13 April 2017

Seven Corvette features and models we love

Sometimes it’s easy to criticize those we hold dearest. We previously published a list of seven Chevy Corvette features and models that we don’t love and found that while many agreed, some didn’t: We’re looking at you, t-top owners. Becoming America’s sports car wasn’t easy, and as such, the Corvette is expected to maintain world-class performance and terrific value. But sometimes the risks that Chevrolet’s designers and engineers take don’t pan out. More often than not, however, they did have winning ideas. Following are seven Corvette models and features that we have come to love.

  1. Independent Rear Suspension

    The split-window Corvette was gorgeous. But it wasn’t the second-gen’s true hero. What really revolutionized the C2 was the vastly superior suspension hidden beneath the beautiful exterior. The first generation Corvette, while nimble in its own right, was falling behind its sports car rivals from Europe. Father of the Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntov, was aware of the passing competition and planned to include the independent rear in the upcoming redesign. GM’s single-seat development mule, CERV I, provided the basis for the Corvette’s first IRS. The new suspension, along with a shift to a more rear-biased weight distribution, vastly improved the new-for-1963 Corvette. Even more impressive, the signature transverse-mounted leaf spring, introduced in 1963, has evolved with each subsequent generation and endures on the C7.

  2. Targa Top

    The second iteration of the Corvette’s removable roof offered an improved solution to the open-air dilemma. The genius of the design lies in its storage—drivers desiring a wind-in-your-hair experience can easily pull over, remove the roof and store it in the wide trunk opening. The transition from T-tops to a one-piece unit also meant that the roof opening became larger, more closely approaching a convertible. Since its introduction on the C4, the targa has become the Corvette’s most popular bodystyle—just don’t let their rivals at Porsche know.

  3. Head-Up Display

    Enthusiasts notice whenever an automaker incorporates fighter-jet technology into their sports car. First offered in 1998, the head-up display (HUD) projects speed, RPM and lateral grip data directly ahead of the driver on the windshield. Current versions of the HUD allow for customized displays and even multiple color options, rather than the single original hue, “microwave-clock green.” In a car capable of over 170 mph, a Top Gun-style feature that keeps your eyes on the road is certainly desirable. Now where’s that ejector seat option?

  4. C4 Grand Sport

    Often the best solution to a problem is also the simplest. Team Corvette originally solved their early ‘90s performance quandary through the use of four cams, 32 valves and a $60,000 price tag. However, the 1996 Grand Sport went back to basics with a tuned 330-hp LT-4 small block V-8. It produced 90 percent of the performance for about half the ZR-1’s cost. The GS not only saved buyers money, but offered the exclusivity of just 1000 being produced—compared to the 6900 ZR-1s built. The paint selection was also limited and hopefully you’re patriotic because the only available color scheme is Admiral Blue with a fat Arctic White stripe down the middle and two red hashmarks on the left fender. With current Grand Sport values steadily outpacing the King Of The Hills’, it’s safe to say that sometimes less really is more.

  5. Big Block

    Big Block, big impact. For an engine that only stuck around 10 years, it sure gathered a massive following. So large, in fact, that these cars easily hold the title of the most collectable Corvette models available. What began as a low-cost horsepower solution to the more complicated 327-cid Fuelie, ended up converting the Corvette from a balanced sports car into a muscular drag racer. Engine aficionados will also note that ‘Vette-spec Mark IV Big Blocks came in three displacement configurations: 396-cid, 427-cid and 454-cid. Their personalities range from lopey cruiser to thinly-disguised race engine. With lineage including powerhouses such as the L88, L89, ZL1, and LS6, it’s no wonder that Big Block Corvettes achieved hallowed status.

