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The Top Ten Best Corvettes Of All Time

by Ryan ZumMallen on

There is no greater symbol of the American sports car than the Chevrolet Corvette, and with a brand new Z06 model quickly approaching in the next few weeks, we thought it appropriate to look back and name the ten greatest Corvettes ever made. Anyone who has an inkling of love for a V8 two-seater will surely recognize the beasts below, and we want to know your favorites. What did we get right? What did we miss? Check out our list and let us know how you feel in the Comments. Here’s to a new member of the pantheon in 2014.

1953 Corvette C1: The one that started it all, the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette didn't exactly look like a star right out of the gate. It sported an all-fiberglass body and an inline-six engine with 150 horsepower, with a standard Chevy suspension and automatic transmission – not exactly imposing figures, even at the time. But get the O.G. Vette on a curvy road and it became apparent that this would be something special. The C1 had excellent balance, and you can’t deny its beautiful lines. Chevrolet made 300 roadsters and fans waited for the Corvette to mature.
   
1955 Corvette V8: With interest lagging in the two-seater, General Motors took a chance and added an optional 265ci V8 engine with 195 horsepower to the ’55 Vette. It finally backed up the Corvette’s sporting promise, and you could also opt for a three-speed manual instead of the two-speed Powerglide automatic. With this model year, the Corvette took a sweeping turn away from glitzy glider and toward serious performance machine. Sales continued to crawl, but it wouldn't be long before Chevrolet figured out a formula that would prove irresistible.
   
1963 Corvette C2 Sting Ray: This was the big bombshell. For 1963, the Corvette saw all kinds of changes. You had a brand new striking design, the first Corvette coupe ever, the first and only year of the iconic split-window design, the first hideaway headlights and an optional fuel-injected V8 with 360 horsepower. The C2 introduced the Corvette Sting Ray name, too, which offered a graceful aura to the car that could finally back it up with better balance, lighter curb weight and independent rear suspension. Unveiled alongside a crew of radical racecar concepts, General Motors left no doubt that they were now making the Corvette a priority.
   
1967 Corvette 427 L88: Chevrolet pulled out all the stops to bid farewell to the C2 body style, and in doing so, creating one of the most coveted and classic Corvettes ever made. The 1967 Corvettes introduced four red circular taillights, a feature that would remain all the way up until 2013, and packed an even bigger punch under the hood. Buyers could opt for a 427 V8 with 435 horsepower known as the L88, of which only 20 were ordered. If you were lucky enough to get one, you might find that the engine actually pushed out up to 560 hp. Chevrolet got sneaky here, downplaying the performance and offering it only in secret code to evade government regulations. This only added to its desirability, and earlier this year a ’67 L88 convertible sold for $3.2 million.
   
1969 Corvette ZL-1: Corvette owners wanted performance, but Chevrolet went way overboard with this one. In the second year of the C3 body style, they released the 1969 Corvette with a ZL-1 option that sported a 7.0L V8 engine making over 500 horsepower. They only ever made two, partly because they only needed two to qualify the Corvette for racing and mostly because the ZL-1 option more than doubled the price of the car. That made it asinine at the time, but extremely valuable down the road. Like, over $1 million valuable. The ZL-1 also boasted upgraded brakes, tires, suspension and transmission and is one of the most elusive Vettes ever – practically more ghost than car.
   
1970 Corvette ZR-1: The first of many hi-po Vettes to wear this designation, the 1970 ZR-1 tried to keep the fun alive as government regulations threatened to strangle the muscle out of American cars. Chevrolet only made 53, equipped with the small-block LT1 V8 engine and a litany of other upgrades to the brakes, transmission, suspension and more. The era of malaise set in, but it was cars like the very rare ZR-1 that kept the dream alive for future generations.
   
1990 Corvette ZR-1: After two decades of suffocating restrictions, the sports car spirit returned with the 1990 Corvette ZR-1, breathing life into American muscle as well as the already six-year old C4 design. Lotus built the aluminum-block V8, a 5.7L unit with 375 horsepower named the LT5, and assisted with handling and other performance aspects as well. That made the ZR-1 an absolute monster on both drag strips and racetracks, and buyers responded. Chevrolet made the ZR-1 until 1995 but the excitement surrounding that first run – and the era of true tire-shredding Corvettes it inspired – might never be duplicated.
   
2002 Corvette Z06: A few years into the run of the C5 Corvette, the new Z06 made the most out of the new model meant to refocus on excellent balance and handling to rival its Japanese and European counterparts. A revised version of the LS1 small-block V8, dubbed the LS6, put out 405 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft of torque. It wasn't the most powerful Corvette ever, but it was the most refined and quickest with an unreal 3.9-second run from 0-60 mph. Lighter components made the Z06 extremely nimble, and restored its reputation as a value compared to imported sports cars.
   
2009 Corvette ZR1: Now with a firmly established sporting credential, the C6 Corvette boasted increased performance and an even more extreme Z06 model. The stakes had been raised substantially, with customers expecting a lot of performance out of Corvettes and competition from the Nissan GT-R breathing heavily down GM’s neck. What they responded with is the most powerful Corvette ever, a supercharged LS9 V8 engine with 638 horsepower and more than 600 pavement-churning lb.-ft of torque. With a sinister “Blue Devil” code name and nearly $100,000 pricetag, it aimed at the likes of true exotics and ended up becoming one itself.
   
2014 Corvette Stingray: With the formula down pat, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray aimed to bring back some of the old luster of the C2 Sting Ray, further refine its sporting dynamics and offer an interior to match the performance. It’s hard to argue that they achieved their goals, as the Stingray is a monumental achievement and perhaps the closest that GM has ever come to perfecting their two-seat V8 combination. It features an all-aluminum chassis and electric power steering, plus a 6.2L V8 engine with 450 horsepower and 450 lb.-ft of torque. It brought the Corvette story to a full circle, and set the stage for one of the most anticipated American sports cars ever in the 2015 Z06 that we’ll see very soon. The story of the Corvette is rich in history, but still full of promise.

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