The Baddest Corvette From Each Generation - SUV VEHICLE

The Baddest Corvette From Each Generation

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The Chevrolet Corvette isn’t just the first American sports car, but also an automotive icon and one of the longest-lasting nameplates in the industry. Though the ‘Vette has changed shape many times across seven decades and eight generations, the one thing that has remained constant is the high performance of the Chevy two-seater. Well, that, and the fact that the Corvette is always the baddest thing on the road, no matter what era it is in. Since the beginning, all other cars have been chasing the Corvette.




The term “baddest” is highly suggestive and could mean anything, but for our purposes, it is a superlative quality of being able to embarrass everything and anything at a red light challenge or a straight track match. The Corvette never had a generation without a 13-second or better car, except the C1 that just missed it with a 14.1 quarter-mile, which no other performance nameplate can claim. Since the Corvette is the baddest of the bad, here are the most wicked rides from every generation of its storied history.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Chevrolet, and other authoritative sources, including Car and Driver, MotorTrend, and Automobile Catalog.

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1 1962 Fuel-Injected 327 Corvette

C1: 1953-1962

1962 Chevy Corvette convertible
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Introduced for the 1953 model year, the Corvette was a two-seat convertible with fiberglass body panels, and the first true American sports car. It wasn’t an immediate success, moving just 300 units that first year because it didn’t seem to have a practical purpose. Eventually, people figured out that riding around and looking cool was a practical use for a vehicle and it took off. The original ‘Vette came equipped with a 150-horsepower 235ci inline-six engine, which wasn’t the sportiest thing under a hood.

Power and Performance

Engine

327ci fuel-injected V-8

Horsepower

360 HP

Torque

352 LB-FT

Transmission

Four-speed manual

0-60 Time

5.5 seconds

Quarter-mile

14.1 seconds

Top Speed

147 MPH


(Performance stats sourced from Automobile Catalog)

Eventually, Chevy figured out that people looked a lot cooler in a Corvette if it was going fast and began equipping them with V-8s. The 327 debuted in 1962 and came with four different power outputs. The base model with a single four-barrel carburetor produced 240 horsepower and there were 300 horsepower and 340 horsepower versions that utilized hydraulic lifters. The top dog 327 was a fuel-injected 360-horsepower menace, that made the ’62 the fastest ‘Vette of the time as well as the quickest car on the road.

2 1967 Corvette Sting Ray L88

C2: 1963-1967


The C2 generation, beginning in 1963, is a favorite for collectors and fans alike, because it was when the Corvette truly established itself as the premier American performance vehicle. Though it was called a Sting Ray, it was anything but fishy, employing an interstellar design to coincide with the space race of the 1960s. The 327 became the standard engine, which they were able to squeeze 375 ponies out of, and in 1965 a 425 horsepower 396ci V-8 became available.

Power and Performance

Engine

427ci L88 V-8

Horsepower

435 HP

Torque

450 LB-FT

Transmission

Four-speed manual

0-60 Time

4.7 seconds

Quarter-mile

11.3 seconds

Top Speed

151 MPH


(Performance stats sourced from Car and Driver)

For the 1966 model year, the legendary 427 was available, and by 1967, it was fine-tuned into a racing engine anyone could buy. The best of the best 427, was the L88, which used the Tri-Power 3X2-barrel carburetors arrangement to generate 435 horsepower, though realistically, it probably made closer to 560 horsepower.

Chevy required everyone who optioned the L88 to also upgrade to Positraction, heavy-duty suspension, and power brakes. The cost of all the options was a deterrent and only 20 customers ordered a ’67 Sting Ray 427 L88, making it one of the most collectible ‘Vettes ever.

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3 1969 Corvette ZL1

C3: 1968-1982

1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL1 Convertible
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The C3 third generation Corvette got a radical restyling with the Mako Shark body, that would come to embody the Chevy sports car for over a decade. The chassis and most of the engines rolled over from the C2 gen, but the interiors were all new, and a T-Top was introduced. The 350 replaced the 327 as the standard engine, though it still made the same 300 horsepower as its predecessor. The C3s would once again carry the Sting Ray name, though for unknown reasons, it was shortened to the one-word “Stingray.”

Power and Performance

Engine

427ci V-8

Horsepower

430 HP

Torque

450 LB-FT

Transmission

Four-speed manual

0-60 Time

4.0 seconds

Quarter-mile

11.0 seconds

Top Speed

170 MPH


(Performance stats sourced from MotorTrend)

Easily the baddest of this generation was the 1969 ZL1. The performance option included an all-aluminum 427ci V-8 that cranked out 430 horsepower and made the ‘Vette an 11-second car. This option was pricey, costing $4,700, when the base price of a ’69 Corvette was only $4,781. As such, not many people bought these, with estimates being in the two-to-three-unit range. In 2023, an orange 1969 Corvette ZL1 sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction for $3.14 million.

4 1995 Corvette ZR-1

C4: 1984-1996

1995 Corvette ZR-1
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Due to some miscalculations and unfortunate circumstances, the Chevy Corvette was not produced for the 1983 model year and would have to wait for 1984 to unleash the C4 fourth generation. The toned-down styling is not everyone’s favorite, but it was necessary because the C3 was a relic with ancient components, bumper-to-bumper.

The modern C4 saved the ‘Vette from extinction with an updated chassis, suspension, and drivetrain. Unfortunately, this new era did not emphasize performance and the ’84 Corvette came equipped with a sorry detuned 205-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8.

