(Image of a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Stingray)
The Corvette did not start out as the high speed sports car symbol it is today. The first two years (1953-1954) there were no V8 options. The V8 option (283 ci) came along in 1955, and probably saved the Corvette. Chevrolet was rumored to be ready to cancel the Corvette in 1955. By 1957, an optional fuel injection option was available. The 283 ci V8 was upgraded to a 327ci V8 in 1962, producing 360 horsepower.
The second generation Corvette was released in 1963 and had a short life, running through 1967. Although short, these are some of the most highly collected Corvette's today, and include the infamous Sting Ray. The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray had the split rear window, but was discontinued only a year later due to safety issues. The new generation also used independent rear suspension, and in 1965 a big block engine option was available. That engine option was the 396 ci V8, but Chevrolet didn't stop there. For 1966 Chevrolet released the 427 ci V8 option.
The Corvette went into it’s third generation in 1968, and went through 1982. Chevrolet was planning on releasing the new Corvette to the public in a big public showing, but the surprise was ruined when Mattel released the Hot Wheels toy car a few weeks earlier. A 454 ci V8 was available for the 1970 Corvette, and the Corvette reached its peak power output in 1971 with the 454 putting out 425 horsepower. Throughout the 1970’s, power ratings fell, and by 1975 the largest engine available was the L82, with a rating of 205 horsepower. GM started using Net ratings for horsepower in 1972, which brought down the numbers. New emission control standards, including required use of unleaded fuel and catalytic converters, brought the power down even more. The Stingray label was discontinued after 1976, and for the last year of this generation of Corvette (1982), the only available engine was the L83 with no manual transmission options available.
There was not a 1983 Corvette due to production problems. Manufacturing resumed in March 1983 as the 1984 models. The fourth generation Corvette was a complete redesign other than its engines. The LT1 V8 (300 horsepower) engine was first available in the 1992 Corvette, and the LT4 V8 (330 horsepower)was released in 1996. The famous ZR-1 was built between 1990 and 1995, with 6,939 being built. The ZR-1 Corvette engine, the LT5, was designed by Lotus and produced 375 horsepower, which was raised to 405 horsepower in 1993 by redesigning the valvetrain and cylinder heads.
Generation 5 Corvettes were built from 1997 through 2004. The transmission was moved to the back of the car, and the handling was greatly improved. The big news was the new LS1 small block engine, which put out a whopping 345 horsepower, which was increased to 350 horsepower in 2001. The Corvette celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2003 by producing an Anniversary Edition model, and in 2004 had a Commemorative Edition. The Z06 replaced the ZR-1 as the performance model, and had a 385 horsepower LS6. For the 50th Anniversary in 2003 the output was increased to 405 horsepower, and many testing has shown this was still on the conservative side. Chevrolet claims the 405 horsepower Z06Corvette could do 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, and the ¼ mile in 12.4 seconds.