  6. Z06

    The option code that became an icon. When GM suddenly banned company sponsorship of racing teams in the early ‘60s, each brand was forced to find ways to keep excitement in their lineup. Knowing full well that those with 100-octane in their veins would continue campaigning the car, Duntov again had the answer. Regular Production Option Z-06 was created to supply racers with go-fast equipment while cleverly tip-toeing around the General’s decree. Features included heavy-duty brake equipment, stiffer suspension, and the famed big fuel tank. The option certainly left its mark, enough to return in 2001 as a full-fledged, 385-hp stand-alone model and again for the sixth and seventh generation ‘Vettes. Today, it reigns as the top-of-the-line track monster, featuring 650 supercharged horsepower. It’s safe to assume that Zora would be proud.

  7. Small Block

    Chevrolet’s Small Block V-8 saved the Corvette. Claiming otherwise would be wrong. By 1954’s end, the car’s future was looking increasingly bleak, but two lucky events put it back on the map: Ford launched its competing Thunderbird, and Chevrolet introduced their first V-8. Duntov’s influence prevailed once again, as outlined in his bold letter to Chief Engineer Ed Cole. As we know the Corvette didn’t die, but adopted the groundbreaking Small Block and took the fight back to Ford. And the mouse motor fought hard, solidifying the C1’s sports car status by steadily increasing power and refinement. With 455 hp from today’s base V-8, the original Blue Flame Six seems downright asthmatic. Luckily the cure arrived in 1955, as the new V-8 was just what the doctor ordered.

What are your favorite Corvette models and features? Let us know in the comments below.

