Chevrolet Corvette Review - Classic Muscle Car Review 2020 - Muscle Car

Chevrolet Corvette Review – Classic Muscle Car Review 2020

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Elise

Written by Elise

30th November 2020

Chevrolet Corvette Review – Classic Muscle Car Review 2020
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Chevrolet Corvette Review – Classic Muscle Car Review 2020

By Niamh Smith

America’s Sports Car: Chevrolet Corvette Review

The Chevrolet Corvette is a piece of Americana. It is so easily recognisable, even people who aren’t particularly into cars can recognise an early Corvette when it rumbles down the street past them. As GM’s crowning jewel, the ‘Vette has had more than 60 years of production and 8 generations and has been, in the most part, incredibly successful in each of these stunning incarnations. 

With each generation featuring a range of powerful V8 engines, the Corvette has always had plenty of horses under the hood, securing its place in America’s sports car history along with its racing heritage. 

The affordability of this luxury sports car is no doubt one of the reasons for its popularity. The 2021 Corvette base model will set you back only $58,900: pocket change, compared to the base model 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S, which will set you back £155,970 and get you from 0-60 only 0.1 of a second faster than the ‘Vette. 

In this short classic car review, we’ll take a little look at the Corvette’s 68-year history and technical specifications, picking out our favourite special model variants and unpacking what makes them such an iconic collectors’ car.

Unsure Beginnings: C1

As with a lot of iconic muscle car and sports car beginnings, GM was in a bit of a sales slump in the early 1950s. They needed something that would represent the US becoming a global superpower post-WW2, and the Corvette was their answer. 

Named after a small, manoeuvrable warship, the Corvette was an American take on the European and British sports cars dominating the era.. The prototype was a lightweight fibreglass body, complete with sexy curves reminiscent of a Porsche 356 or Mercedes 300SL. It was powered by a 235ci (3.9L) straight 6 engine, producing a respectable 150hp, with a 2-speed automatic transmission (yes, really). 

Chevrolet rushed the Corvette into production after its warm reception at General Motors’ 1953 Motorama Show. Each car produced was painted Polo White with a red interior. Out of the 300 produced for the 1953 Corvette model year, only 183 sold. 

The next few years were a flurry of engine and body improvements: in 1955, the 265ci (4.3L) V8 was added, producing 195hp. Paired with a 3 speed manual, these improvements began offering customers true sports car performance. 

In 1956, the front end was redesigned and the iconic scalloped sides were added. By this time, the manual prototype convert model was doing 0-60mh in 7.5 seconds, which was miles better than the original 6 cylinder engine which took 11 seconds. 

For 1957, Chevy’s ‘Ramjet’ fuel injection was optional, and Chevrolet plugged the ‘one HP per cubic inch’ in their advertising for the 283hp 283ci (4.6L) V8. By the end of the Corvette’s first generation in 1962, the engine was up to 327ci (5.4L), producing 360hp: a decent improvement from the initial 150hp in 1953, I think you’ll agree!

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C2 & C3

1963 is a historic year for the Corvette. The fibreglass body now features a coupe body style with a split rear window design for this year only, making it the year to have for classic car collectors. 

For the biggest Corvette enthusiasts, the model to go for is the Regular Production Option Z06, which is Chevrolet’s race-ready package. It features space-age tech such as a vacuum brake booster, dual master cylinder, power drum brakes, larger shock absorbers and a bigger front anti-roll bar. The ROP Z06 package was only available on the 360hp rated V8s with sporty 4 speed manuals. Out of the 21,513 ‘63 Corvettes produced, only 199 received the Z06 treatment, making them a rare beast and commanding high price tags upwards of $150,000.

In 1967, another impressive Corvette package became available: the L88. With a 427ci V8, it produced 430hp on paper, however it is speculated that the real figure was closer to 560hp (likely underrated for a sneaky insurance fiddle). Only 20 L88 option models were sold. Like the Z06, the L88 is a super rare car, and one sold privately recently for just shy of $4million. 

1968 marked the first year for the C3 Corvette, featuring styling details from Larry Shinoda’s Mako Shark II concept car (the same designer famed for the creation of the Boss 302 Mustang). Despite the new shape, the powertrain was mostly unchanged, apart from the 2 speed auto trans being replaced by the 3 speed. 

By 1971, the power ratings began to fall as octane requirements were reduced in preparation for the move to unleaded fuel. The new 425hp LS6 V8 was introduced, with the highest rated LS6 doing 0-60 in 5.3 seconds. For 1975, the entry level 5.7L V8 was only rated at 275hp, and was said to lack the ‘essential ingredients of a modern high-performance car’. Despite this, it was the fastest American car in 1976, topping the Dodge Dart Sport, Pontiac Firebird Trans Am and the Mustang II Cobra II in a comparison test. 