Power and Performance

Engine

5.7-liter V-8

Horsepower

405 HP

Torque

385 LB-FT

Transmission

Six-speed manual

0-60 Time

4.9 seconds

Quarter-mile

13.1 seconds

Top Speed

180 MPH


(Performance stats sourced from American Muscle Car Museum)

The 5.7-liter engine was the only size available for the entire C4 generation, but there were versions of it that put a lot more ‘go’ under the Corvette’s hood. General Motors acquired Lotus in 1986 and almost immediately Chevy tapped the British automaker to help them develop the world’s fastest production car.

The result was the LT-5 aluminum-block V-8 that pulled an insane amount of horsepower out of those 5.7 liters. Equipped in the ZR-1 beginning in 1990, by 1995 that engine was cranking out 405 horsepower and rocketing the Corvette to 180 miles per hour.

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5 2002 Corvette Z06

C5: 1997-2004

Yellow 2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 C5
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The fifth generation C5 Corvette was a ground-up redesign with a much more attractive body style from the previous gen. It was originally scheduled to debut in 1993 to celebrate the Corvette’s 40th anniversary, but financial issues and turmoil at GM delayed it until 1997. At least Chevy didn’t cancel production like they did in 1983 between the C3 and C4, because four years without a new ‘Vette would have been a full-blown crisis. The new-gen retained the 5.7-liter engine as standard, but, of course, produced various high-performance versions of it.

Power and Performance

Engine

5.7-liter V-8

Horsepower

405 HP

Torque

400 LB-FT

Transmission

Six-speed manual

0-60 Time

4.2 seconds

Quarter-mile

12.5 seconds

Top Speed

180 MPH


(Performance stats sourced from MotorTrend)

The Z06 replaced the SR-1 as the top performance trim and was a nod to the classic 1963 C2 version of the Corvette. The 2002 Z06 was equipped with a 405 horsepower 5.7-liter V-8, which was the same power output as the C4 ZR-1. The Z06, however, was much faster because it weighed substantially less, thanks to the lightweight hydroformed box frame of the new generation. The Z06 outperformed the ZL-1 in every performance category, with the exception of top speed, tying with its forefather in MPH.

6 2009 Corvette ZR1

C6: 2005-2013

Blue Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
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The mid-2000s saw the rebirth of American performance and the dawn of the modern muscle car era, with the reboots of the Hemi-powered Dodge Charger and Challenger, as well as the Chevy Camaro getting back to its speed roots. The Corvette has been the leader in American performance, and for the C6 sixth generation, shot out from the pack with their greatest models in decades. The sleek new design, with sexy curves, was one of the best-looking ‘Vettes in history, and the standard 400 horsepower 6.0-liter V-8 put all other performance vehicles on notice.

Power and Performance

Engine

6.2-liter supercharged V-8

Horsepower

638 HP

Torque

604 LB-FT

Transmission

Six-speed manual

0-60 Time

3.6 seconds

Quarter-mile

11.2 seconds

Top Speed

205 MPH


(Performance stats sourced from Car and Driver)

The ZR1 returned as the top performance trim, though it lost the dash between the R and the 1, much like how the Sting Ray became the Stingray many years earlier. Chevy began developing a hyper-powered ‘Vette under the code-named “Blue Devil,” and it was the worst-kept top-secret project ever.

Though there was a lot of erroneous information flying around, the automotive press was well aware that something awesome was coming. The 2009 ZR1 didn’t disappoint with a 638 horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, capable of blink-of-an-eye quarter-mile runs and 200+ MPH top speeds.

7 2019 Corvette ZR1

C7: 2014-2019

Orange 2019 Chevrolet Corvette C7 ZR1
Mecum


As awesome as the Corvette has been through every generation, it developed a reputation as being an “old man’s toy”, so for the C7 seventh generation, launched in 2014, Chevrolet gave it a modern make-over with GT and supercar styling cues. The result is arguably the most killer-looking ‘Vette to date. Gone were the minimalist smooth curves the Corvette has been known for, replaced by aggressive angles and creases, making it angrier in attitude and appearance.

Power and Performance

Engine

6.2-liter supercharged V-8

Horsepower

755 HP

Torque

715 LB-FT

Transmission

Eight-speed automatic

0-60 Time

3.0 seconds

Quarter-mile

10.8 seconds

Top Speed

212 MPH


(Performance stats sourced from Car and Driver)

Making a car that looks like it can kick some ass without some ass-kicking under the hood would be pointless, so the C7 came standard with a 460-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8. With an already impressive starting point, the 2019 ZR1 escalated the performance of that 6.2-liter, by adding a 2.6-liter Eaton supercharger, generating an unholy 755 horsepower. The ZR1 also had an available aero package with a large rear wing, front splitter, and underbody spoiler, turning it into a serious track superstar race car.

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8 2023 Corvette Z06

C8: 2020-Present

Yellow Metallic Corvette C8 Z06
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The 2020 C8 eighth-generation Corvette was the culmination of a 70-year journey from America’s first sports car to America’s first major manufacturer supercar. Bucking the seven previous generation trends, the C8 moved from a front-engine performance vehicle to a mid-engine hyper-performance car. Coupled with styling, while still Corvette-esque, that conjures up European supercars, the newest version looks to take on the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Bugattis of this world.

Power and Performance

Engine

5.5-liter V-8

Horsepower

670 HP

Torque

460 LB-FT

Transmission

Eight-speed dual-clutch

0-60 Time

2.6 seconds

Quarter-mile

10.5 seconds

Top Speed

189 MPH


(Performance stats sourced from Car and Driver)

Keeping in line with its overseas competition, the latest-gen Corvette comes standard with a 490-horsepower naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8. Blowing that competition away, the 2023 Z06 is fitted with a 670-horsepower 5.5-liter V-8, which is the most powerful naturally aspirated engine in the world. There is a hybrid E-Ray, debuting in 2024, that is reportedly quicker, but ICE is cooler than electricity, so the Z06 is the baddest of the C8 generation, and the fastest Corvette ever made.

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