Sales & Performance Milestones for Corvette Generations
Because who doesn't love a Corvette infographic?
The Corvette is one of the most enduring American nameplates of all time across any industry. After all, what’s more American than Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet? We put together this slick infographic to showcase the popularity of each generation (as well as the most notable performance milestones that generation achieved). As well, if you want to delve more in depth into each generation of Corvette, we have a quick summary of each generation available under the infographic.
The first Corvette C1 rolled off the production line on June 30, 1953. This day marked the beginning of what would come to be a non-stop production of, as of this post, almost 70 years of Corvettes and 8 generations. While Corvettes are now almost a by-word for V8 American muscle, the first two model years, 1953 and 1954, actually did not have a V8 under the hood. Instead, the first cars had Chevrolet’s inline 6 “Blue Flame” engine, which put out a respectable 150 HP and 233 lbs-ft of torque.
1955 was the first year that the 4.3 liter V-8 was offered, upping power to 195 HP and 260 lbs-ft of torque. It sold so well, and was so popular among the first muscle car enthusiasts, that the inline 6 was dropped from Corvette entirely for 1956. 1957 saw the 283 cubic inch V-8 offered as an optional upgrade, and had a very early form of fuel injection. This was refined all the way through to the last year of the C1, 1962, when the first of the “big” V-8’s was offered with 327 cubic inches. All in all, the Corvette C1 sold just over 72,000 cars in 9 years of production.
The Corvette C2 introduced in 1963 was a radical departure from the curvy C1. It was a sharp nosed, low hood car with a raked back windshield and a sloping tail end, featuring the defining feature of the 1963 ‘Vette, the split rear window. The C2 generation also saw the introduction of a title that was applied to many special Corvettes, namely the Stingray designation. It was named so because of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s spectacular Stingray Special concept vehicle that led to the design philosophy of the C2.
The first three years of the C2 generation kept the engine from the last of the C1’s, namely the 327 cubic inch engine, but with a variety of power levels from 250 to 360 HP, depending on model year and engine you chose. 1966 saw the introduction of the 427 cubic inch V-8 in two order codes, L36 for the 390 HP model, and L72 for the 425 HP version. Both put out an identical 460 lbs-ft of torque, and became immediately popular with muscle car fans everywhere. Because of the hunger for more and more power, the last year of the C2’s, 1967, saw the introduction of the L88 order code. This was a top of the line model, with a stunning 540 HP 427 cubic inch V-8 that is still, to this day, one of the best sounding “old school” muscle car engines of all time. Unfortunately, it only sold 20 units, mostly because it needed a minimum fuel rating of 95 octane and preferred 103 octane race fuel to power it. Throughout its productive, albeit short lived, 5 years of model life, the C2 sold through 117,966 cars.
The Corvette C3 started life as a bit of a bastard child in 1968. What is meant by this is that while the body was new, the interior was new, the chassis and handling was all from the last year of the C2 generation. This didn’t stop it selling handily in the first two years of what became the longest Corvette generation. The 69 and 69 ‘Vette also kept the two engine options, 327 and 427 cubic inches. An L88 order code was offered, but instead of being a race ready road car, it was a more “gentle” muscle car, with only “430 HP” advertised. In reality, it was a detuned race engine, with high performance carburetors and a 12.5:1 compression ratio, just sitting there for someone with a little know-how to unlock its full potential. 1970 through to 1975 was a transformative period for the Corvette.
It started with the introduction of the first small block ZR1 package, with a LT1 327 cubic inch engine offering 370 HP, in 1970. By 1975, however, the convertible Corvette was on the chopping block, the car had widened and softened significantly, and was being marketed more as an “American touring car” instead of an out and out muscle car. This didn’t stop America loving it, however. In 1978, a Corvette C3 Coupe served as the official pace car of the Indianapolis 500 in its 62nd running. To celebrate this, each of Chevrolet’s at-the-time 6,502 dealerships in the USA would have one Pace Car Special Corvette for display and sale. This made it a hotly desired collector’s item, and even today fetches a stiff price if you want to have one. By 1982, the last evolution of the C3 had come, and Chevrolet realized that with advancing technology and materials, a new car needed to be made to keep up with competitors. However, as a swan song, the Corvette C3 Collector’s Edition was released in 1982, and was the first Corvette to feature a hatchback. 6,759 were made as they had no cap on availability, out of 1982’s production of 25,407 Corvettes.