22 Reader Comments

  • 1
    R E Lanzafame Syracuse,N.Y. April 17, 2017 at 02:56
    I think in my mind no doubt was the 67 big block. It had just the right amount of motor to weight ratio to put the power to the wheels. AND IT LOOKED GREAT DOING IT.
  • 2
    Tom Russo SC May 12, 2017 at 15:43
    Everyone salivates over the big blocks but in 1967, I purchased a Chevy II 327 SS and loved it. I crushed those freakin big blocks with a 327/350, 456 rear-end and Mickey Thompsons in the 1/4 mile. My slogan "Small Blocks Forever!" How true as we see today small blocks reign.
  • 3
    Debby Vick Alabama May 12, 2017 at 15:56
    We have six Corvettes of several generations, not C1 and C2 though, but we love each era independently. The split window is just so sexy, wish we had one. The C7 with its low stance just looks mean going down the road. Our 79 and 81 have beautiful lines and hips. The 95 C4 we have is an excellent riding and driving car, so smooth. The C6 is smooth driving as well. I enjoy the older cars, especially the 4 speed '81 as you are truly involved with driving the car. The C6 and C7 are so independent they almost drive themselves!
  • 4
    Kenneth Jenks Blue Ridge, TX May 12, 2017 at 16:09
    My favorite Stingrays are the C-3's. I began to drive in the 1970's and used to look at these Vettes with want and awe. I currently own a 1970 LS5. Definitely lives up to all a kid like me could want!
  • 5
    Robert W McRae California May 12, 2017 at 16:11
    I would say the 1963 Split window, the 1967 big block and the 2015 Z06
  • 6
    vettski CA May 12, 2017 at 16:36
    If it doesn't have a solid axle it is not a real Corvette.
  • 7
    Larry Weldin Brunswick GA May 12, 2017 at 16:41
    having owned a 59,63 split,66 396,88 L88 all I can say is that they where all fun. Each one different each one got more refined At 70 I think that there might be one more.
  • 8
    buck evans Florida May 12, 2017 at 17:18
    I have a 67 Roadster. Built for a Lady. 327, Powerglide, Power Assist Steering. At the stop light...well the little lady does intimidate. Vrooooom
  • 9
    Fred King Buffalo May 12, 2017 at 17:53
    I love the c-1,c-2,c-3. I own a 68, had a 69 36 years ago. C-3 only until 1969 though. Then a few things changed, and then the chrome started to disappear. If I could afford it, would love a powder blue 1959
  • 10
    Chris New Jersey May 12, 2017 at 18:39
    Well I have a fully restored Ermine white 62 327/340 horse corvette and 2015 Laguna Blue Z06 convertible. Both beautiful cars but the 62 outshines them all. Hard to believe that any car company could sculpt such beautiful lines out of fiberglass and make such perfect power 55 years ago.
  • 11
    Richard Feinstein WEST PALM BEACH May 12, 2017 at 18:50
    MY FAVORITE ARE MINE 1975 RAG TOP RED WITH WHITE TOP 1986 RAG TOP RED WITH WHITE TOP
  • 12
    David V Canton, MI May 12, 2017 at 21:55
    I prefer (and, own) the `82 because you get the Stingray design, fun AND T-TOPS, along with the C4's advanced (at the time) electronic fuel injection, computer command driveability advantages, and overdrive automatic transmission technology.
  • 13
    Robert Leonard N.C. May 13, 2017 at 15:26
    To pick between all of "America's Sports Car" as manufactured from 1953 to today is difficult since they all have their merits. To me, I would have to say 1967 was the year that produced the pinnacle of Corvette body design. I prefer the small block for more sport car agility, but the big block cars are really amazing in a whole different realm. The newer models are most impressive and out perform the older simpler cars, but to me 1967 was a most inspiring year for Corvette
  • 14
    Jim Lohbauer Billings,N.Y. May 13, 2017 at 09:41
    Always thought "hidden" headlights on the Corvette were cool !
  • 15
    D Rendon Bucks County PA May 13, 2017 at 11:13
    I am always amazed at how fast my little ole '61 survivor can go!
  • 16
    Darrell Reeves Carmichael, Ca. May 14, 2017 at 15:33
    The C-6 and C-7 series are fantastic Corvettes. The braking the handling the ergonomics blow me away. I just sold a 2007 Z-06 and loved it. I currently own a 1963 Split Window that I purchased back in 1990. The C-1's especially the 1957 and the have the most beautiful, flowing lines of any Corvette in my humble opinion. I have a 500 h.p. 383 motor in my 63 and installed discs brakes on the front, and vintage air a/c for these hot Northern California summers. The big blocks the L71, 72, and the monster L88 were great powerful motors of the 60's. I have owned two 67 Shelby GT 500's one with a 427 side oiler with a top loader 4.10 Detroit Drag Pack, and the other one a 428 with a C-6. They were a kick in the pants to drive, but you had to know how to drive the car otherwise you could lose control easily especially with the 4 speed with low gears. I think thge best of both worlds is a marriage of old vettes with new C-7 suspension and engine and braking. Retro rods are great! Keep them looking stock with the original bodies and interiors, then you still have the stunning looks of yesteryears classics along with a car updated to handle and break better and out perform and outbreak it's predecessors.
  • 17
    Brian Ellison Reno, NV May 15, 2017 at 18:13
    I love my 75 Vette!! I have owned this beast for over 25 years and really not too much to complain about. Rebuilt the motor and trans at 80k and have installed a few goodies to enhance the looks. I have always liked the looks of the C-3's and still think they are the best..
  • 18
    Derwood VA May 15, 2017 at 06:56
    I thought the F-41 Gymkhana suspension was a great deal. I have a Heavy-Duty Aftermarket set-up of similar specifications and it changed my base model 1976 L-48 into a completely different car... power & handling is a great combination!
  • 19
    Gary Opatich Macomb, MI May 15, 2017 at 09:12
    The mid-years 63-67. From the front to the rear these were the most beautifully designed to the powered hide-away headlights to the exhaust through the rear valance.
  • 20
    Robert Leonard N.C. May 15, 2017 at 11:28
    1967 was the zenith of Corvette design. Older and newer models have their virtues but 1967 was the absolute best from my perspective.
  • 21
    Mike Tx May 21, 2017 at 09:06
    Unique windows. Pop out or split, if you say the word, everyone knows what your u are talking about.
  • 22
    Frank Sifford N.C May 22, 2017 at 12:48
    The C-5 hardtop coupe (also the C5 Z-06) - the cleanest, most beautiful Corvette ever.

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