A History Of Corvette Generations: From Creation To Present

There have been quite a few Corvette generations so far and it seems like an eighth one is right around the corner. This means there’s hardly a better time to sit back and rewind, look back on the incredible journey of America’s favorite sports car. In honor of the steady (but sure) approach of the Corvette C8, let’s remember all of the past Corvette generations and analyze their legacy.

Corvette C1 (1953-1962)

First Of Corvette Generations: The C1

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The big reveal of the very first Corvette happened in 1953 when GM displayed the car at the New York Waldorf-Astoria Hotel as part of the GM Motorama line-up. The exhibition car bore the alternate name of “EX-122.” As for the meaning behind the actual name, GM decided to borrow inspiration from a small yet incredibly practical naval escort ship.

Several months after the reveal, production for the first batch, capped at 300 models, finished and the C1 Corvettes started rolling out of the factory gates in Flint, Michigan.

When GM introduced the Corvette to the world, it flaunted a 150-hp 235cid six-cylinder engine and a two-speed automatic transmission. Enthusiasts endearingly refer to the first of Corvette generations as the “Straight-Axle,” something stemming from the minimalist rear suspension arrangement. All of the 300 initial first generation Corvettes sported the White Polo/Sportsman Red color scheme, which is now iconic.

Corvette C2 (1963-1967)

Corvette C2

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The second of Corvette generations is probably the most sought-after one and its models make for extremely valuable additions to any enthusiast’s collectors. There are several explanations for that. For starters, it’s the shortest-lasting generation, releasing models under its guise for a mere five years. But you know what they say about the best things coming in the best doses. The second generation featured one of the most beloved body styles of a whole automotive history. It was also the first generation to introduce an independent rear suspension.

This generation started off on the right foot, introducing in 1963 a Stingray with the renowned split-window design which lasted only one year. Also this year, GM produced an astounding number of five Grand Sport models which didn’t make a return later. This makes them fantastic additions in anyone’s collections. Incidentally, this is where all five Grand Sports are today.

Corvette C3 (1968-1982)

Corvette C3

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On the opposite specter of Corvette generations we have the C3, the longest-running out of the line-up. GM continued to release new models for a grand total of fourteen years! The most notable aspect of the C3 was its body style.

While it kept a number of great things untouched, such as the inheritance of the C2 chassis, the C3 brought about a design upgrade that set a new standard. Many Corvette generations that succeeded it sought strong inspiration from this body style. This tendency continued for tens of years after, leading up to even to the 2014 model!

The very first model of this generation resembled the 1965 Mako Shark II and, as mentioned before, that wasn’t the only resemblance since the chassis was a definite carry-over. Big changes happened in 1978, exactly a year later, when Corvette had a major logo change. GM also gave the body style a makeover, introducing a novel fastback design.

Corvette C4 (1984-1996)

Corvette C4

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The most outstanding aspect of this particular generation is that it’s one of the Corvette models to be introduced earlier than the official starting year. It’s not that complicated. People had a general idea of what the new model would look like in 1983. In fact, GM produced several tens of models, which never made it “on shelves” so people could actually buy them.

We say that this was the most outstanding aspect pretty lightly. The fourth generation came with an upgrade to the chassis, finally making one of its own. There was also a styling update, particularly to the front area. The rear bumper didn’t escape the upgrades either, switching its previous concave shape to a convex one later, in 1991.

During this generation, we bid farewell to the Stingray name, which takes a backseat. One positive to this situation was the new engine, pretty revolutionary and notoriously powerful at that time. The L-83 was a 350cid, 5.7-liter engine which could pump out 205 horsepower.

Corvette C5 (1997-2004)

Corvette C5

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On one hand, the C5 carried on the tradition of Corvette body styles that strongly followed the standard dictated by the C3. On the other hand, it was also a generation of premieres. It was the first Corvette to flaunt a brand new body style (with only some design elements borrowed from the C3), a brand new chassis, and an upgraded drivetrain.

New chief engineer David Hill really left his mark on Corvette history with his new design choices. The C5 exhibited a brand new backbone frame and a rear transaxle. Its 345-hp, LS1 V-8 engine now features an aluminum block. In a sense, you can say that it was one of the primary times when Corvette really stood out through its trademark “high quality, affordable prices” mantra.

Corvette C6 (2005-2013)

Corvette C6

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Many Corvette enthusiasts believe that it would have been much more accurate to release this model under the “Corvette C5.5” name. It changed almost nothing (nothing of substance at least) compared to its previous designation. Obviously, it did switch several things up. For starters, the C6 was a lighter car, shorter by 5 inches, and yet positioned on a longer wheelbase.

One thing especially worth mentioning is that after numerous Corvette generations, the C6 finally marked the return of headlights, which disappeared after 1962. Passengers could also get cozier since the interior got an upgrade, more specifically the seats. Despite all of these nice additions, the base price for the C6 dropped by approximately $250.

Corvette C7 (2014-Present)

Corvette C7

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Last but not least, we have the C7, the latest of Corvette generations. With the rumors of the upcoming C8 floating around, experts tease the possibility of the C7 lasting until the early 2020s before it will inevitably get replaced. The C8 debuted at the Detroit auto show in January 2013. It featured a brand new body style, new chassis, new drivetrain, and pretty much new everything.

The C8 was a great departure from the previous model and the risk paid off properly. A good example of their success is the Z06, notorious for its status as the fastest Corvette in history. The beloved Stingray also returned with this new generation, appearing at the Geneva auto show.

Final Words

Which Corvette generations are your favorites? Do you have one in particular that you are irredeemably in love with? Each generation had its ups and downs, naturally, so it’s very difficult to dismiss one over another.

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