Chevy Corvette: Talkin’ About My Generations!

June 12th, 2020 by

A white 1953 used Chevy Corvette is parked in front of a grey building near Cincinnati, OH.

Few cars have as interesting a history and are as iconic as the Chevy Corvette. When you think of front-engine sports cars, I bet the first thing that comes to mind is a Corvette Stingray. However, traditionalists were shocked when Chevrolet announced that the Eighth Generation of the Corvette would be a rear-engine model, with a look like that of European Racers like Ferrari and Lamborghini. This radical change shook up the automotive world. Not to take anything away from those wonderful cars, but there is nothing quite like the classic lines of a front-engine Chevy Corvette. For those of us traditionalists, there is really no reason to fret, since you can still get your hands on a used Chevy Corvette. And we at McCluskey Auto will help you find whatever you are looking for.

Whether you are looking for a hardtop or convertible, McCluskey is your best bet to get your hands on a classic Corvette. Just head over to our used superstore at 435 East Galbraith Road in downtown Cincinnati, or log on to our website and start virtual shopping. We will put you behind the wheel of a used Chevy Corvette, so you can see for yourself what a difference this classic performance makes. These classic cars truly feel different. And let’s face it, the history of the Chevy Corvette reads like a history of automobiles in the Postwar Era. So many innovations came rolling out of Chevrolet on the wheels of a gorgeous front-engine Corvette that shaped the car industry today. If you are interested in purchasing one of these classic vehicles, you may want to know more about the changes made throughout the years to help you choose which one you are looking for. So let’s dive deeper into the history of the Chevy Corvette.

First Generation: 1953 – 1962

When General Motors first announced it was producing a two-seat performance roadster with a fiberglass body, folks thought that Harley Earl and his design team at Chevrolet had lost their minds. But it turned out old Harley knew exactly what he was doing. You must understand that the cars in the early 50s had almost as much steel on them as a Sherman tank, so they were seriously HEAVY! By using a fiberglass body that an adult could lift without much difficulty, the designers at Chevy were able to get incredible performance on a lighter car with a smaller engine.

That first Corvette in 1953 only had a BlueFlame I-6 engine with a 2-speed PowerGlide automatic transmission. But it could fly because it was light. Flash forward two years to 1955, and a new, bigger engine was added, a 265 CI small block V8 with a 3-speed manual transmission, which became the standard by 1956, with the two-speed automatic transmission becoming optional. In addition, 1956 would introduce the cool design feature of bodyside curves, which would set the first generation Corvette apart from future models, until they were reintroduced in 2005.

Interestingly enough, Chevy almost discontinued the Corvette in 1955 due to lagging sales but canceled the decision when Ford announced the launching of their own two-seat roadster, the fabled Thunderbird. Not willing to give in to Ford and realizing that copying is the sincerest form of flattery, Chevrolet reversed course and dedicated themselves to the Corvette.

Second Generation: 1963 – 1967

A white 1966 used Chevy Corvette is in an open parking lot.

The year 1963 was a big one in the automobile world, as Chevrolet launched the second generation Corvette and the first to be dubbed Stingray, one of the greatest and most fitting nicknames ever given to a motor vehicle. This would be the first model of the Corvette to feature those signature hidden headlights that were colloquially known as pop-up headlights. The styling on the Stingray was more aggressive than the first generation, with a radical look and shorter wheelbase. Surprisingly, despite the shorter-wheelbase, the second generation had a better ride because the weight was better distributed.

The engine also got bigger, a 327 CI OHV 300 horsepower V-8. This Corvette also featured 11-inch drum brakes for better stopping. This showed an increasing commitment to safety. Also, going away was the split rear window that was discontinued in 1964. And as the second generation Corvette hit the Go-Go 60s, the engines got bigger and bigger, topping out on an optional 427 CI 435 horsepower V6 by 1967, right in time for Sgt. Pepper to take it out for a spin.

Third Generation: 1968 – 1982

On the automotive front, the third generation welcomed a better automatic transmission option, with a 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmission replacing the less efficient PowerGlide automatic transmission. Also, a new body styling with an optional T-Top Convertible gave the Corvette a hipper look.

As federal mandates changed from the 60s to the 70s to the 80s, the Corvette had to follow new rules. The two most significant being safety features and fuel efficiency. For safety, the Corvette added steel beams covered by urethane plastic in its door and front bumper by 1973. The Corvette also began having increasingly smaller engines to comply with Federal “CAFE” (for Corporate Average Fuel Economy) Laws, introduced in the wake of the 1973 and 1979 oil embargoes. In addition, a catalytic converter was added to the Corvette in 1976 to comply with federal emissions rules that mandated the use of unleaded gasoline. As a result of these changes, the third generation Corvette was safer, more fuel-efficient, and had better emissions, but was underpowered when compared to prior models.