Corvette C4

After skipping the 1983 model year, the Corvette’s 4th generation began in 1984. This was actually more of a reincarnation, as it was redesigned from the ground up; its first major redesign since 1963. 

Another special variant of the ‘Vette was produced in 1989, however, only 84 were produced and none were available to the public. Instead, this new ZR-1 model reached the dealerships in 1990 and was continued through to 1995. Dubbed the ‘King of the Hill’ by its designers, the new ZR1 boasted performance levels unlike any other Corvettes with its DOHC (double overhead cam) 5.7L V8, developed by Lotus. With its 6 speed manual, it reached 0-60 in 4.5 seconds with 375hp.

For one year only, the optional LT4 engine was available in both coupe and convert models in 1996, as well as a special Grand Sport model being unveiled, harking back to the Corvette Grand Sports of the 1960s.

Corvett C5 & C6

C5 Corvettes, debuted in 1997, now had the 4 speed auto or 6 speed manual transmission positioned at the rear of the car against the rear differential. It had a longer wheelbase and a wider body but was 8lb lighter than its predecessor. 

In 2001, Chevrolet released their new high performance Corvette Z06 as a nod to the original race-ready package that Chevy first offered on the 1963 model. Producing 385hp, it did 0-60 in 4.3 seconds.

The sixth generation Corvette was unveiled at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show, with its LS V8 engine bored out to become the new 6L LS2. With its higher compression ratio, it makes an impressive 400hp. 

More than a decade after its demise, the ZR1 returned to the lineup in 2006, this time with a supercharger squeezed under the hood on its 6.2L V8. In 2010, the Grand Sport model returned, beating a Shelby GT500 Mustang in a comparison test. For its 60th anniversary, the special Corvette 427 convertible has a Z06 505hp engine. Its name is a nod to the 427ci offered in earlier ‘Vettes… however, the engine under the hood is actually a 428ci (don’t worry GM, we won’t tell too many people).

C7 & C8 Corvette

The C7 Corvette was released in 2014. Once again dubbed the Stingray, it had carbon fibre hood and an LT1 V8 engine displacing 6.2L. In 2015 the Z06 reappeared in the lineup with the supercharged 6.2L V8 powering the Corvette from 0-60 in just 3.0 seconds. The final year for the Corvette C7, 2019, saw the reintroduction of the ZR1, which with full specs could produce a stonking 755hp.

And finally, we come to the current C8. This year, the Corvette’s eighth generation became mid-engined, placing the power between the passenger compartment and the rear axle. The mid-engined Corvette has been a concept since 1964, yet all 9 concept cars were dropped for various reasons. Finally, they have followed through on this revolution for the ‘Vette. The base Stingray model comes with a 6.2L LT2 V8 engine, with an 8 speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. 

We now have the 2021 Stingray Corvette to look forward to, with its optional Z51 performance package and power-folding hardtop for the best of both worlds. Chevrolet’s innovative designers have made the 2021 Corvette suitable for both long country jaunts and daily commuting, as well as being highly track-capable

A Cultural Icon

The Chevrolet Corvette is quite the star-studded actor and has been a star of the silver screen since the very beginning, making it the instantly recognisable car it is today. From its starring role in Corvette Summer (1978), to the epitome of Dirk Diggler’s success in Boogie Nights (1997), to 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) where a 1998 C5 ‘Vette gets unintentionally wrecked (look away if you’re of a nervous disposition!). 

Also aiding its fame is its long lasting racing heritage, having long been favoured by racers due to its easy modifiability, having raced in Le Mans, IMSA, Sebring and drag racing events. 

Corvette owners say that they enjoy owning such an iconic piece of the car, and it really is a trophy piece! Speaking to a friend of mine, Mick, who races a C2 Corvette Stingray in a UK drag racing class, says he finds them comfortable to drive (despite the fact his is modified to run 10.86 seconds on the quarter mile!). However, the power and handling capability has made it a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it car for drivers with varying tastes

The Chevrolet Corvette: A Living Legend

For a classic car lover like me, it doesn’t get much better than the C1 and C2 Corvettes. However, I can appreciate the later and modern Corvettes for the sheer amount of power they’re putting out and for GM sticking to their roots but remaining affordable. They’re an ideal sports car for someone who has champagne tastes but a lemonade lifestyle and can’t quite reach that Ferrari or Porsche. 

There’s a reason the Corvette has lasted so long. For over 60 years, it has remained the personification of the American dream, and pretty much anyone could see themselves cruising down a boulevard somewhere in a Corvette, with neon lights dancing across its panels. A long lasting legacy, only perhaps matched by that of the Ford Mustang, is something to be truly respected. We take our hats off to Chevrolet for creating such a beautiful car, and for constantly evolving it to keep up with the changing times: bravo GM!

Author: Niamh Smith


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