Chevrolet Corvette

From Academic Kids

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C5 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at the Memphis Motor Speedway, 2004

The Chevrolet Corvette is a sports car first manufactured by Chevrolet in 1953 and is built today exclusively at a General Motors assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was the first all-American sports car built by an American car manufacturer. The National Corvette Museum is also located in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The car is widely regarded as a "poor man's supercar", although the affectation is intended to be complimentary. Corvettes have a long history of melding exceptional handling and brutal amounts of engine power into an affordable package that is drastically less expensive than prestiguous marques with similar abilities. This has understandably led to some scorn of the Corvette by owners of such competing marques, with most of the criticism being aimed at the Corvette's level of refinement. Older generations of the Corvette have been criticized for being brutish when compared to European sports cars, although the C5 and C6 generations seem to have silenced all but the most strident of such critics.

Corvettes tend to emphasize simplicity over technical complexity when it comes to engine power. Where nearly all competing marques rely on smaller-displacement engines with complex, double overhead cams (DOHC), variable valve timing (VVT), four- and five-valve heads, or turbochargers, the Corvette makes just as much or better power using a simple overhead valve (OHV) head with only two pushrod-actuated valves per cylinder, coupled with a larger-displacement engine. The relatively simple pushrod V8 engine is both lighter and physically smaller than the more complex arrangements, as well as cheaper to manufacture. This lack of sophistication is sometimes viewed as a negative by extreme automotive purists, and has fueled the aforementioned "lack of refinement" argument. Regardless of the validity of such criticism, no one can deny the power, efficiency, and affordability of the design.


Early history

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1954 Chevrolet Corvette roadster. 1953 and 1955 models are similar

While the style of a car may be just as important to some as to how well the car runs, automobile manufacturers did not begin to pay attention to car designs until the 1920s. It was not until 1927, when General Motors hired designer Harley Earl, that automotive styling and design became important to American automobile manufacturers. What Henry Ford did for automobile manufacturing principles, Harley Earl did for car design. Most of GM's flamboyant "dream car" designs of the 1950s are directly attributable to Earl, leading one journalist to comment that the designs were "the American psyche made visible." Harley Earl loved sports cars, and GIs returning after serving overseas World War II were bringing home MGs, Jaguars, Alfa Romeos and the like. Earl convinced GM that they needed to build a two-seat sports car. The result was the 1953 Corvette, unveiled to the public at that year's Motorama car show.

Taking its name from the corvette, a small, maneuverable fighting frigate, the first Corvettes were virtually handbuilt in Flint, Michigan in Chevrolet's Customer Delivery Center. The outer body was made out of a revolutionary new composite material called fiberglass, offering the strength of steel without the weight. The tradition continues even today, as no Corvette has ever had anything other than a fiberglass outer skin. Underneath that radical new body were standard Chevrolet components, including the "Blue Flame" inline six-cylinder engine, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, and drum brakes from Chevrolet's regular car line. Though the engine's output was increased somewhat, thanks to a triple-carburetor intake exclusive to the Corvette, performance of the car was decidedly lackluster. Compared to the Ford Thunderbird with its 312 in³ (5.1 L) V8 and British and Italian sports cars of the day, the Corvette was underpowered, required a great deal of effort as well as clear roadway to bring to a stop, and even lacked a "proper" manual transmission. Up until that time, the Chevrolet division was GM's entry-level marque, known for excellent but no-nonsense cars. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Corvette. A Paxton supercharger became available in 1954 as a dealer-installed option, greatly improving the Corvette's straight-line performance, but sales continued to decline.

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1957 Chevrolet Corvette roadster. Fuel-injected models were identified by badging on the side scalloping in the front fenders

GM was seriously considering shelving the project, leaving the Corvette to be little more than a footnote in automotive history, and would have done so if not for two important events. The first was the introduction of Chevrolet's first-ever V8 engine in 1955, and the second was the influence of a Soviet emigre in GM's engineering department, Zora Arkus-Duntov. Arkus-Duntov simply took a 283 in³ (4.6 L) version of the new engine and backed it with a four-speed manual transmission. That modification, probably the single most important in the car's history, helped turn the Corvette from a two-seat curiosity into a genuine sports car and Thunderbird competitor. It also earned Arkus-Duntov the rather inaccurate nickname "Father of the Corvette".


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1958 Chevrolet Corvette roadster.

