For almost 70 years, the Chevrolet Corvette has stood at the top of America’s sports car pyramid. Sure, the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and Chevrolet Camaro, among others, are exceptional performance cars in their own rights. Yet, the Corvette has never gone out of production, like the Challenger and Camaro, or been reinterpreted as a neutered economy car, like the second-generation Mustang in the 1970s.
You can also argue that the Ford GT and GT40 supercars out-perform ordinary Corvettes. However, these Ford vehicles were expensive, limited production models, whereas the Corvette is a sports car for everyman. It’s this accessibility that makes used Corvettes so popular among enthusiasts and collectors. Add in relatively straightforward mechanicals and readily available parts, and it’s easy to see why Vettes remain popular in the used car scene.
So whether you are considering a Corvette for the first time or have drooled over one from high school days, knowing a thing or two about this Chevy can help your search of used Corvettes for sale. Of course, numerous authors have written extensive books about the Corvette, but we’ll keep things simple with a look at the essentials. We’ll begin with a brief history of how the Corvette came into being and a quick overview of classic Vettes from the 20th century. However, we’ll dive a bit deeper into 21st-century models that are ideal for daily driver duty and weekend adventures.
The Origins of the Chevrolet Corvette
Seeking to cash in on the post-World War II boom times in the U.S., General Motors looked to create a halo car that was vastly different than anything on the market. This was also an era when millions of American soldiers had returned home after seeing small European roadsters from Austin, Triumph, and a host of other brands.
Keeping this in mind, but seeking something better suited for more spacious roads and American tastes, Chevrolet introduced a plus-sized (compared to Europe’s tiny convertibles) roadster in 1953. Named after a small and maneuverable navy ship, the first-generation Corvette was available only as a convertible. Chevrolet made the Corvette’s body from fiberglass instead of steel to reduce weight and improve performance, a first for a major automaker. This tradition of a non-metal exterior continues into today as Corvette bodies now mainly consist of plastic composite.
20th-Century Corvette Generations
Corvette C1: 1953–1962
The first-generation Corvette is among a handful of quintessential cars that captured the free-spirited and driver-oriented lifestyle of the 1950s. Suburbs were booming, and families were growing, but some drivers wanted nothing to do with boring hardtop coupes or four-door sedans. The C1 started out with an inline six-cylinder, but a few years into production, Chevy swapped this engine out for a V-8 and never looked back.
Corvette C2: 1963–1967
Facing competition from the first generation Ford Thunderbird, Chevy engineers sought to create a new Corvette that would not only stand out in a sea of convertibles and coupes but emphasize speed and performance. In 1963, the all-new Corvette coupe also launched a legendary name, Sting Ray (which would later become Stingray in the C3). The first-year C2 would also be well known for another reason, the split rear window. This window design would disappear in future C2s making the ‘63 Vette a highly collectible car. A convertible version of the C2 was available, and generational improvements eventually included an L88 engine making 430 horsepower (HP).
Corvette C3: 1968–1982
While still based on C2 mechanicals, the redesigned C3 is known for several firsts. These accomplishments include the first use of T-tops on a Corvette and the release of specialty models like the ZR-1 and Z07. The venerable 350 cubic-inch V-8 became standard power, and engine upgrades included the LT1 making 370 HP and a 454 cubic-inch big-block rated for 390 HP. In 1981, production moved to a Corvette-exclusive facility in Kentucky that remains the sole factory for building Corvettes. It’s noteworthy that the C3 has the longest run of any Corvette generation.
Corvette C4: 1984–1996
Given the longevity of the C3, General Motors wanted a top-to-bottom redesign for the C4 Corvette. This complete do-over meant there was no consumer edition of the Corvette for 1983, but a few test vehicles carried the 1983 model year designation. So, technically, Corvette production has never skipped a year. High-tech features like digital instrumentation meant the Corvette was ready for the future while a sleek, all-new design still gave hints about the car’s heritage. The C4 generation saw noteworthy variants, including the ZR-1, 40th Anniversary edition, and the Grand Sport.
Corvette C5: 1997–2004
Following another long run of Corvettes with the C4, GM again launched an all-new Vette for 1997 with the C5. Angular body shapes gave way to a curvy yet muscular exterior that produced an impressive 0.29 drag coefficient. Other improvements included a near-perfect weight distribution close to 50-50. Other engineering advancements centered on the new small-block LS1 V-8 that would produce 350 HP. The same engine would serve as the base for the LS6 engine used in the Z06 Corvette, which eventually reached 405 HP in the later years of the C5. Because of its modern design, inside and out, the C5 was the perfect Corvette to bridge two centuries.
21st-Century Corvette Generations
Corvette C6: 2005–2013
For the most part, the sixth-generation Corvette is considered a reworked C5, and that’s a good thing. The redesigned body combined with mechanicals largely carried over from its predecessor means the C6 has a rock-solid reputation for reliability. For many enthusiasts, the C6 is the “sweet spot” for Corvette ownership. It’s new enough to benefit from modern technology, has a design that still comes across as contemporary, and benefits from a decent amount of depreciation.