Through it’s long, twisting 14 year run, the most Corvettes of any generation were produced, with final numbers at 542,861 ‘Vettes.
In 1984, to match the times, the Corvette C4 was introduced with a sharper, edgier shape than any previous generation. It also came with a new, 350 cubic inch, cross-fire injection V-8 known as the L83. Power was 202 HP and 290 lbs-ft of torque, which disappointed a lot of Corvette enthusiasts wanting the power levels of the 70’s to continue. This was partially resolved with a new L98 350 cubic inch engine in 1985, dropping the cross-fire injection for more standard fuel injection. It developed 230 HP and 330 lbs-ft of torque, allowing for one to light up the rear tires once more. 1986 saw the introduction of the removable roof panel that, in a sense, made the Corvette available as a convertible again. As well, in part to bolster sales and promote the new convertible, the Corvette was again the Indianapolis 500 pace car.
It wasn’t until 1990 that a more powerful Corvette was introduced for the C4 generation, namely the “King of the Hill” edition that was the return of the ZR-1 specification. This version came with a 375 HP, 370 lbs-ft, 350 cubic inch V8 known as the LT5, and it signalled to many that Chevrolet was getting things right again in the engine department. This was followed by the introduction of the LT1 V8 as the standard starting engine for all C4’s in 1992, which was a 300 HP small block that finally married the looks of the C4 with the power many thought it deserved from the start. In 1996, the last year of the C4’s, two special edition cars were made, the Collector’s Edition, and the Grand Sport. Oddly, the Grand Sport was the more powerful of the two, and only 1,000 were made with a LT4 V8 producing 330 HP.
Over the 12 year run of the C4, 358,180 cars were produced.
1997 marked the launch of the C5 generation of Corvette, and it was the first entirely new car since 1953. Almost 10 years of research and development went into the C5, and it showed as the car was an immediate hit with the public. It was modern, it met the design standards of the day, and its looks, even 13 years later, still hold up.
Thankfully, after the lessons from the early years of the C4, the C5 came out of the gate swinging. The now legendary LS1 V-8 was the standard engine, and produced 345 HP and 350 lbs-ft right from the factory. What made it legendary was that it was extremely tuner friendly, and some early C5’s were easily pushing 500 to 600 HP within a few months of the C5 launching. In 1999, Chevrolet introduced the FRC Corvette C5, which came with a permanently fixed roof instead of the removable roof panel. This was meant as a no-frills, down-to-business Corvette meant to shred some pavement.
Then, in 2001, a modern legacy was born. Corvette Chief Engineer Dave Hill premiered the Corvette C5 Z06. A hunkered down, “track ready” Corvette that received an LS6 V8 with 385 HP. Special badges and sill flares that directed cooling air to the rear brakes, as well as a new, sportier exhaust were standard. It only came with a 6 speed manual and a fixed roof. 2003 and 2004, the final two years of C5 production, saw the LS6 engine for the Z06 receive a bit of love, tuning it up from 385 HP to 405 HP from the factory. This also marked the end of an era, as the popup headlights that had existed from the C2 through the C5 were to be no more.
In its 7 years of production, the C5 sold 217,728 units.
2005 started off with a bang, as the Corvette C6 took what was great about the C5, and turned it up to 11. In what would come to be standard, the C6 was developed alongside the C6.R race car, using data and ideas from the racing team to make the road car into a serious muscle car. It worked well, with the new LS2 V-8 engine starting the coupe and convertible models off with 400 HP and 400 lbs-ft of torque. As well, the C6 saw the introduction of a beefier 6 speed manual over the C5, able to handle more power, and a new version of the 4 speed automatic that again could handle more power.
