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What year is that Corvette?

In 2003 Corvette owners celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Corvette.  In 2004 Chevrolet will begin production of the sixth generation of the Corvette.  Over the years, the Corvette has changed quite a bit.  In 1953 only 300 Corvettes were built.  You could have bought a brand new Corvette for $3,498 plus $91.40 for an optional heater and $145.15 for an auto-seeking AM radio.  It was available in any color as long as it was Polo White.

You may see Corvettes referred to as a C5, or a C4.  This refers to the Generation of the Corvette.  In July of 2004 Chevrolet began production of the C6 model.  The body, performance, and technology has changed over the years.  But the excitement and thrill remains constant.  Here is a walk through of each Corvette generation.


1953 - 1962

Earlies / Solid Axles

The first generation is most commonly referred to as a solid-axle, based on the fact that independent rear suspension (IRS) was not available until 1963. The first generation started in 1953 and ended in 1962, with the noteworthy addition of optional fuel injection in mid-1957 (also available on Chevrolet Bel Air). Fuel injection first saw regular use on a gasoline engine two years prior on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL "gullwing" roadster. Although the Corvette's GM-Rochester injection used a constant flow system as opposed to the diesel style nozzle metering system of the Mercedes', it nevertheless produced about 290 hp (216 kW) (gross). The number was listed by Chevrolet's advertising agency for the 283 hp/283in³ (4.6L) "one hp per cubic inch" slogan, making it one of the first mass-produced engines in history to reach 1 hp/in³. In 1962, the GM small block was enlarged to 327 cu in (5.4 L) and produced a maximum of 360 hp (268 kW). Other early options included power windows (1956), hydraulically operated power convertible top (1956), four speed manual transmission (late 1957), and heavy duty brakes and suspension (1957). The car nearly died in 1955, but that year a V-8 replaced the six-cylinder used in 1953 and 1954.




1963 - 1967


The second generation, or mid-year, was designed by Larry Shinoda with major inspiration from a previous unproduced design called the "Q Corvette" by Peter Brock and Chuck Pohlmann, and under the styling direction of Bill Mitchell, started in 1963 and ended in 1967. 1963 would see the introduction of the new Corvette Sting Ray coupé with its distinctive split rear window and fake hood vents as well as an independent rear suspension. The split rear window was discontinued in 1964 due to safety concerns. Because they made the design too busy, the hood vents were also cut. Power for 1963 was at 360 hp (268 kW) hitting 375 hp (280 kW) in 1964.

Four-wheel disc brakes were introduced in 1965, as was a "big block" engine option (the 396 in³ (6.5 L) V8). Side exhaust pipes appeared on the 1965 Sting Ray and persisted through 1969. Chevrolet would up the ante in 1966 with the introduction of an even larger 427 in³ (7 L) version, creating what would be one of the most collectible Corvettes ever. 1967 saw a L88 version of the 427 introduced which was rated at 430 hp (321 kW), but unofficial estimates place the actual output at 550 hp (410 kW) or more. Only twenty such engines were placed in the 1967 Corvette, and the cars can fetch US$1,000,000 or more in auction today. From 1967 to 1969, the 1282 ft³/min Holley triple two-barrel carburetor, or Tri-Power, was available on the 427. The 1967 Corvette originally was going to be the first of the C3 generation; however, due to delays the C3 had to be put off until 1968. Other early options available on the C2 included an AM-FM radio (mid 1963), air conditioning (1963), a telescopic steering wheel (1965) and headrests, presumably to prevent whiplash (1966).
The 1965 introduction of the 425 hp 396 in³ big block was ultimately the harbinger of doom for the Rochester fuel injection system. The 396 in³ option cost $292.70 while the fuel injected 327 in³ engine cost $538.00. Few people could justify spending $245 more for 50 hp less. When only 771 fuel-injected cars were built in 1965, Chevrolet stopped the program.

The popular Z06 performance package on the C5 and C6 model Corvettes is named after a Z06 performance option dating back to the 1963 model year




1968 - 1982


The third generation, patterned after Chevrolet's "Mako Shark II" (designed by Larry Shinoda), started in 1968 and ended in 1982. This generation has the distinction of being introduced to the motoring public in an unorthodox — and unintended — fashion. 1968 marked the introduction of Mattel's now-famous Hot Wheels line of 1/64-scale die cast toy cars. General Motors had tried their best to keep the appearance of the upcoming car a secret, but the release of the Hot Wheels line several weeks before the Corvette's unveiling had a certain version of particular interest to Corvette fans: the "Custom Corvette", a GM-authorized model of the 1968 Corvette.

