Chevrolet Corvette is the American take on the European Sportscar- and while it started as a wimpy, scoffed at the underperforming little flop, it has become an American ICON! It was the official car of frickin’ Astronauts. It’s the car equivalent of climbing into a tin can on top of a gagillion pounds of rocket fuel. But this tin can…is made out of fiberglass! This is everything you need to know to get up to speed on the Chevy Corvette. In 1953, General Motors was a big company. As in, literally the largest company in America. But despite the sheer volume of cars they were selling, there was a hole in their catalog: GM didn’t have a sports car. Nobody in Detroit did. Up ‘til then, the whole idea of performance cars was a European thang. Like speedos or hairy armpits. American cars were all about carrying families…That is until GM’s Chief Designer, Harley J. Earl, decided that the time had come for the States to show the Europeans a thing or two. “I’m not European. I don’t plan on being European.” Earl was a sneaky little snake- and he came up with the idea of using a concept car, not just for R&D, but to drum up publicity so the boss couldn’t say no.
Chevrolet Corvette – Watch the video here: Everything You Need To Know | Up to Speed
So he called up one of his designers and he was all: “Bobbie Mac?” “Hey” “Hey, over in Europe, they got a little thing called a ‘sports car’. I think that we need to show the world Chevy can make one”. McLean grabbed a bunch of pre-existing Chevy guts to get the project going. For the engine, he just used a standard Chevy ‘Blue Flame’ inline-six, though he did tune up to make 150 horsepower. Where McLean and Earl did break new ground, was in the body. To keep the cost of the project down, they constructed a body out of a brand-new lightweight material called… Fiberglass? Fiber? Fi-ber-glass. For style points, the new machine was built as a convertible only. And there it was: a concept sports car, from America, set to debut at the 1953 New York Auto Show, and then never be seen again.
But before the still-unnamed concept car even made it to New York, Chevy’s Chief Engineer, Ed Cole, took one look at the finished product and knew the company had to sell it. Chevy’s concept car became, practically overnight, a production car. All it needed was a name. Something that screamed speed, power, and raw coolness. Like a navy warship that was sleeker, smaller, and faster than anything else in the fleet: in other words, a Corvette. “B-7” “Hit! You sunk my Corvette!” The Chevrolet Corvette hit dealerships in 1953. It was the first American sports car built by Americans, for Americans. So obviously, Americans… didn’t buy it. The first Corvettes may have looked cool, but they drove like sh*t. Drivers found the handling to be numb, and the ‘blue flame’ engine was not befitting of a sports car. A sports car without any sportiness is a crummy sports car And it didn’t get anyone to the dealership.
For its first two years, the Vette was kind of a joke. Just like my marriage to Jessica. Hahahaha…Who’s laughing now… So in 1955, Chevy threw out the inline-six and put in a frickin’ V8. Boosting the horsepower up to 195 and blessing the car with that distinctive growl, suddenly the Corvette came alive. In 1956 Chevy added a removable hardtop, and if all that wasn’t enough, Chevy started racing the car that year, too. Racing, and winning. Now Americans took notice. Now the Corvette started selling. Now, the Corvette is becoming more than just a car: it is becoming an American icon.
Sound familiar? As the Chevrolet Corvette is slowly evolving from weird concept to street machine, a young Eastern European immigrant is working his way up the ranks of General Motors. Zora Arkus-Duntov saw the original Chevrolet Corvette concept at the New York auto show, and it was love at first sight. Immediately, he knew it was his destiny to make the Corvette the best car in the world. By the time he worked at GM he had already escaped the Russian revolution, been a gold smuggler and flown fighter planes for the French Airforce. Anything he wanted to do, he would just go for it! The 2nd gen corvette was both better looking and better engineered than the first. Just like I’m much better looking than my older brother. There were a couple of really cool concepts before the final C2 rolled out- first 1959’s Stingray concept racer, and then the Mako Shark in 1961. Zora had contributed so heavily, that he is now referred to as “the father of the Corvette.” Must be nice having one Corvette, not jealous at all. There was one idea, however, for which the brilliant designer and engineer couldn’t get support.
Making the Chevrolet Corvette a Mid-engine car. This would give better weight distribution and blah blah blah, we all know this NOW… but at the time, the team was like: “Zora, we’re not making the think mid-engine. That’s crazy.” “трахать тебя” I was trying to say “F you” in Russian. Hi Putin! The 1963 Sting Ray sold almost fifty percent more units than the previous model, with more than 20,000 sold. It could also make 500hp… in a fiberglass car! Holy SH…nikes.
