Chevrolet Corvette

The Chevy Corvette was America's first two-seat sports car.
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First generation-C1 (1953–1962)

1958 Chevy CorvetteIn the early 1950s, a team of General Motors engineers led by Harley Earl set about creating America's first two-seat sports car with a fiberglass body. The first Corvette was built on June 30, 1953 at the Flint, Michigan assembly plant. 300 polo white Corvette convertibles with Sportsman Red interiors were produced for the 1953 model year and about 200 are still in the hands of collectors. The 1953 model included the "Blue Flame" inline six-cylinder truck engine, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, and drum brakes from Chevrolet's regular car line. Sales were lackluster for the Vette until Zora Arkus-Duntov ("Father of the Corvette") helped turn it into a genuine performer by backing the 265 cu in (4.34 L) V8 engine with a three-speed manual transmission.

A new body was introduced for the 1956 model featuring a new front look and side coves and the tail lamp fins were removed. The 1957 model year introduced an optional fuel injection system power windows (1956), hydraulically operated power convertible top (1956), four speed manual transmission (late 1957), and heavy duty brakes and suspension (1957). The 1958 Corvette included a body and interior freshening including a longer front end with quad headlamps, bumper exiting exhaust tips, hood louvers, twin trunk spears, a new steering wheel and dashboard with all gauges mounted directly in front of the driver.

For the 1961 Vette, a complete redesign was made to the rear of the car with four round lights (duck tail). The 1962 Chevrolet Corvette replaced the 283 cu in (4.64 L) Small-Block with a 327 cu in (5.36 L) engine which produced a maximum of 340 bhp (250 kW) making it the fastest of the C1 generation. 1962 was the last year for the wrap around windshield, solid rear axle, and convertible-only body style.

Second generation-C2 (1963–1967)

The second generation Vette called a "Sting Ray" was designed by Larry Shinoda with inspiration from a concept by Peter Brock, Chuck Pohlmann, and Bill Mitchell called the "Q Corvette". The 1963 model was the first year for a Corvette coupe and with a distinctive tapering rear deck, hidden headlamps, split rear window, non-functional hood vents, an independent rear suspension, and an optional electronic ignition. Maximum power for 1963 was 360 bhp (270 kW) and was raised to 375 bhp (280 kW) in 1964. On 1964 models the decorative hood vents were eliminated and the split rear window changed to a full width window.

In 1965 four-wheel disc brakes were introduced with a 425 bhp (317 kW) 396 cu in (6.49 L) V8 big block engine and side exhaust pipes as options. For 1966, Chevrolet introduced a larger 427 cu in (7.00 L) big block version, and options including the Wonderbar auto-tuning AM radio, AM-FM radio (mid-1963), air conditioning (late-1963), a telescopic steering wheel (1965), and headrests (1966). 1967 featured restyled fender vents and the first use of all four taillights in red with back-up lamps rectangular and centrally located. 1967 also had the first L88 engine option which was rated at 430 bhp (320 kW), unofficial estimates place the output at 560 bhp (420 kW).

Despite these changes, sales slipped over 15%, to 22,940 (8,504 coupes, and 14,436 convertibles, down nearly 19%). in 1962, chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov initiated a program to produce 125 Grand Sport Corvettes (lightweight version of 1963 Vette) but only five were built. They were driven by historic drivers such as Roger Penske, A. J. Foyt, Jim Hall, and Dick Guldstrand among others. Today the cars are among the most coveted and valuable Corvettes ever built.

Third generation-C3 (1968–1982)

1968 premiered the third generation Corvette, patterned after the Mako Shark II concept car. C3 coupes featured the first use of T-top removable roof panels with a new body and interior. 1969 was the only year to optionally offer either a factory installed side exhaust, or normal rear exit with chrome tips. The all-aluminum ZL1 engine was new for 1969 and was listed at 430-hp (320 kW), but was produced 560 hp (420 kW) with a 1/4 mile in 10.89 seconds.

The ZR-1 package was an option available on the 1970 - 1972 model years, and included the LT-1 engine combined with special racing equipment. Only 53 ZR-1's were built. In 1971, to accommodate regular low-lead fuel with lower anti-knock properties, the engine compression ratios were lowered which resulted in reduced power ratings. The dual exhaust system was dropped on the 1975 models with the introduction of catalytic converters requiring the use of no-lead fuel. Engine power decreased with the base ZQ3 engine producing 165 bhp (123 kW), the optional L82's output 205 bhp (153 kW), while the 454 big-block engine was discontinued.

In 1970 the body design was updated including fender flares, and interiors were refined including redesigned seats. Due to the government regulation, the 1973 Corvette's chrome front bumper was changed to a 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) system with a urethane bumper cover. 1975 was the last year for the convertible, (which did not return for 11 years) and Dave McLellan succeeded Zora Arkus-Duntov as the Corvette's Chief Engineer. For the 1976 models the fiberglass floor was replaced with steel panels to provide protection from the catalytic converter's high operating temperature.

The Corvette's 25th anniversary was celebrated in 1978 with a two-tone Silver Anniversary Edition and an Indy Pace Car replica edition. It was the first time that a Corvette was used as a Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500. In 1980, the Corvette received an integrated aerodynamic redesign that resulted in a significant reduction in drag. The 1981 models were the last available with a manual transmission until well into the 1984 production run. In 1982, a fuel-injected engine returned, and a final C3 tribute Collectors Edition featured an exclusive, opening rear window hatch.

Fifth generation-C5 (1997–2004)

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 thanks to its much improved structural rigidity and much more curvaceous design. The new all-aluminum LS1 small block was also introduced with 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 2001. 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.

For its first year, the C5 was available only as a coupe, although the new platform was designed from the ground up to be a convertible, which returned in 1998, followed by the fixed-roof coupe (FRC) in 1999.

The Z06 returned in 2001 with an LS6, a 385 bhp (287 kW) derivative of the standard LS1 engine. Using the much more rigid fixed roof design allowed the Z06 unprecedented handling thanks to upgraded brakes and less body flex. Those characteristics, along with the use of materials such as a titanium exhaust system and a carbon fiber hood in the 2004 model year, led to further weight savings and performance gains for the C5 Z06. The LS6 was later upgraded to 405 bhp (302 kW) for 2002–2004.

Sixth generation-C6 (2005–present)

The C6 Corvette retained the front engine – rear transmission design of the C5, but was all new, including new bodywork with exposed headlamps, a larger passenger compartment, a new 6.0 liter engine and a reworked suspension geometry. The 6.0L (364 cu in) LS2 V8 produced 400 bhp (300 kW) at 6000 rpm and 424 lb·ft (575 N·m) at 4400 rpm, giving the vehicle a 0–60 time of under 4.2 seconds. The new Z06 arrived in 2006 with a 7.0 L version of the small block engine codenamed LS7. At 427.6 cubic inches, the Z06 was the largest small block ever offered from General Motors. Official output is 505 bhp (377 kW) and has a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 198 mph (319 km/h). The interior was slightly updated and a new 4LT leather-wrap interior package was added. The wheels were also updated to a new five-spoke design.

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