7 February 2013

Happy 60th, Corvette

Last used to identify regular-production Corvettes in 1976, the “Stingray” label will again help define Chevrolet’s legendary two-seater when the long-running breed’s all-new C7 rendition goes on sale later this year.

“Stingray is one of the hallowed names in automotive history,” said GM global design vice president Ed Welburn during the C7’s celebrated introduction last month at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. “We knew we couldn’t use [it] unless the new car truly lived up to the legacy.” No problem. With an estimated 450 horsepower, the 2014 Stingray will rank as the most powerful standard Corvette ever, not to mention the stingiest on gas, thanks in part to a long list of weight-saving components, including a new aluminum frame. All-time best braking and cornering are promised as well.

That Chevy officials opted to unveil their latest “best ’Vette yet” in January 2013 was only right considering the event coincided with the car’s 60th birthday. Know anyone who was there in New York in January 1953 when the first Corvette debuted, in concept car form, onstage at General Motors’ annual Motorama extravaganza? It’s probably even harder these days to find one of the “preferred” first-year buyers. Only 300 1953 Corvettes were built — all featuring white exteriors and red interiors — on a makeshift assembly line in Flint, Mich.

All also featured a Powerglide-backed “Stovebolt” six-cylinder beneath their forward-hinged fiberglass hoods, and this limiting combination, which remained in effect after production moved to St. Louis in 1954, almost killed off the Corvette before it had a real chance to roll. Chevy’s new-for-1955 small-block V-8 (and a three-speed manual transmission) surely helped save the day, as did the emergence of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the Corvette’s first chief engineer. A new, better-received body appeared in 1956, followed by optional fuel injection and an optional four-speed stick in 1957, and the hits just kept coming from there.

Some 1.5 million Corvettes later, Chevrolet’s proud legacy will, as the C7 name implies, evolve into its seventh generation this fall. The first, the so-called “solid-axle” run (consisting exclusively of convertibles) ended in 1962. Expressed in two words the first time around, the original Sting Ray debuted in 1963 along with a new coupe body and independent rear suspension. These second-generation Corvettes, built through 1967, are commonly called “mid-year” models today.

Some enthusiasts call third-generation models “Sharks” in honor of the 1965 Mako Shark II showcar that predicted the Corvette’s 1968 restyle. Still the longest of the seven model runs, this generation remained on the market up through 1982, with Corvette production moving east from Missouri to its present location in Bowling Green, Ky., the previous year. Chevrolet officials then opted to skip the 1983 model designation due to delays encountered during development of the fourth-generation Corvette, which debuted as a 1984 model then retired in 1996.

The radically redesigned fifth generation was initially slated to make the scene in August 1992, just in time to help mark the Corvette’s 40th birthday. But stumbling blocks again took their toll, pushing the big date back to 1997. It was during this protracted crawl to market that the Corvette’s generational “code names” came into vogue, and once “C5” became popularized it logically followed to retroactively identify the preceding groups accordingly. The C6 then appeared in 2005 to do its predecessor one better.

Now we await the C7 Sting Ray. If only we humans could look even half as good in our 60s.