Both of these transmissions led to people wondering if a new Z06 was in the works, and their questions were answered less than a year later with the 2006 Z06 Coupe. An all new, 427 cubic inch V8 known as the LS7 was introduced, with 505 HP and a screaming 7,000 RPM redline. Yet, as tuners began to finagle around under the hood, they were able to get some truly unbelievable numbers in the 600 HP range, and the transmissions could still handle it. While the Z06 was a sales home run, it wasn’t until 2009 that everyone discovered what Chevrolet had been secretly hiding up their sleeves.
The ZR1 badge returned. This time, however, it meant business from the word go. The new LS9 engine was the first to come from Chevrolet with factory forced induction, in the form of a split stage supercharger. This rammed air into the motorsports derived 378 cubic inch V8, producing 638 HP and a bucketload of torque. At the time, it was the single most powerful V8 ever, in any generation of Corvette. It was also, at the time, the most expensive Corvette ever made, with a base price starting at $103,000 in 2009. This was because, despite the power, the car also featured a fully carbon fiber hood, and had composites throughout the body to shed as much weight as possible. The C6 generation lasted until 2013, when Corvette officially turned 60 years old. To close out the model as well as the anniversary, a special edition Anniversary Convertible model was released, with 427 cubic inch engine.
Through its 8 years, the C6 saw 201,735 cars produced.
In 2014, a badge of honor returned to the Corvette brand, with the all new Stingray introduced at the Detroit Auto Show. It immediately resounded well with the crowd, with an angular, aggressive, 21st century look, and a 378 cubic inch V8 called the LT1 that chucked out 460 HP as the base model version. As well, the Corvette C7 brought to the table a new automatic transmission that had 6 speeds and paddle shifts available. The manual transmission gained a gear and came as a 7 speed, which allowed for the early ratios to promote some wild acceleration.
In 2015, much like with the C6, the C7 Z06 came out. Unlike the C6, this Z06 came with a whopping 650 HP from the supercharged LT4 V8. And there was even an options package, known as Z07, which added track-grade splitters, spoilers, tires and wheels that helped the Z06 lap tracks faster than a C6 ZR1. On the mention of a ZR1, in 2019, the last year of the C7, Chevrolet went a bit mad, in the best way possible. The 2019 C7 ZR1 was, still to this day, the most powerful, most expensive, and most bonkers Corvette ever made.
755 HP, 715 lbs-ft of torque, with a supercharger that has 50% more volume than the one on the Z06. It’s so large, in fact, that instead of raising the hood, Chevrolet simply cut a huge hole in it and let the carbon fiber cover of the supercharger poke out. With a long enough road, the C7 ZR1 could top out at 212 MPH. As well, the ZR1 LT4 V8 was so well made that famous Corvette tuner John Hennessey was able to massage a nigh unbelievable 1,200 HP from it for the HPE1200 kit, with minimal internal changes in the engine block.
The C7, despite only having 5 years of life, sold 151,762 units.
2020 saw the introduction of the first ever mid-engined Corvette. After a few delays, and a lot of ceremony, the first production model, VIN 001, rolled off the production line at Bowling Green, Kentucky, on February 3, 2020. It is the first Corvette to come with only a dual-clutch, electronically operated paddle shift manual. Through 8 speeds, the 495 HP from the LT2 V8 can propel the car to 60 MPH in a hair under 3 seconds. It can also cruise for hundreds of miles in 8th gear, and be quiet and comfortable while doing so.
While the C7 ZR1 was called a super car, the C8 is Chevrolet’s first real supercar. Composite materials, exotic electronics, and a low, balanced chassis that takes full advantage of the mid-mounted engine bring the C8 into a range of cars that, just ten years before, would have run circles around it. Now, it can hang with them in the corners, and even pass a few on the straights.
Unfortunately, in the midst of the car being manufactured, the 2020 COVID-19 crisis hit, and factories and manufacturing facilities for parts used in the assembly of the C8 were shut down to prevent the virus outbreak from harming factory workers and staff. Before the shutdowns, and the subsequent announcement from Chevrolet that no more 2020 C8’s were to be made, around 2,700 cars were able to be manufactured and delivered.
When orders resume, it is expected that the 2021 model year C8’s will be on offer.