An iconic American sports car, the Corvette has been an object of envy and a symbol of freedom and adventure since the 1950s. While the car has managed to maintain its image over the years, it has certainly gone through its fair share of changes. Whether you’re at a highly anticipated car show or browsing a used Chevy dealer, you’re sure to come across a range of ‘Vettes with different styles and features. Today, we’re going to take a look at ten of the best years for the Chevrolet Corvette (so far). From classic models to modern updates, we’ve got you covered.
Before we dive into the specifics, let’s review a little general history. The Corvette made its debut at General Motors Autorama in January of 1953. The two-seat performance car immediately captivated visitors, and when it went into mass production the next year, it gave Americans a sports car from their side of the pond that they could really be proud of. The Corvette has been in production ever since, with body styles, engines, and other features changing from year to year and generation to generation. Of course, not all versions were created equal, so now let’s turn to some of the best that Chevy has had to offer us over the past few decades.
Classic models may have nostalgia on their side, but each new model of the Corvette has brought engineering upgrades and cutting-edge tech to the table, so we’re kicking off the list with a recent addition to the lineup. The debut of the C8 in the 2020 model year meant a full redesign from tip to tail. This model boasts a mid-engine layout that makes it well-balanced and ready for action. With the performance exhaust package, it can deliver up to 495 horsepower. Even at the most basic trim, it’s packing plenty of power and handles like a dream on both on the open road and the racetrack.
While the Corvette has always focused on providing peak performance capability, it hasn’t always prioritized driver comfort. That changed in a big way with the introduction of the C5 generation, which debuted in the 1997 model year. Everything from the shape of the seats to the width of the body was improved, making the interior more spacious and comfortable. This model also moved the transmission back to the rear of the car, offsetting the engine up front and resulting in better weight distribution. And, of course, it was fitted with a new engine, an LS1 5.7-liter V8 that gave drivers 345 horses to play with.
The 1963 Corvette was the first to be called a Stingray and has an iconic look that still impresses auto enthusiasts decades later. The introduction of all-independent suspension improved the car’s traction and made it more competitive with European sports cars. This year also saw the introduction of a coupe body style alongside the convertible. The coupe’s split rear window may not exactly be an asset (the design was dropped in subsequent years), but it is a unique feature that sets the ‘63 apart from other models.
Where previous models had smooth curves, the 2014 Corvette is all sharp angles that exude power. That aesthetic is backed up under the hood with a V8 engine that offers 455 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Michelin tires came standard and help grip the road for tight turns at any speed. The car’s all-aluminum frame is 100 pounds lighter than the previous year’s, and its interior is both stylish and user-friendly, with an 8-inch color screen in the center dash.
The last model year of the first generation, the ‘57 has a classic look that is sure to turn heads in any decade. It was the first Corvette to offer a fuel injection system, rather than just carburetion. And while previous years only had a 3-speed manual transmission available, the 1957 model year saw the introduction of an optional 4-speed, giving drivers more control. The engine was upgraded too, with a V8 that displaces 4.6 liters. When properly equipped, this hotrod can deliver up to 283 horsepower.
The model year 1983 was skipped altogether to focus on the debut of the C4 in 1984. The redesigned body managed to offer both a lower center of gravity and improved ground clearance. In a test drive, Car and Driver recorded a skidpad lateral acceleration of 0.90 g, the highest they had ever observed at the time, and an improvement over rivals from Porsche and Ferrari. It was named Car of the Year by MotorTrend, thanks to both its impressive performance and its relatively reasonable price.
For the 70th anniversary of this beloved icon, Chevrolet is celebrating with a special commemorative edition. Leather upholstery with red stitching echos the original Corvette’s red interior. With decorative touches like exclusive center caps on the dark-finish aluminum wheels, racing stripes, and more, this edition is full of flair that celebrates the Corvette’s long history. We also see the return of the Z06 for the 2023 model year, bringing the mid-engine layout to the supercharged version of the Corvette. The 2023 Z06 is wider than the standard Corvette, with larger air intakes and a rear wing that screams “racecar.”
After a big-block V8 was offered on the ‘65 Corvette, and it got even bigger the next year, it seemed like a trend that might one day overtake and replace smaller engine options. But while the 1970 model did offer a big-block engine that was 454 cubic inches, the 1970 Corvette LT-1 also hit the scene with a small-block V8 that made for a well-balanced car that still goes plenty fast with 370 horsepower. This finely tuned racer won over plenty of drivers and is still beloved today.
While the standard model gave drivers plenty to love, the real star of this year was the ZR1. The first ZR-1 was introduced to the public back in 1990, but it had been out of production for over a decade by the time it made its return with the 2009 Corvette ZR1. It was highly praised in its day not only for its speed but for its strength and stamina as well, making it a well-rounded performance car that could go toe to toe with big-name exotics like Aston Martin and Lamborghini. Beyond the impressive stats (a whopping 638 horsepower and 604 lb-ft of torque), the design is also downright cool. In order to show off the Corvette’s supercharger, a plexiglass window was built into the hood, allowing for a view into the car’s inner workings.
We may have saved it for last, but we would be remiss not to mention the Corvette that started it all. Since developers in subsequent years were able to build on what had come before and take advantage of more advanced technology, there’s an argument to be made that the original Corvette is actually the worst one of all, but where would we be without it? Only 300 were produced that first year; they were all painted polo white and had a bold red interior. The iconic fiberglass body was not only lightweight compared to steel, it was also a novel material at the time, which made it alluring to drivers in the 1950s. Today, its appeal has turned from excitement for something new to nostalgia for days gone by, but either way, the original Corvette has always been a crowd-pleaser.