Chevrolet has been pumping out Corvettes for 66 years, building about 1.5 million of them since 1953. That makes the ‘Vette one of the most popular sports cars of all time.
First- and second-generation Corvettes were one of the first true collectible cars of the modern era, and collecting Corvettes remains a global phenomenon. More than just another two-seat sports car, the Vette is an American icon. There’s a good reason it’s often referred to as America’s sports car, and every enthusiast should have at least a basic knowledge of its seven generations. So in case you need to brush up, here are 25 Corvette facts every enthusiast should know:
First Corvette with V-8 power: Although the very first production Corvette hit the streets in 1953, Chevy wouldn’t replace its inline six-cylinder engine until 1955. That year, Chevy debuted its new optional 265-cubic-inch small-block V-8.
First Corvette coupe: All Corvettes produced from 1953–62 were convertibles. Then the C2 Corvette debuted in 1963 with two body styles, a convertible and a coupe with the famous split rear window. It was popular. Of the 21,513 Corvettes built that year, 10,594 were split-window coupes.
First Corvette with independent rear suspension: Also in 1963, the sports car’s 10th year of production, the C2 became the first Corvette with an independent rear suspension. The design incorporated a transverse leaf spring, and it has remained a part of the Corvette’s suspension design for the last 55 years.
First Corvette with fuel injection: In 1957 Chevy enlarged the Corvette’s small-block from 265 cubic inches to 283. Three versions were available, including the top-of the range “Fuelie” with the Ramjet mechanical fuel injection system. It was rated at one horsepower per cubic inch, a big deal at the time, and was the first fuel-injected production Corvette.
First Corvette with disc brakes: Although the Jaguar C-Type and D-Type won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 1950s with disc brakes, Chevy wouldn’t add the technology to the production Corvette until 1965. Four-wheel discs became standard that year, but some buyers still insisted on the drums and received a $64.50 credit.
First big-block Corvette: Chevy also gave us the first big-block Corvette in 1965. The L78 396-cubic-inch V-8 had an iron block and heads, an aluminum intake manifold, solid lifters, and big Holley carburetor. It cost $292.70 and was installed in 2157 Corvettes. With 425 hp it was the most powerful Corvette up to that time.
First Corvette with triple carburetion: The first production Corvette with triple carburetion was the very first Corvette in 1953. The sports car’s 150-hp 235-cu-in Blue Flame Six, which remained through 1955 (it made 155 hp iits final year), drank through three one-barrel carbs. Triple carbs with three two-barrel units then returned in 1967 with the optional Tripower 427 big-blocks, the L68 rated at 400 hp and the L71 rated at 435 hp.
First Corvette with dual quads: By 1956, Belgian-born engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov was putting his fingerprints on the Corvette and increasing its performance. Although the Corvette had used multiple carburetion since 1953, in ’56 came its first dual quad V-8 rated at 225 hp. It was a $172.20 extra over the base engine with a single four-barrel carb, and most Corvettes built that year—3080 of the 3467—were equipped with the option.
First Corvette with T-tops: Every Corvette coupe built from 1968–82 had T-tops. The removable panels were fiberglass and body color until 1978, when tinted glass panels were offered as an option.
First Corvette Stingray: Sting Ray (two words) was first used on the 1963 Corvette and remained throughout the C2 generation. The C3 debuted in 1968 without the Sting Ray name, but it reappeared on the fenders of the 1969 model as one word, Stingray. It would remain there until 1976.
First Corvette with an aluminum engine block: Today every new Corvette is powered by an all-aluminum engine, but the first production Corvette to use this weight-saving technology was the 1969 ZL1 model. Chevy built two—one yellow, one white—with the all-aluminum ZL1 427 big-block. The engine was rated 430 hp, but with big port heads and 12.5:1 compression ratio everyone knew that was bull. Chevy also put this engine in 69 Camaros that year.
First Corvette with a functional hood scoop: Functional ram air systems, drawing air from outside the engine compartment to feed the engine cooler and denser air, became popular on muscle cars in the 1960s, and most systems used a hood scoop. The first Corvette with a functional hood scoop was the 1967 model with the L88 427 engine option. Only 20 were produced. The stinger scoop on the other big-block Corvettes looked the same but was not functional.