Depending on the model year, base engine power (coming from the 6.0-liter LS2 V-8) is rated for 400-430 HP. Step up to the Corvette Z06, and you’ll be treated to 505 HP and 470 lb-ft of torque thanks to a 7.0-liter V-8. Ultimate C6 performance comes in the form of the Corvette Z51, which includes numerous performance and suspension upgrades centered around a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 making 638 HP and 604 lb-ft of torque. Mashing the accelerator on a ZR1 can mean hitting 60 mph from a standstill in 3.8 seconds. This is supercar territory.
Corvette C7: 2014–2019
Chevy used a clean slate when redesigning the seventh-generation Vette to attract a more youthful Corvette customer. The C7’s in-your-face looks are hard to ignore, and that’s precisely what GM wanted. Along with the Corvette’s traditional dollar-per-horsepower value now comes a refined and sophisticated sports car that could proudly stand against same-class vehicles from Europe and Japan. Everything about the C7 was better than its predecessors: performance, handling, and amenities. We also see the return of the Stingray label as the Corvette C7 could be purchased in base Stingray, Stingray Z51, or Stingray Z06 trim. Starting with the 2017 model year, the Corvette was available in a Grand Sport trim that featured more aerodynamic bodywork and track-focused mechanicals.
Corvette C7 power begins with the 6.2-liter V-8 making 455 HP and 460 lb-ft of torque for the Stingray and Stingray Z51. Step up to the Corvette Stingray Z06, and this V-8 becomes supercharged and cranks out 650 HP and 650 lb-ft of torque. Of course, the ultimate C7 experience is all about the ZR1 and a neck-snapping 755 HP and 715 lb-ft of torque.
Corvette C8: 2020–present
The idea of a mid-engined Corvette dates back to the early days of the car’s creation, but the concept never became a reality until the launch of the C8. Finally, the Vette has a configuration equal to the world’s best sports cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren. Along with the most radical redesign in the car’s history comes a significant upgrade in refinement and attention to detail. Yet, the C8’s secret sauce is engineering similar to more exotic offerings but is still well-suited for everyday use. A great “bang for your buck” has always been a Corvette hallmark. The Stingray label returns for the eighth-generation Corvette, as do the 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT trim levels.
With the mid-engine C8, we can no longer talk about what’s “under the hood” but instead have to say “under the rear deck.” Power comes from a reworked 6.2-liter V-8 that began as the LT1 in the C7 Vette. Now called the LT2, this engine makes 490 HP and 465 lb-ft of torque. Step up to the Z51 Performance package, and the horsepower is bumped up by five. Car and Driver reports a mind-blowing 2.8 seconds for the C8 to hit 60 mph from a standstill. Amazingly, Chevy is working on even faster variants as industry rumors expect Z06 and ZR1 Corvettes to hit the streets in the coming years.
Understanding Corvette Models and Trim Levels.
Even long-time Corvette fans can be overwhelmed by the alphabet soup of available configurations. For example, in the C8, LT2 refers to the engine, while 2LT is the trim level. We’ll look at some general explanations of Corvette trims and configurations from the most recent generations to reduce confusion. Specific equipment will vary from generation to generation and year to year, but here’s a brief overview.
Corvette 1LT: 1LT is the base trim level for a Corvette and includes all standard equipment. For the C8, the standard Vette is the Stingray 1LT.
Corvette 2LT: As the mid-tier trim, a 2LT Vette typically benefits from seat and technology upgrades.
Corvette 3LT: A Vette in 3LT trim signifies a car with all the bells and whistles, including top-line cabin materials and all the extras found in the 2LT. Some years of the C6 had a 4LT trim level.
Stingray: The Stingray term dates back to the early years of the Vette and has been used off and on as a name added to the Corvette. In the case of the C7 and C8, Stingray applies to the base model.
Z51 Performance: Almost worthy of being its own trim level, the storied Z51 option has always been about making the Corvette even more of a driver’s car. Package features may include improved wheels and tires, upgraded brakes and suspension, and enhanced engine output. For many, the Stingray Z51 2LT is the perfect match of features and performance.
Z06: Depending on our perspective, the Z06 is either a full-fledged Corvette model or an add-on package. No matter how you look at it, a Z06 is centered around an engine upgrade that goes well beyond base model performance. Varying by year, the Z06 may also have its own trim level options that differ from the standard LT range.
ZR1: The ZR1 is the ultimate Corvette model that usually makes the Z06 look tame by comparison. Over-the-top horsepower is just one ZR1 signature that goes hand-in-hand with unique chassis and brake upgrades.
Looking for a used Stingray Z06 3LT or another model? Then Look At Our Huge Selection of Used Chevrolet Corvettes for Sale Please note that our inventory changes frequently and is subject to prior sale. Be sure to ask us about incoming used Chevrolet Corvette models.
Buy a Used Chevrolet Corvette at Trust Auto
The most challenging thing about used Corvette shopping at Trust Auto is choosing which one to buy. From the Stingray to the ZR1, Corvettes are a specialty for us. And we only offer models that represent the perfect blend of performance and value. It’s the reason that car shoppers from far and wide travel to Trust Auto in Sykesville.
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