There have been six generations of the Corvette so far, generally referred to as versions C1 through C6. The first generation started in 1953 and ended in 1962, with the noteworthy addition of optional fuel injection in 1957. This new induction system first saw regular use on a gasoline engine two years prior on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing" roadster. Although the Corvette's GM-Rochester fuel injection system used a single central plunger to feed fuel to all eight cylinders in contrast to a more direct means of delivery with a single plunger for each of the Mercedes' six cylinders, the system nevertheless produced 283 hp (211 kW) from 283 in³ (4.6 L), making it one of the first production engines in history to reach 1 hp/in³ (45.5 kW/L). In 1962, the GM Small-Block was enlarged to 327 in³ (5.4 L) and produced a maximum of 360 hp (268 kW).


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1963 Chevrolet Corvette split-window coupe

The second or mid-year generation, now under the styling direction of Bill Mitchell, started in 1963 and ended in 1967. 1963 would see the introduction of the new Corvette Sting Ray coupe with its distinctive split rear window (discontinued for 1964 over safety concerns) as well as an independent rear suspension. Power for 1963 was at 365 hp (272 kW) hitting 375 hp (280 kW) in 1964.

Four-wheel disc brakes were introduced in 1965, as was a "big-block" engine option (the 396 in³ (6.5 L) V8). Side exhaust pipes appeared on the 1965 Stingray and persisted through 1969. Chevrolet would up the ante in 1966 with the introduction of an even larger 427 in³ (7 L) version, creating what would be one of the most collectable Corvettes ever. 1967 saw a L88 version of the 427 introduced which was rated at 430 hp (321 kW), but unofficial estimates place the actual output at 550 hp (410 kW) or more.

In 2004, Sports Car International named the Stingray number five on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s.


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1968 Chevrolet Corvette roadster

The third generation, patterned after Chevrolet's "Mako Shark" show car, started in 1968 and ended in 1982. This generation has the distinction of being introduced to the motoring public in an unorthodox — and unintended — fashion. 1968 marked the introduction of Mattel's now-famous Hot Wheels line of 1/64-scale die cast toy cars. General Motors had tried their best to keep the appearance of the upcoming car a secret, but the release of the Hot Wheels line several weeks before the Corvette's unveiling had a certain version of particular interest to Corvette fans: the "Custom Corvette", a GM-authorized model of the 1968 Corvette.

In 1969, GM enlarged their small-block again to 350 in³ (5.7 L), and in 1970 the 427 big-block was enlarged to 454 in³ (7.4 L). Horsepower peaked in the 1970 and 1971 models, with the 1970 LT-1 small-block putting out 370 hp (276 kW) and the 1971 454 big-block having its last year of big power with 425 hp (317 kW). In 1972, GM moved to the SAE Net measurement for horsepower (away from the previous SAE Gross standard), which resulted in numerically lower horsepower numbers. Along with the move to unleaded fuel, emission controls, and catalytic converters, horsepower continued to decline and bottomed out in 1975 — the base ZQ3 engine put out 165 hp (123 kW), and the optional L82 engine put out 205 hp (153 kW). Horsepower remained fairly steady for the rest of the C3 generation, ending in 1982 with the 200 hp (149 kW) L83 engine.

Styling changed subtly over the generation. In 1973, the Corvette dropped the front chrome bumpers for a urethane-compound "5 mph" bumper but kept the rear chrome bumpers. In 1974, The rear chrome bumpers became urethane, too, making 1973 the last Corvette model year with any chrome bumpers. 1975 was the last year for the convertible, and 1978 saw the introduction of a glass bubble rear window. In 1980, the Corvette got an integrated aerodynamic redesign that resulted in a significant reduction in drag.


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Chevrolet Corvette C4 at an autocross event

The fourth generation was introduced at the close of 1982 production as a 1984 model and ended in 1996, meaning that there's no such thing as a "1983 Corvette". The C4 corvette is known for its boxy look. In the coupe it also is the first Corvette to have a glass hatchback (except for the 1982 Collector's Edition) for better storage access. It also had all new brakes with aluminum calipers. The Corvette C4 came standard with an electronic dashboard with digital liquid crystal displays for speed and RPM. The C4 was a complete redesign of the previous generation, and the emphasis was on handling. The C4 Corvette was proclaimed the best handling car ever when it was released. This handling came at the expense of a stiff, unforgiving ride. The unit-body frame used in the C4 was also prone to rattles and squeaks due to frame flexing. Also due to the external unit-body frame, the door sills were quite deep and entry and exit were impeded. Lastly, the bumper did not meet federal bumper regulations.


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Corvette ZR-1

In 1990, the Corvette ZR-1 was introduced as a limited-production, high-performance version of the standard Corvette, which contained a special 32-valve overhead cam LT5 engine designed by Lotus Engineering and built by Mercury Marine. One of the fastest street cars ever built up to that time, the final year of ZR-1 production was 1995.

