As one of the longest running nameplates in automotive history, there have been a lot of great Corvettes. These, however, are the best of all time—the cars that created and maintained the legend of America's Sports Car.
The original Corvette of 1953 was a pretty car, but it took a few years of evolution for it to become great. In 1955, it got its first V8, Chevy's legendary small block, and in 1957 that engine got fuel injection. Designed by legendary engineer Zora-Arkus Duntov, the "Fuelie" was the first time the Corvette featured revolutionary tech. The Fuelie pictured here also has the ultra-rare "Airbox" option, making it the ultimate C1.
The second-generation Corvette, introduced in 1963, was really when this model hit its stride. It represented the work of the best minds of GM at the time—designers Bill Mitchell, Pete Brock, and Larry Shinoda, and engineer Zora-Arkus Duntov. There are lots of great C2s, but the one-year-only split-window coupe from 1963 is the prettiest, and arguably, the most iconic.
Zora-Arkus Duntov wanted to take the C2 Corvette racing, and to do so, he created a monster. The original Grand Sport, which was internally called "The Lightweight," looks like a production car at first glance, but it's actually smaller. An aluminum tubular space frame with fiberglass body panels kept weight under a ton, and a 377-ci V8 provided well over 500 horsepower. Sadly, GM's competition ban killed the Grand Sport after just five were built.
Chevrolet's competition ban continued well into the 1960s, but just as he did with the Grand Sport, Duntov attempted to fight it back. In 1967, he introduced the L88, a race-ready Corvette you could order at your local dealer. It was advertised as having just 435 hp, but in reality, its 427-ci Big Block produced around 550. Only 216 were built, since only those in the know knew to check the L88 box.
When Chevrolet introduced the Corvette ZR-1 for 1990, it came as a bit of a shock. Seemingly out of nowhere, Chevrolet had created a Corvette that could genuinely compete against the Ferrari Testarossa and Porsche 911 Turbo. Its engine, the LT5, was especially brilliant. Designed by Lotus, this was the first and only twin-cam Corvette engine in history and it made an amazing 380 hp.
I already waxed poetic about the C5-R yesterday, but in case you don't want to click away from this page, here's a quick summary. This was Chevy's first official competition Corvette, and it quickly became an icon. With tons of success in US sports car racing and at Le Mans, the C5-R was the car that got a lot of people to take the Corvette more seriously.
The C5 Corvette was a quantum leap forward when it arrived in 1997. With an aluminum chassis, rear transaxle, and a new family of V8s, it was truly world-class. The best of the C5s was the Z06, which was really the first modern Corvette for track rats. Even today, a C5 Z06 on modern rubber and with a good driver can keep up with anything. Buy one before its too late.
The C6 Z06 upped the ante of its predecessor by introducing one of Chevy's great V8s, the LS7. This 7.0-liter naturally aspirated motor cranked out 505 hp and was closely related to the unit used in the C6.R race car. You could buy this car for its engine alone, but it handles great too.
We have to admit that the C6 Z06 is more our style, but how can you not love the ZR1? This was the first supercharged Corvette, and the first to break the 200-mph barrier.
Yes, the Z06 is much quicker, and we're big fans of the Grand Sport, but the C7 Stingray will be remembered as a watershed moment. Philosophically, it's not all that different than the C5 and C6, but it represents a huge improvement in every metric. It's a Corvette that can hold its head high against Europe's best.
The C7.R continues the tradition of dominance established by the C5-R back in 1999. In its three years of competition, the C7.R already has victories at Daytona, Sebring, and Le Mans to its credit. And, it's the best sounding car on the grid by far.