than the C5, allegedly to widen appeal to the European market. The 6.0L (364 cu in) LS2 V8 produced 400 bhp (300 kW) at 6000 rpm and 400 lb·ft (540 N·m) at 4400 rpm, giving the vehicle a 0–60 time of under 4.2 seconds. Its top speed was 190 mph (310 km/h).
The Corvette ZR1 was formally announced in a December 2007 press statement by General Motors, where it was revealed that their target of 100 bhp (75 kW) per 1 L (61 cu in) had been reached by a new LS9 engine with an Eaton-supercharged 6.2-liter engine producing 638 bhp (476 kW) and 604 lb·ft (819 N·m). The LS9 engine was the most powerful ever to be put into a GM production sports car. Its top speed was 205 mph (330 km/h).
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