Grand Sport

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1996 Corvette Grand Sport

Chevrolet released the Grand Sport (GS) version in 1996 to mark the end of production of the C4 Corvette. The Grand Sport moniker is a nod to the original Grand Sport model produced in 1963. A total of 1,000 GS Corvettes were produced, 810 as coupes and 190 as convertibles. The 1996 GS came with the high-performance LT4 engine, producing 330 hp (246 kW) and 340 ftlbf (461 Nm) of torque. The Grand Sport came only in Admiral Blue with a white stripe down the middle, and black wheels and red stripes on the front left wheel arch added to its distinctive look.


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Chevrolet Corvette C5 Coupe
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2001 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Chevrolet Corvette C5 Z06 Coupe
Chevrolet Corvette C5 Z06 Coupe

The fifth generation started in 1997 and ended with the 2004 model year. The C5 was a radical change from the previous generation. The car now had a hydroformed box frame, and the transmission was moved to the rear of the car and connected to the engine via a torque tube. Gone were the squeaks and rattles of the C4, and in replacement was an incredibly strong frame that would last for at least two more generations. The new C5 was better in every aspect than the C4 it replaced.

The Corvette's 50th Anniversary was celebrated June 20th and 21st, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee. The venue provided a bonanza of flawlessly restored Corvettes, a chronological display set up by the National Corvette Museum with every model year of the Corvette along with engineering and restoration seminars. The anniversary also brought some Chevrolet Concept Vehicles into focus including the approved-for-production Chevrolet SSR, a combination pickup truck and roadster featuring styling cues from Chevrolet trucks of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Also on hand were several Corvette race cars, including the Corvette SS built by Zora Arkus-Duntov and the C5-R that won at Le Mans. Among the many displays were examples of the 2003 50th Anniversary Edition as well as a few 2004 "Commemorative Edition" Corvettes.

Recently, the factory has expanded to build the Cadillac XLR roadster, which shares its platform with the sixth-generation Corvette. Bowling Green is also home to the Corvette Museum, which celebrates this American automotive icon by displaying in chronological order the various regular production models as well as some unique one-off versions created by Chevrolet. The building in Flint in which the first cars were assembled was spun off with GM's Delphi Electronics division and later donated to GMI/Kettering University in the late 1990s. The building has since been remodeled and is now the C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center, housing the Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry programs. In the garage housing the school's Pontiac Firebird club is a plaque commemorating it as the place where the first Corvette was built.


A successor to the ZR-1 made its debut in 2001 and was called the Z06. Instead of a heavy double-overhead cam engine like the ZR-1, the Z06 used a high-output (LS6) version of the conventional Corvette V8 (LS1). This engine produced 385 hp (287 kW) which was not much more than the old ZR-1, but since it was much lighter, the Z06 was a much faster car. For 2002 onward, the Z06 produced 405 hp (302 kW). The Z06 also came with side mounted brake ducts and an rpm red-line raised by 500 rpm (to 6500 rpm).


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Chevrolet Corvette C5-R's and their Team

The C5-R was a racecar built by GM Racing. It was based on the C5 road car but had an enlarged V8 and different bodywork with exposed headlamps. It is raced in the American Le Mans Series in the GTS Class and has been to four 24 Hours of Le Mans races.


The car's remarkable 2001 racing season produced eight victories in ten races, including an overall win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and a one-two finish in the GTS class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Le Mans wins sparked off a rivalry with Prodrive's Ferrari 550 Maranellos, and both teams have become fan favorites.


In 2002 the C5-R repeated its one-two victory at Le Mans and also dominated the GTS class in the American Le Mans Series. A new transaxle unit replaced the previous year's separate transmission and differential.


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Chevrolet Corvette C5-R 2003 Paint Job

In 2003, additional restrictions were placed on the C5-R to limit power. At the 2003 season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring race, the C5-Rs remained in winning form, with one of them finishing first in class and eighth overall. Also in 2003 the yellow paint was dropped in favor of a special red, white, and blue color scheme to commemerate the Corvette's 50th anniversary. However, at Le Mans the Prodrive Ferraris spoiled the anniversary and hopes for a three-in-a-row victory by winning the GTS class.


In 2004 the yellow paint returned, and after being beaten by the Ferrari 550s at Le Mans in the previous year, the Corvette returned for another one-two finish.


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2005 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe With Z51 Suspension
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2005 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe With Z51 Suspension

The sixth generation Corvette has not changed as much as the previous generation Corvette did. The design engineers tried to perfect, not reinvent, but some still complain that it is challenging to drive in town, on bad roads, and in the rain.