Fourth Generation: 1984 – 1996

First, that is not a typo; there was no 1983 model year for the Corvette as Chevy decided to hold back the introduction of the fourth generation Corvette until 1984. Why? The company was waiting on the finalization of new federal emission standards. Nevertheless, it seems that each generation gets the Corvette that fits its time. So it was with the fourth generation Corvette, which saw an era when suddenly gas became cheap and plentiful again, and the economy got on a roll.

As a result, engines got bigger again, and new options were added to the Corvette. The generation began with a 350 CI 205 horsepower Crossfire fuel injection V8, but by 1996, the engine had grown to a 350 CI 300 horsepower MultiPort fuel injection LT1 V8 small block engine. Automatic transmission and bigger 16-inch wheels became standard, as improving performance became vital. 1984 also saw the introduction of a Z51 performance handling option, a hallmark for future generations of the Corvette. Z-rated tires were added to all models in 1988, which permitted the Corvette to maintain speeds in excess of 149 mph.

Finally, the trend toward more excellent vehicle safety continued, with a passive restraint system added in 1984. A vehicle anti-theft system became available in 1986, and driver’s side airbags and an anti-lock braking system were introduced in 1990. And heavy-duty ZR1 brakes became standard on all models in 1995 to improve overall braking. Overall, the Corvette was becoming safer and safer as the years went on.

Fifth Generation: 1997 – 2004

The fifth generation Corvette revealed a new look that was longer, wider, and more aerodynamic. This gave the Corvette more efficient performance. It also enhanced the overall stability of the vehicle by placing the wheels closer to the corners of the chassis.

1998 saw the first Corvette with an actual trunk, the Convertible Coupe. And some other firsts were to occur with the fifth generation. 2001 saw the introduction of the Z06 model with a bigger engine and distinctive bright red brake calipers. The new millennium also saw the introduction of an active-handling system on all models, to improve overall safety and performance.

In 2003, the Corvette celebrated its 50th Anniversary with the production of a special edition. This was the first Corvette to feature F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension, something that would eventually be rolled out to all Corvette models. This system was designed to isolate and smooth the ride of each tire, helping to cut down on tire noise and vibration. Between that, the truck, and enhanced performance, there is no denying the growth in the fifth generation.

Sixth Generation: 2005 – 2013

A red 2005 used Chevy Corvette is angled right on a black background.

The new millennium would see a new sixth generation Corvette that would seemingly look back to the first generation. The body length was reduced by five inches (without losing any space in the passenger compartment), and bodyside coves were reintroduced. In addition, the hidden headlights were gone, replaced with exposed headlamps. 2005 also saw the first Corvette with keyless ignition. All you needed was your remote and a quick push on the ignition button.

Two things were added, though, that were anything but retro. First, paddle shifters were added to the 6-speed automatic transmission, making it easier to change gears while giving the driver better control of the engine. Second, the Corvette was given an infotainment system that included OnStar, XM Radio, and an MP3 audio jack. Clearly, the Corvette had entered the 21st century in terms of technology. The sixth generation also saw the introduction of new models that quickly became classic, including the Z06 coupe in 2006, the ZR1 with a 376 CI 6.2-liter L59 engine in 2008, the Grand Sport coupe and convertible in 2010, and the 60th Anniversary edition in 2013.

Seventh Generation: 2014 – 2019

The last model produced before the radical move to a rear-engine design was the seventh generation. This model featured a standard LT1 376 CI 6.2-liter OHV 16-valve V8 engine. New for this model were a fantastic 7-speed manual transmission and an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. That was a far cry from the 2-speed automatic transmission in the first 1953 Corvette.

This generation was the first to feature the Chevy MyLink System with an 8-inch color touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and USB ports. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were added in 2016, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot in 2018. For safety, Chevrolet added a rear-vision camera, a tire pressure monitoring system, Brembo brakes with 4-piston calipers, and HID (high-intensity discharge) Xenon and LED headlights. These upgrades make it evident that the Corvette has smoothly entered the modern age of performance and technology.

Full of Firsts

As you can see, the history of the Corvette is indeed a history of “firsts.” Each Generation of the Corvette saw new engines and transmissions, improved safety and comfort features, and new designs. You just can’t go wrong with a classic used front-engine Chevy Corvette, no matter which generation is your favorite.

Are you interested in finding a used Chevy Corvette to purchase? Go to our website, give us a call or visit us at McCluskey Auto today so that we can help you find the Corvette of your dreams.