17 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Ed Goldsboro, NC February 14, 2013 at 16:08
    Worked on mid year Corvettes, as a mechanic, back in the mid 60's. Always loved them but couldn't afford the insurance. Bought a wrecked 63 Split Window in 1988,rebuilt it and drove it until 1996. Wish I hadn't sold it, but I did. Have a 61 I wrecked with a tree growing through the center of it in 2004. It is my next project in line. Glad to see the Stingray name plate returning.
  • 2
    Wesley Robinson Pikeville, Ky. February 14, 2013 at 06:32
    Growing up as a kid, my dad being in the used car business I got to ride in alot of cars, but none has memories as a corvette! So naturally that is what I wanted, but dad would never by me a new corvette, he said I would never have anything to look forward to! But he did give me a 1964 Coupe in 1979 when I graduated high school, best gift ever and after 34 years I still have it! I like all vettes but am very partial to the mid years. Happy Birthday Corvette! coolest car ever.
  • 3
    Joyce Marshall United States February 14, 2013 at 06:59
    have 5 vettes and love them all! Corvette always knew what it was and wanted to be, America's sports car!
  • 4
    Ian Frazer Kilpatrick Canada February 14, 2013 at 11:54
    My first Corvette was a 1965 Convertible with a 396 Tiurbojet engine putting out 425 hp. It was painted racing green and was a beast of a vehicle. We traded it in for a 1965 Bright Orange Stingray which my wife drove to her school and I pick up a 1967 Stingray bright red with the LS1 designation. We had his and hers and had a lot of fun driving them together at Car Meets. Unfortunately we were moving to a new house and we n;eeded the money to pay for it. I look back on these vets as one of the most enjoyable times in our young lives. Maybe now I will be able to buy a new one. ----
  • 5
    Joseph Yancofski Wesley Chapel Florida February 14, 2013 at 12:59
    I have loved Corvettes all my life,My dream vette is a tourquise, with white coves, "57"fuelie four speed.I wish GM would go over the top with anniversary models,they missed the boat with the 50th there should have been gold everywhere.I drive a 90 convertible six speed manual transmission.The 2014 is fantastic I can't wait to see it in the showroom.
  • 6
    Michael M. Baltimore, Md February 15, 2013 at 14:09
    it is my understanding that the 2013 Vet is the anniversary version of the Vet. There is even an anniversary edition with special color scheme and interior and a 427. GM decided to introduce the 2014 in the 2013 year of the 60th anniversary. Own a 1972 convertible that I purchased new and a really special 97. Hate to do it but the C-5 is going to go along with the remainder of my children's inheritance.
  • 7
    Richard Mckendry Lyons, Mi. February 15, 2013 at 07:49
    I bought a 1966 roadster in 1973. Red with white top numbers matching 327-350hp 4sp. About 86000 mi. Still have it, thinking about selling. Anyone interested?
  • 8
    ken moore California February 15, 2013 at 11:37
    GO VETT! & HAPPY BIRTHDAY! - just purchased a1963 corvette split window coupe, complete frame off restoration & original numbers matching drive train, just beautiful, been looking for the right one for 2 years, after 50 years, this model/design is still the best style of any corvette, as sweet as the 2014 is, there still is only 1 corvette in my mind, the 1963 split window.
  • 9
    Lou VA February 15, 2013 at 11:59
    Been married 53 yrs. Hubby "gave" me a beautiful 65 convertible on our 50th anniversary. My Vette does looks as good as IT did in the 60's--And when I drive it, I FEEL twice as good (gray hair and all) in my 70's as I did before I got it.
  • 10
    Ed Newburgh NY February 15, 2013 at 12:00
    I was 9 yrs old in 1968 and my uncle Lou bought a new vette. First ride in one, I said to myself I am going to own one some day. In 79 bought a 73 L82, then a 64 Coupe. Presently own a 65 coupe. Partial to the C2's but sure like the new style
  • 11
    Randy Randall NC February 16, 2013 at 09:51
    I purchased a 1960 corvette in 2005 restored it and drove it for 5 years. A great car to drive and loved to turn heads as I drove it down the road. Sold it and everyday wish I had it back. They don't make em like they use to.
  • 12
    gary foote Long Island NY February 17, 2013 at 12:27
    I have a 67 roadster witht he small block and love zipping along with it...think it's the best looking of the 63 to 67 styles. Bust could never figure why they moved the emergency brake to te center console and got rid of the integrated "handle" to the dash on the passenger's side. In any case, still a beautiful car and so streamlined with the top down. Great cars!!
  • 13
    Lloyd McKeithan N.C. February 17, 2013 at 12:33
    I haven't seen a new corvette but will congradulate the car for it's 60 years. I do have a question that I haven't been able to get answered: I have a 1963 convertible (red on red, 327/340, 3 speed, all original I think). Can anyone tell me about the 3 speed part with the 327/340 engine. I have not been able to verify if this is original or not. Any help would be very much appreciated................................Lloyd
  • 14
    Paul Giovannini Staten Island New York February 19, 2013 at 13:06
    In 1965 when I graduated High School I wanted to buy a new corvette and couldn't afford the car or the insurance. Since then I have owned 3 vettes. At age 25 I bought a 70/454 but after five years and a failing business venture was forced to sell. In 1983 I bought an 81 but had to sell when my son was born in 1988. In 2001 after being only 5 blocks. from the World Trade center when they came down I decided to get back into the game and bought a 1978 Indy Pace Car. Sold this car a year ago February bought my 1966 dream car. When I go to shows and cruise night people often ask me how long did it take to find the car. I simply reply only 46 years. Living the dream.
  • 15
    Mary P. wisconsin March 6, 2013 at 21:20
    I really love the 1953 Corvette! Thanks for the good reading Rudy!
  • 16
    Bill Ong Houston, Texas March 8, 2013 at 10:24
    Out the army in 1969, I purchased a 1964, auto, a/c, 327/300hp coupe for $1,200 and still have it. Also original owners of 1980 purchased for wife. Love all 3 of them.
  • 17
    Jerry New Franken WI March 12, 2013 at 16:17
    I have always loved Corvettes and have had many over the last 30 years. I currently have a 63 split window that I use in vintage races and a 2008 Z06 for the street-love them both.

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