Eight great Chevy Corvettes

Eight great Chevy Corvettes

On National Corvette Day, here is a group of the best ones ever built

Picking the greatest Corvettes is like picking the greatest Picassos: Even the least of them are pretty great. 

But in the Corvette world, there are those that stand above the rest for any number of reasons, usually performance, but there are also models we love just because they hit the spot.  

So for National Corvette Day here are eight all-time favorites listed in chronological order, though not including purpose-built race-track models:

Corvette

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1957 283 Fuelie — With its immaculate styling (the last year before quad headlights), the ’57 Corvette had a Rochester fuel injection available as an option, which boosted the power of its 283cid small-block V8 to around 290 horsepower, or as Chevrolet crowed at the time, more than one horsepower per cubic inch. Performance options included a race-ready package of fresh-air box, gauges and heavy-duty suspension.

Fast Lane Classic Cars photo

1962 327 Fuelie – The last year of the first-generation Corvette marked the appearance of the iconic 327cid small block, which in this option package incorporated fuel injection, solid lifters and an 11.25:1 compression ratio, raising its horsepower to 360 and making it a formidable competition contender on road courses and drag strips.

Corvette

Legendary Motor Car Company photo

1963 Stingray – The clean-sheet redo of the Corvette was a watershed moment for the fiberglass sports car, with attention-grabbing styling that included those iconic hideaway headlights. An important innovation was independent rear suspension that vastly improved ride and handling. And a coupe version was added for the first time, which for this year only featured the impractical but strikingly evocative split rear window. The Z06 option added a stiffer suspension, bigger drum brakes and a huge 36.5-gallon fuel tank.   

Corvette

Mecum Auctions photo

1967 L88 – At the other end of the C2 era was the car that wasn’t supposed to be; the third-generation Corvette had been scheduled to roll out this model year but legendary Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov held it back for more aerodynamic testing. The side effect was the most-powerful C2 of all, the L88 with its monster 427cid V8 tuned to a claimed 450 horsepower, though contemporary testers found it to put out well above 550. The engine’s combustion chambers under their aluminum heads ran 12.5:1 compression, necessitating 103 octane gas and making it more compatible with the track than the street.

Corvette

Mecum Auctions photo

1970 LT-1 – Though overshadowed by its big-block cousins, the LT-1 hit the sweet spot of performance with a 350cid small-block V8 with solid lifters, 11.0:1 compression and a 850 CFM four-barrel Holley carburetor, along with transistorized ignition, that was conservatively rated at 370 horsepower, although it was really more like 400. The well-balanced, high-revving engine made the LT-1 a track favorite.

Corvette

Central Pennsylvania Auto Auction photo 

1990-95 ZR1 – This was a unique and unexpected Corvette that used the only twin-cam V8 in the brand’s long history. The LT-5 engine, designed for the Corvette C4 by the legendary performance engineers at Lotus of England, initially was rated at 380 horsepower, following the power doldrums of the ’80s, climbing to 405 horsepower by the end of its six-year run. Along with Lotus-tuned suspension tweaks, Corvette found itself for the first time in the company of the higher-priced European exotics.  The ZR1’s nickname, coined by Chevrolet marketeers, was King of the Hill. 

Corvette

Art & Speed photo

2000-2004 ZO6 – Corvette started out the millennium with a model that set new standards for performance and styling. Bringing back the Z06 nomenclature, the coupe had a 365-horsepower V8, later increased to 405, stiffly tuned suspension and unique styling features that included, for the Z16 package, a carbon-fiber hood.

Corvette

Auto Connection photo

2009 ZR1 – The return of the ZR-1 marked another first for Corvette: its first factory supercharged V8, the 6.2-liter LS9 engine that produced a stunning 638 horsepower, putting it solidly in the major league of the world’s supercars. Zero to 60 happened in just 3.5 seconds and the top speed was rated at 205 mph. The latest ZR-1 also scored another first for Corvette: a price tag of more than $100,000.

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3 Comments

  • Joseph Godec
    June 30, 2018, 4:13 PM

    Being an old fudd, I have fond memories of the ’62 Vette as well as the ’63-’67 "Rays." I always liked the ’62 because of the finished look to the buckets in its interior, but nowadays I’d have to be extracted from it surgically (especially with the top up). I wasn’t much of a fan of the split window back then as I thought the split ruined rear visibility. Being even more of a philistine, I didn’t think the big block (i.e., 396, 427, and 454) was that good of an idea as it upset the handling. Shows you what little I know!
    However, my wife bought a used ’63 droptop as her first car out of college, though was only a 300 HP, but with a 4-speed. When I graduated in 1965, I wanted a ’65 Fuelie but I couldn’t afford it then so I had to wait 23 years to get my dream car. I like my ’65 better than her old ’63 not just because of the 375 horses it has, but because of the disc brakes. The bad thing about it is that I love to flog it and set off car alarms with the side-mount exhaust.
    Save the wave!
    Joe

    REPLY
  • River Bergstrom
    July 1, 2018, 12:30 AM

    I have always wanted a 56 or 57 since my older brother came back from the Army and bought a 56 with the 3-speed and the 265. He let me drive it, and the hook was set! We later put in a new 365hp 327 and a new Muncie 4-speed, both bought from the local dealer. I still don’t have my dream car…a 56 or 57 would thrill me, but I just can’t afford them. I’ve had a lot of friends who have owned Corvettes through all the generations and have been gracious enough to let me drive them. I’d just about given up, and then I found a C4, 1991, that a guy had let sit too long and it needed some work. Turned out more work than I thought, but I got it and have worked out all the minor issues. I fall in love with it every time I look at it…when the C4’s came out, I wasn’t a big fan. But this one is far enough into the production that all the issues had been worked out and she runs and drives like a dream. Oh, and it’s the six-speed, too. I really didn’t want an automatic. Sports cars are supposed to have manuals! I’m so happy to have it. Finally being able to afford the Corvette dream, even if it isn’t my first choice "dream car". If I ever win the lottery, the first thing I will do is find a 56 or 57 to my liking, and buy it! I just think they are the most beautiful Corvettes ever made. My brother let me drive his first Corvette when I was 14. I’m now 65, so 50 years is a long time to wait, but I’m so proud to own it. I didn’t buy it to impress anyone. I bought it because I love the things! Looking forward to making many memories in, and with it. I have a friend that is out touring with Steely Dan…he recently contacted me and got me and my nephew backstage passes, the whole VIP treatment. So kind of him. So we drove the Corvette, as it’s first real road trip. So great! And we got 24.5 mpg, cruising at 70-75, in sixth gear. I didn’t get to drive it today, on National Corvette day, but I hope to make it up tomorrow. I tell people this: I was born in January 1953. That’s when they had the Motorama prototype. Then June 30 was when they came off the line. I’m just so proud to be a Corvette owner, with the six-speed! Love it! Thanks for everything! Peace, and Love Always, rb

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  • spirit of 67
    July 6, 2018, 8:54 PM

    These are all nice appearing cars for collectors. Most of them are maintenance nightmares. The early "fuelies" were so troublesome that a lot of them were converted to carburetors, and had atrocious brakes. I won’t get into the valve-setting fun on solid lifter engines, especially the "porcupine" motors. The ’63 demands to be driven within its envelope, which with the stock drum brakes is note-card sized. The ZR-1, though presents some very interesting possibilities; probably the best all-round drivers’ vehicle in this selection. Exotic; powerful;well-balanced; reliable if not abused;attractive; and it has a valet switch restricting power so fools won’t act even dumber with your car. ,

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