In 1968, Chevy came out with the next Chevrolet Corvette, the C3. Blessed with a gigantic nose, just like Jessica, the C3 would go on to be the longest-running, and best-selling Corvette of all of them. The records started that very first year, with sales nearing 30,000 units for the first time in Corvette history. In 1980, fifteen years after the C3 was first introduced, Chevy decided to completely redesign the Corvette. Before the Corvette returned in 1984, it was looking like the C4 would finally be mid-engined, just like Zora Arkus-Duntov always wanted. The climate was right; Ferrari and Lamborghini had been building Mid-engined cars for years now, and even Toyota was cooking up a design of their own with the MR2.
It seemed like a natural progression, but there was a problem. Americans have an obsession with V8. I said it: America, you are obsessed with V8s. The only way to put the engine behind a Vette driver was to use a V6 The C4 would be the traditional layout and Zora would have to keep waiting for his dream to come true. Why couldn’t Chevy figure out how to put a V8 behind a guy, but Lamborghini and Ferrari were putting V12s behind them. Just copy what they did! In 1990, Chevy seemed to believe that the Corvette had lost its focus. Chevy was tired of Lamborghini and Ferrari redefining sports cars, so they were like, “F**k it, we’re doing that!” Let’s make the most bad-a** Chevrolet Corvette ever and call it the ZR-1! It featured the LT5 engine- an aluminum 5.7L V8 making 375hp.
The LT-5 was designed with help from Lotus and Mercury Marine. Wait. Mercury Marine? They make boats. whatever, it worked. The ZR-1 was by far the fastest Corvette for sale with a top speed of 172 miles per hour, and the most expensive too, selling for the equivalent of $117 dollars… $117,000 dollars in today’s money. And most importantly: The C4 is also the Barbie Corvette. My sister had a Hotweel of it. Catherine? Boom. Thanks for loaning me your wheels all those years ago. In 1997, The C5 was a top-to-bottom redesign of the Chevrolet Corvette, the biggest shakeup in the car’s history. Every piece was updated or changed, every component got better: better handling, better weight distribution, better everything. Chevy then brought back the Z06 variant, a badge first used on the original Sting Ray. If you were dreaming about the ZR-1 ten years earlier, this was the Vette for you. “It is not for me” In 2005, the sixth-generation Corvette took inspiration from the Z06: The new base model had a 6 liter V8 with 400hp.
But other than a few styling changes, the C6 wasn’t too different than the C5. The next year, the Z06 featured a small-block V8, good for a colossal 505hp, in a Vette! Can’t get better than that, can it? Yes, it can! In 2009, Chevy brought the ZR1 back AGAIN! This time powered by a 6.2L supercharged V8 capable of 638hp! and they were really only competing with themselves. That’s ’cause that’s what you got to do! You put blinders on and you just run the horse. Don’t worry about what this guy is doing over there! Look at the finish line! In 2014, The C7 Vette brought back the Stingray name of olde with an aggressive new face and a brand new engine. The C7 is brutal! It blew everyone’s minds when it first came out. Just like when my friend Chris first came out! We were like: “What?! You get so many, babes!” “Errr, they’re just my friends.” “You can be friends with girls”? And we all grew up a little bit that day.
The base StingRay made 465 horsepower, enough to do 0 to sixty in seconds. That’s as fast as an Audi R8, Porsche 911 Carrera S, and Jaguar F-Type. AND they brought back the Z06 with a supercharged V8 with 650hp! The 2018 model even has an onboard camera that can record your lap times with important stats like cornering forces, acceleration and a map of the track. We live in the fucking future dude. “Hi, welcome to the future” And it doesn’t end there. If spy photos and ‘leaked’ computer designs are to be believed, Chevy is working on a new mid-engine Corvette for 2019. A real prototype has been spotted doing some cold weather testing and being benchmarked against a Porsche 911.
That means Chevy’s serious about making the Chevrolet Corvette a real supercar contender. The best part about this rumor is what the new Corvette might be called: The C8 Zora. Here’s to you, Zora! The Corvette is in a category of its own. An American sports car with no one to play with at home, and disrespected by its peers abroad. But it’s still trying to be the best. So that’s everything you need to know to get Up to Speed on the Corvette. The car’s been around for like, 65 years so obviously we may have missed some stuff.
What was your favorite gen Chevrolet Corvette?
Are you in a Corvette club? Is the Corvette an old man’s car? Do you still pop your collar? Do you wear jean shorts? Do you have white New Balances? Nolan does. Why doesn’t Ford have a Corvette competitor? Funny you should ask, check out my son Nolan’s show “Wheelhouse” where he answers that question. Also, Matt Field’s Chevrolet Corvette FD build: pretty sweet! We got merch! Shop.Donut.Media Get yourself a shirt, get yourself a sticker! I love you!.
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