Our Two Cents: The best Corvette generation

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Welcome to Our Two Cents, a new feature where the team here at Hagerty Media answers the most pressing questions in the automotive world. Our thoughts will inform, enrich, and possibly even enlighten you on a bi-weekly basis. Satisfaction guaranteed! Or perhaps not, because today we’re discussing our favorite generations of the Corvette, which is sure to rock the boat! Let’s see which apples fall from the tree.

The winner? It was a tie between the C7 and the C6, but not everyone was content with such recent history setting the tone for a world-famous brand. So before you sound off in the comments, read about why many of us chose something aside from the C7 and C6.

No matter, here are the votes for the C7:

Chevrolet

C7 Z51. No question. It was the first Corvette that felt wired to the road and the driver. Previous cars were numb. As a driver you had to tell yourself that the C5 was predictable. The C7 subconsciously communicated that. -Larry Webster, Editor-in-Chief

The C7, finally delivered on the decades-long promise of an American sports car that not only stood head-and-shoulders with much more expensive European competition in terms of performance, but which also was as desirable, aesthetically and intellectually, as those competitors. – Joe DeMatio, Senior Manager of Content

The C7 truly did reach the absolute limits of the front-engine, rear-drive form factor that Corvettes had boasted since the beginning of the nameplate. When the thing you’ve created ends up being so good that you have to completely re-write the rulebook around said thing, I think it’s a worthy case for leader of the pack.- Nathan Petroelje, Associate Editor

While I truly dislike calling a GM flagship by the same name as an ancient Ford transmission, here are our cheerleaders for the C6 Corvette:

Chevrolet

I’ve been lucky enough to have a C4GS, then daily a C5Z, C6Z, and C7Z. The C5Z was the most fun but build quality was questionable. The C6Z truly is the sweet spot and if I could have one Corvette to daily drive it would be the C6 Z06 Carbon. That 427 was shockingly quick-revving. Sublime. It handled well enough but had great communication and balance which made up for the lacking steering feel. – Eugene Leeds, Community Coordinator

C6Z just hits different in 2022. That’s my pick. – Mike Perlman, Podcast Manager

I’m a C6 man myself. I think they’ve always been a great value new or used, looked way more modern/less plastic-fantastic (even if untrue) than the C5 and the Z06 of this generation just does it for me. Also they looked great in racing. – Matt Tuccillo, Director of Video and Podcast

We only had one staffer with the mettle (fiberglass?) to stick up for the C5, even though this clean-sheet redesign is beyond underrated in today’s market. The two generations mentioned above simply wouldn’t exist had it not been for the engineering and managerial fortitude present in the folks who made the fifth-generation Corvette.

Chevrolet

I drove the first C5 Chevrolet let out of the building from Coney Island to the Santa Monica pier for a story, and fell in love. Easy to drive (my 80-year-old mother-in-law has one) but very quick. The styling still turns my head. – Steven Cole Smith, Special Projects Editor

Why aren’t we digging deeper into Corvette history, you ask? Luckily some of us know there’s a more obvious answer that needs discussion. The C2 (aka mid-year) paved the way for GM’s future successes with the Corvette brand.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Overhead Rear Three-Quarter
1963 Chevrolet Corvette GM

C2. Obvious answer. Set the course for what the model would become—big engine, light car. Also, best-looking and most desirable, on average, among vintage Vettes. – Cameron Neveu, Managing Editor, Motorsports

I’m with Cam on C2. Designed by the legendary Larry Shinoda and Pete Brock—with oversight from Bill Mitchell—and Zora Arkus-Duntov (another legend) as chief engineer, C2 made possible all the generations of Corvette that followed. With fuel injection, fully independent suspension, and disc brakes starting in ’65, C2 took Corvette from American boulevardier to legitimate sports car contender. The Z06 option in ’63 made it track-ready with the tick of an options box. The coupe is arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever. Quite simply, there would not be any Corvettes today without C2. – Kirk Seaman, Senior Editor

Now what about the Corvette that survived and thrived in the turbulent climate all automakers had to weather in the 1970s? How many British sports cars died in the Malaise Era? Remember when Porsche was planning to replace the 911 with the 928? Granted, the latter didn’t happen. And Chevrolet always stayed true to the Corvette’s mission, even if the final C3 was radically different than the 1968 original.

1982 Chevrolet Corvette Collector Edition Front Three-Quarter
Mecum

I know there are much, much better iterations, but to me, the seminal Corvette is the late C3, 1980–82. All the plastic, all the fantastic. Those front and rear spoilers made all the difference. As a small boy, I had no idea how they actually performed, but even parked they looked like 200-mph cars. – Stefan Lombard, Managing Editor, HDC Magazine

Stefan’s comments, while relatable and heartfelt, in my estimation understate the value of the C3 to Corvette history—especially the contributions of the later versions. The spoilers he mentioned dropped the coefficient of drag from 0.503 to 0.443. That’s not chump change, and as with many vehicles from this era, lighter-weight materials silently trickled into the final product. Take RPO V54, the T-top carrier option that made of plastic materials with a reinforced casting that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern car designed with modern computers.

Speaking of high technology, here’s my pick:

1984 Corvette brochure
Chevrolet

The C4 is a tale of benchmarks made and then demolished to the point you’d think GM was on the warpath. Yes, the C2 humiliated the Cobra at Nassau Speed Week, but the C4 thoroughly spanked multiple competitors across the pricing spectrum, forcing the SCCA to place it in a league of its own. The C4’s freshman effort was, admittedly, cruder than the minimalist styling and elegant clamshell hood suggested, but it put down 0.90 g on a skidpad, rocketed to 140 mph, braked as hard as a supercar, and did so with luxuries (Bose audio, multi-adjustable seats, power everything, electronic gauges) now deemed mandatory for any premium vehicle. The C4’s subsequent improvements became dynamic, moving goal posts for its competition, no matter if it was a cheap Porsche 944 or a pricey Ferrari. Too bad I’m out of space to discuss the ZR-1.

Clearly I have my biases, but every Corvette generation made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to the history of the automobile. Each new Corvette motivated the competition and was good for Chevrolet, the fans, and even the haters. Or especially for the haters? 

With that in mind, we’d love to hear how we got it right. Or wrong, because we can take it.

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