First Corvette without a trunk: It’s funny to think about now, but from 1963–82 the Corvette did not have a trunk. The small cargo area behind the seats, a very tiny area in the convertibles, had to be accessed from inside the interior. Today such an inconvenience would not be tolerated, but it was for many years. On the 1982 Collector’s Edition model, Chevy finally hinged the glass rear window for better access. The design remained through the C4, C5 and C6 generations.
First Corvette with a transaxle: To better balance and improve the handling of the fifth-generation Corvette, which debuted in 1997, Chevy engineers moved from a traditional transmission location, which is bolted to the engine, to a transaxle design that moves the gearbox to the rear of the car. The design has remained through the C6 and C7 generations.
First Corvette with 17-inch wheels and tires: When the C4 generation debuted in 1984, it became the first Corvette with 16-inch wheels and tires. Its Goodyear Eagle Gatorbacks (255/50ZR16) were at the time the widest tire ever fitted to a Corvette, but it wasn’t long before Chevy increased the Corvette’s wheel diameter to 17 inches. In 1988, Corvettes with the Z51 and Z52 suspensions and all 35th Anniversary models wore 17 x 9.5-inch aluminum wheels, which were significantly larger than the 16 x 8.5 wheels on other models. Tire size jumped to 275/40ZR17.
First Corvette with DOHC: There has been only one production Corvette with a double overhead cam engine. That was the ZR-1 produced from 1990–95. The 5.7-liter V-8, developed by Lotus and constructed by Mercury Marine, debuted with 375 hp, but quickly increased to 405 hp.
First Corvette with more than 700 hp: Today’s 2019 Corvette ZR1 (no hyphen) is the first production Corvette with more than 700 hp. Its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 is rated 755 hp at 6300 rpm and 715 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm, making it the most powerful Corvette of all time. It’s also the most expensive, with a base price of $119,995.
First Corvette over $20,000: With a base price of $22,537.59, the 1982 Collector Edition Corvette became the first Corvette with an MSRP higher than $20,000. Incredibly, when the C4 Corvette debuted two years later, it cost less than the CE with base price of $21,800.
First Corvette Rally Wheels: Chevy’s Rally Wheels became a fixture on C3 Corvettes for many years, and they are still popular today. But Rally Wheels actually debuted on the C2. In 1967, they made their first appearance on the Corvette as the standard wheel. The aluminum bolt-on wheel was optional.
First Corvette with four-speed transmission: Interestingly, Corvette’s first four-speed manual transmission, the T-10 manufactured by Borg Warner, was a $188.30 option in 1957—exactly the same price as an optional two-speed Powerglide automatic. But it was worth it. Because Chevy added it to the option list late in the year, only 664 Corvettes got the four-speed. The standard transmission was a three-speed manual.
First Corvette aluminum wheels: Although the cast-aluminum knock-off wheels appeared in the promotions for the all-new 1963 Corvette, a manufacturing problem kept the wheels from being produced until 1964, when they became an option. Hubcaps over steel wheels remained standard equipment until the introduction of the Rally Wheel in 1967.
First Corvette with hideaway headlights: Designed by Larry Shinoda and Peter Brock, under the watch of GM Styling Chief Bill Mitchell, the 1963 Corvette became the first with hideaway headlamps. The feature became a fixture on Corvettes until the C6 generation debuted in 2005.
First supercharged Corvette: Superchargers have been used on the Corvette since the 2009 ZR1. That year the LS9 6.2-liter V-8 made 638 hp and was the most powerful American car up to that time. It was also the first Corvette with more than 600 hp. Today the Corvette Z06 and ZR1 models have supercharged engines.
First Corvette Indy 500 pace car: A Corvette has paced the Indianapolis 500 an incredible 14 times, more than any other car. But the relationship wasn’t fully formed until 1978, the Corvette’s 25th year of production. Chevy sold 6502 Pace Car Editions that year, and black and silver two-tone classics continue to rise in value.
First Corvette to race at Le Mans: In 1960, Sportsman racer Briggs Cunningham, a man who would eventually built and race cars of his own design, took three Corvettes to the 24 Hours of LeMans. Dressed in the traditional American racing colors of white with blue stripes, only one of the near-stock Corvettes finished, winning the big-bore GT class and placing eighth overall.