The Chevrolet Corvette, Part of American Motor History

Corvettes hit the streets in 1953 when Chevrolet rolled the “new, space age” fiberglass American sports car off its GM Flint, Mich., assembly line. The first ‘Vettes were hand-built, numbering 300, with a retail price of $3,513—that’s over $28,305 in 2010 prices. The 2012 Corvette ZR1 features a six-speed, V-8 engine operating at 638 hp @ 6,500 rpm—in non-car speak—it’s supercharged and super base-priced at $111,525. That’s roughly $14,000 in 1953 bucks. That kind of money doesn’t get you premium mileage—ranging from 14 to 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway. The 1953 Corvette didn’t fare much better with its sluggish V-6 truck engine and two-speed transmission.

As technology changed, the Corvette kept pace. Six restyling eras, each with its own fan base, marked the Corvette as the quintessential sports car—an American icon. Hollywood made Corvette movies. Musicians crooned about Corvettes and their every possible metaphor. Their new aerodynamic shape, fuel injection, gadgetry, suspension upgrades and disc brakes fed Corvette’s popularity, feeding car enthusiasts’ need for speed and prestige. With that popularity came more than the exorbitant price tag. It’s gas-guzzling engine put out very high emissions just when 1970 environmentalists and the U.S. government began tightening their collective belts regarding emission standards. Couple that with gas shortages, rampant inflation and high gas prices; you get an era where Corvette sales slumped.

The Eras of Corvette

C1—Solid Axle Corvettes (1953-1962)

C2—“Sting Ray” Corvettes (1963-1967)

C3—“Mako Shark” Corvettes (1968-1982)

C4—“New Generation” Corvettes (1983-1996)

C5—“World Class” Corvettes (1997-2004)

C6—The Refined Performance Corvette (2005-2012)

The Later Years

The 1980s changed all that. Chevy shaved its Corvette down 250 pounds largely due to replacing the differential housing and front-frame crossmember from steel to aluminum. Plastics were used in greater quantity throughout the car. Government regulations mandated that speedometers be calibrated to 85 mph. With its lighter weight, the engine didn’t have to work so hard, reducing emissions. The market liked environmentally-friendly cars, which helped pick up Corvette sales after its 1970's maiaise.

As the years wore on, the Corvette regained its status as a sports car of performance and prestige—only now it was much greener than before. Production numbers wavered with the economy as the Corvette continues to be top-shelf priced. Arguably the king of the late model Corvettes was the ZR1. The ZR1 was the only 200-plus mph Corvette ever made. One notable styling change for the C6 Corvettes, not since 1962 has Corvette had non-pop up headlights. To celebrate Chevrolet’s 100th birthday in November 2011, Chevy unveiled an entire line of 2012 Corvettes, including a racing inspired “Centennial Edition” featuring Carbon Flash metallic paint, Centennial Satin black wheels and red brake calipers.

2012 Chevy Corvette ZR1 Coupe Main Specifications

Reference: Motor Trend

Performance and Handling

Interior Features Exterior Features Warranty Information (Contact your dealer about warranty specifics for your Corvette.)


Here are some links to the Corvette’s history (1953-present):


Enjoy these Corvette photos, past to present:


Find other Corvette enthusiasts to discuss everything from Corvette history, to how to find parts, to Corvette events.

Other Corvette Resources

For the miscellaneous findings, dealers, enthusiasts, etc.