The new C6 gets an overhaul of the suspension geometry, all new bodywork with exposed headlamps (for the first time since 1962), a larger passenger compartment, a larger 6.0 liter engine, and a much higher level of refinement. Overall, it is 5.1 inches (13 cm) shorter than the C5, but its wheelbase has increased by 1.2 inches (3 cm). It is also one inch (2.5 cm) narrower, making for a smaller, sportier Corvette. The reduced dimensions were in response to criticism that the C5 Corvette looked too wide—the new body gives the impression of a much sleeker, faster car. Chevrolet hopes the new design will attract buyers of comparable European sports cars like the Porsche 911, but some purists dislike the new styling. The new 6.0 liter LS2 V8 produces 400 hp (298 kW) at 6000 rpm and 400 lbf.ft (542 Nm) of torque at 4400 rpm. Its red-line is increased to 6500 rpm like the C5 Z06.

The C6 retains its relatively high fuel economy, in part by upshifting to higher gears as soon as possible. Equipped with an automatic transmission, the C6 achieves 18/26 mpg (city/highway), and the manual transmission is slightly better at 18/28. However, some prospective Corvette buyers are suprised to find that the C6's manual transmission is fitted with a lockout device, obligating the driver to shift from 1st directly to 4th when operating at lower RPMs. While this boosts the EPA's derived fuel economy, thus allowing the buyer to avoid paying the "gas guzzler" tax, it is an open secret that more than a few C6 owners with manual transmissions simply have a $20 aftermarket part (CAGS eliminator) fitted to their vehicle to re-enable a normal 1-2-3-4-5-6 sequence at any RPM.


The new Z06 is slated to arrive in 2006 and will have an eight-cylinder, 7.0 L (7,008 cc/427.6 in³) engine codenamed the LS7. Official certified output is 505 hp (376 kW). Dave Hill, the chief engineer for the C6 Corvette, says that it will be a much further departure from the standard Corvettes and more like the C6-R that GM is building for the American Le Mans Series. Its performance is projected to be similar to the Ford GT and the Dodge Viper SRT-10. Official performance figures indicate that the Z06 will hit 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds in first gear.

In addition to the larger engine, the C6 Z06 will have a dry sump oiling system, something typically found only on race cars. Connecting rods made out of exotic titanium further lighten the reciprocating mass of the engine while making them stronger than the steel rods they replace. Altogether, the Z06 model will produce not only more horsepower, it will rev faster and higher than any non-Z06 engine.

In a radical departure from anything Chevrolet has ever done before, the primary structural element of the C6 Z06 will be aluminum instead of steel as on the non-Z06 cars. The hydroformed aluminum frame remains dimensionally identical to its steel bretheren but is significantly lighter. The front fenders are made of carbon fiber to reduce weight, while wider rear fenders allow for the wider tires necessary to deal with the engine's increased power. The Z06 officially weighs 3132 lb (1421 kg), giving it a power to weight ratio of 6.2 lb/hp.

Taken as a whole, the C6 Z06 is very similar to its race-going variant, the C6-R, much more so than the C5 Z06 was to the C5-R. The number of production automobiles from all marques across the globe featuring more than 500 horsepower is small indeed. With an official list price of US$65,800 per unit, it will likely be the only such vehicle in existence with a price tag under US$85,000.


The C6-R was unveiled for its first race at the 2005 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race of the American Le Mans Series. It came in second and third, just behind the new Aston Martin DB9 racecar. It was put on display a week later at the New York International Auto Show next to the Z06.

Later, in the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans, it made up for Sebring by placing first and second in the GT1 car class (5th and 6th overall, a considerably high finish for a GT class car) after a lengthy duel with the Aston Martin team's DBR9 racers.

Oldest surviving unit

The oldest surviving production Corvette[1] ( is serial number E53F001003. This historic, one-time GM "test mule" is the third 1953 Corvette to ever come off the Flint assembly line and is known as "double-o-three" to Corvette enthusiasts.


The Corvette was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year for 1984 and 1998. It has also been on Car and Driver magazine's annual Ten Best list eleven times: the C4 from 1985 through 1989 and the C5 in 1998, 1999, and 2002 through 2004. The new C6 was also named to that list and was nominated for the North American Car of the Year award for 2005.

Automobile Magazine called the Sting Ray the coolest car in history, and Sports Car International placed it at number 5 on their list of the Top Sports Cars of the 1960s.

Corvette as marque

With the move toward rebadging Daewoo cars as budget-priced Chevrolets in Europe, Corvette will become a marque there from 2005 and sold separately from the Korean-built Chevys.


External links

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