In 1969, GM enlarged their small block again to 350 cu in (5.7 L), and in 1970, the 427 big block was enlarged to 454 cu in (7.4 L). Power peaked in the 1970 and 1971 models, with the 1970 LT-1 small block putting out 370 hp (276 kW) and the 1971 454 big block having its last year of big power with 425 hp (317 kW). In 1972, GM moved to the SAE Net measurement for power (away from the previous SAE Gross standard), which resulted in lower values expressed in HP. Along with the move to unleaded fuel, emission controls, and catalytic converters, power continued to decline and bottomed out in 1975 — the base ZQ3 engine put out 165 hp (123 kW), and the optional L82 engine put out 205 hp (153 kW). Power remained fairly steady for the rest of the C3 generation, ending in 1982 with the 200 hp (149 kW) L83 engine.

Styling changed subtly over the generation. Minor trim changes occurred through the 1972 model. In 1973, the Corvette dropped the front chrome bumpers for a urethane-compound "5 mph" bumper but kept the rear chrome bumpers. In 1974, the rear chrome bumpers became urethane as well, resulting in the first ever chrome-less production Corvette. 1976 was the last year in which the Stingray badge was used, and 1978 saw the introduction of a glass bubble rear window. In 1980, the Corvette got an integrated aerodynamic redesign that resulted in a significant reduction in drag. In 1982, an opening rear hatch was offered for the first time on the Corvette available on the collectors edition model only. A new engine featuring cross fire injection, a fuel injection carburator hybrid, was also introduced that year as the L83. It was the only engine available in 1982, and was not offered with a manual transmission.





1984 - 1996

The highly anticipated fourth generation Corvette began production in March 1983 as a 1984 model. The 1983 model year was skipped due to production problems, although 44 prototype 1983 models were completed. All 44 1983 model year prototypes assembled were crushed except for one (the 23rd produced), which is displayed at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The C4 was praised for its sleek styling and its groundbreaking aerodynamic design. The C4 coupe incorporated a rear glass hatch, like the 1982 Collector's Edition, for much improved cargo access. It also had all new brakes with aluminum calipers. The Corvette C4 came standard with an electronic dashboard with digital liquid crystal displays for the speedometer and tachometer. The C4 was a complete and total redesign except for its engine, and the emphasis was on handling. The C4 Corvette was proclaimed the best handling production car ever when it was released[citation needed]. This handling came with the penalty of a harsh, uncompromising ride.
From 1984 through 1988, the Corvette used an unusual "4+3" transmission — a 4-speed manual coupled to an automatic overdrive on the top three gears. It was designed to help the Corvette meet U.S. fuel economy standards. The transmission was problematic and was eventually replaced by a much more modern ZF 6-speed manual gearbox in 1989. This new transmission was also the first to feature Computer Aided Gear Selection (CAGS), which used a solenoid to lock out 2nd gear during certain driving conditions. Beginning in 1985, the 230 horsepower L98 engine with tuned port fuel injection was installed in most Corvettes, replacing the throttle body fuel injected powerplant. For the 1992 model year, the 300 horsepower LT1 engine was introduced, which significantly improved the performance of the base C4 cars. Also introduced in 1992 was Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR), a form of traction control which utilized the Corvette's brakes, spark retard and throttle close-down to prevent excessive rear wheel spin, and possible loss of control. The traction control device could be switched off if desired. In 1996, the final year of C4 production, the 330 hp (246 kW) LT4 V-8 was installed in all manual transmission equipped Corvettes; all 1996 Corvettes with automatic transmissions utilized the LT1. The C4's incredible handling characteristics and cornering ability allowed it to dominate SCCA events and races during the 1980s.
This first year model of the C4 carried over the L83 engine from the previous generation of Corvette. The L83 engine had a unique fuel delivery method, named "Crossfire", a dual-throttle-body injection system. The 1984 and 1985 were the only C4's to lack the third brake light (CHMSL, Center High Mounted Signal Light) which was required by federal law beginning in 1986




