The History of America’s Sports Car – Corvette

By Michael Russell

The Chevrolet Corvette is often known as “America’s Sports Car” due to the fact that it is the first all-American sports car built by the American manufacturing company General Motors. The Corvette has maintained its reputation as a very powerful yet affordable car for more than 50 years now. The car first came out in 1953 and was manufactured in a GM assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA. What sets the Corvette apart from its European counterparts is its emphasis on simplicity. Most competing brands depend on smaller displacement and a complex engine. The Corvette on the contrary, uses a larger displacement and a simpler overhead valve that often resulted in a lighter, cheaper and physically smaller engine. This same philosophy is also reflected in the type of suspension used by the Corvette where GM opted to use the transverse leaf springs.

The name for Chevrolet’s entry-level sports car back in 1953 comes from a highly maneuverable frigate class warship of the same name. The person responsible for choosing the name of GM’s sports car was Myron E. Scott, who happens to be the creator of the Soap Box Derby. The early Corvettes have fiberglass for their outer body due to the steel quotas left over from the war. The engine used back then was the “Blue Flame” inline 6-cylinder truck engine with two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission and drum brakes that are similar to any Chevrolet car line of that time. Compared with its European counterparts, the Corvette was an underpowered vehicle. It was only in 1954 that a Paxton supercharger became available as a dealer-installed option. This significantly improved the performance of the Corvette but was still behind its counterparts.

The Corvette underwent major changes by 1963 and marked the start of the second generation of Corvettes that was also known by the acronym C2. There were several body designs made by Larry Shinoda, which were released from 1963 till 1968. The development of the Corvette Stingray sporting split-rear windows and fake hood vents also started in 1968. A 6.5 L big-block engine option also became available and an even larger 7L big-block engine came by 1966.The Third generation (C3) Corvette’s design made by Larry Shinoda was inspired by a Mako Shark. The C3 lasted until 1982 and in each passing year, various improvements were added to the Corvette especially on its engine. In 1973, Urethane-compound bumpers replaced the chrome bumpers of the Corvette.

There are several notable variants of the C4 model of the Corvette namely the B2K Callaway Twin Turbo (1987), ZR-1 also known as King of the Hill (1990) and the Grand Sport Corvette (1996). They paved the way for the development of the C5, C5 Z06, C5-R (1997 to 2004) Corvettes. The major changes to these models are the hydrofoamed box frame; transmission was placed at the rear of the car and the LS1 small-block engine with a rated horsepower of 345 hp. The Z06 model is the successor of the ZR-1 and inherited most of its good traits. The Z06 comes with the LS6 engine and a lighter frame that makes it quicker than the ZR-1 but has a lower power output than the double-overhead cam engine of the ZR-1, which makes it slower than its predecessor.

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