1997 - 2004

The Chevrolet Corvette C5 is a sports car which started in 1997 and ended with the 2004 model year. It is the fifth generation of Chevrolet Corvettes built and marketed by Chevrolet. The C5 was a radical change from the previous generation. Designed from the outset as a sturdy convertible (as opposed to a coupé that was subsequently weakened by the removal of the roof structure in order to accommodate demand for a convertible model), the car now had a hydroformed box frame. The transmission was moved to the rear of the car to form an integrated, rear-mounted transaxle assembly which was connected to the all-new LS1 engine via a torque tube; this engine/transmission arrangement helped facilitate a desirable 50-50 (percentage, front-rear) weight distribution for the vehicle. The LS1 engine initially produced 345 hp, but that was increased slightly in 2001 to 350 hp (261 kW). The 4L60E automatic transmission carried on from previous models, but the manual was replaced by a Borg-Warner T-56 6-speed. Gone were the squeaks and rattles of the C4[1], and in replacement was an incredibly strong frame that would last for at least two more generations. By all measures, the new C5 was better in every aspect than the C4 it replaced.
The styling of the C5 was also a departure from the trend set by the previous-generation Corvette. Whereas the styling of the C4 had largely been a simplification of the C3 hatchback design, straightening out the complex curves of the car to give it sleeker lines, the C5 reversed that somewhat. The vehicle now had a more rounded and graceful appearance that helped to recapture some of the aggressive looks of the C3 without compromising aerodynamics. In the inaugural model year (1997), only the hatchback coupé was offered, with the convertible — the first to offer a trunk since 1962 — following in 1998. 1998 also saw the C5 convertible pacing the Indianapolis 500, and a replica pace car edition was sold; C5 Corvettes subsequently paced the 2002 and 2004 Indianapolis 500 races, but no replica pace car versions were offered during those model years. In 1999, a third body style, the hardtop (also referred to as the "fixed-roof coupé" or "FRC"), was added to the lineup. This body style, as its name suggests, featured a fixed top (no removable targa top panel as with the hatchback coupé) with a roofline shape and trunk space similar to that of the convertible. The hardtop became the top-performance Z06 in 2001, but for two model years was offered as a variant of the base-model Corvette.
Aside from cosmetic differences (new rim styles, paint colors, pace car/commemorative editions in 1998, 2003, and 2004, etc.) and new offerings for optional equipment, there were few fundamental changes from one model year to the next within the production run of the C5. One of the more popular "high-tech" options introduced to the Corvette line was a head-up display or HUD, while another innovation was the Active Handling System (first available as an option in 1998, then standard on all models in 2001).
In contrast to the (largely deserved) reputation of high-performance vehicles for poor fuel economy, the C5 achieves comparatively high EPA ratings of 18/26 mpg (city/highway) with the automatic transmission, and 18/28 with the manual transmission, allowing it to avoid the "gas guzzler" tax that is levied against most other vehicles in the Corvette's class. Suspension choices for the base model C5 were limited to the standard suspension (RPO FE1), with options for either the autocross-inspired FE3 Sport Suspension (included with the Z51 Performance & Handling Package and standard on the 1999-2000 FRC); or the F45 Selective Ride Control Suspension, which permitted "on-the-fly" driver selection of different ride characteristics (sport or touring). Late in the production run (starting with the 2003 model year), the F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension replaced the F45 as the third suspension choice. The racing-inspired FE4 suspension used for the Z06 is stiffer again than any offered on the base model C5, and is unique to that model with no optional suspensions offered.
Factory performance figures give a 0-60 mph acceleration time for the C5 convertible (2004 model year with a 6-speed manual transmission) of 4.66 seconds; a standing quarter mile is quoted by Chevrolet as 12.98 seconds at 114 mph. With the automatic transmission, the performance figures are slightly poorer: 0-60 mph in 5.13 seconds, with a standing quarter mile in 13.63 seconds at 108 mph.





The new sixth-generation Corvette gets an overhaul of the suspension geometry, all new bodywork with exposed headlamps (for the first time since 1962), a larger passenger compartment, a larger 6.0 L engine, and a much higher level of refinement. Overall, it is 5.1 inches (13 cm) shorter than the C5, but its wheelbase has increased by 1.2 inches (3 cm). It is also one inch (2.5 cm) narrower, making for a smaller, sportier Corvette. The reduced dimensions were in response to criticism that the fifth-generation Corvette looked too wide—the new body gives the impression of a much sleeker, faster car. The 6.0 L LS2 V8 produces 400 hp (298 kW) at 6000 rpm and 400 ft·lbf (542 N·m) of torque at 4400 rpm. Its redline is increased to 6500 rpm. The C6 retains its relatively good fuel economy, in part by upshifting to higher gears as soon as possible and in part due to its relatively low drag coefficient and low weight. Equipped with an automatic transmission, the C6 achieves 18/27 mpg (city/highway), and the manual transmission version is slightly better at 18/28.






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Last modified: 10/24/08



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Last modified: 03/22/10