15 Legendary Corvettes We'd Love to Drive

Red Sun

Red Sun by M.G. Kafkas (CC BY)

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Red Sun
Red Sun by M.G. Kafkas (CC BY)

Rides of a Lifetime

General Motors has unveiled details about the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, with CNN calling the upcoming model "arguably, the biggest change for the Corvette since the sports car was first introduced in 1953." And as details emerge about the 2020 Corvette Stingray, it got us thinking about the decades of Vettes we'd love to have the chance to drive. Owning would be even sweeter, but who can splurge on a performance sports car when you have to worry about carpool duties, right? Read on for some facts and reviews we uncovered about the Corvettes that make our daydream-worthy list. (And don't forget, the National Corvette Caravan, celebration of "America's Sports Car," will culminate Labor Day weekend at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, itself marking its 25th anniversary.)

Related: Best Mustangs of All Time

1955 Chevrolet C1 Corvette Roadster
1955 Chevrolet C1 Corvette Roadster by Sicnag (CC BY)

1955 Corvette V8

Though the Corvette made its debut in 1953, the first couple of years are generally considered a bit rocky. Purists may balk, but the Corvette 1953 C1, the start of decades of automotive history, was even placed on a 2018 list of "10 Corvettes We Wouldn't Take for Free" by the site HotCars. By the 1955 model, the Corvette finally became a true performance car, with a V8 that allowed it to compete with the European sports cars that had dominated the market.

1957 Chevy Corvette
1957 Chevy Corvette by Chad Horwedel (CC BY)

1957 Corvette

Though the styling of this model year wasn't groundbreaking, it was pivotal for specs including the new Ramjet Fuel Injection, which the National Corvette Museum calls, "at the time, the most advanced performance feature ever offered on an American production engine ... In one bold stroke the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette provided a new dimension of driving pleasure." It was also, the museum noted, a "showstopper for looks, luxury and comfort."

1962 Chevy Corvette
1962 Chevy Corvette by Chad Horwedel (CC BY)

1962 Corvette

This year was highlighted on Autowise's "The Best 11 Years of America's Sweetheart: Corvette" with the following summary by Calvin Escobar: "This year (along with 1961) is one of the most visually striking Corvettes ever produced. This car was caught somewhere between the C1 and C2. She had the front end of earlier years, and the rear end of a C2. And, to really make matters more interesting, the cubes were upped to 327." Beauty and power.

The 1963 Split Window coupe
The 1963 Split Window coupe by George Thomas (CC BY)

1963 Corvette Fuel-Injected Coupe

"Offered for only one year in 1963, the split rear window Corvette coupe is one of the most collectible American cars of all time, and one of the best looking," the New York Daily News said. Edmunds.com agreed, noting, "A full half-century after its debut, the 1963 Corvette coupe remains one of the most alluring automotive designs ever conceived. Razor-sharp fender shapes, a tapered tail and a shark-like mouth make it both gorgeous and aggressive. This was the first fixed-roof Corvette coupe and it remains the most beautiful. It's not just the looks that separate the C2 generation from the original, solid-rear-axle C1. The chassis was all-new, with all-independent suspension incorporating transverse leaf springs that instantly made the Corvette competitive with sports cars from around the world in both comfort for daily use and on-track competition."

1965 Chevy Corvette Stingray
1965 Chevy Corvette Stingray by Chad Horwedel (CC BY)

1965 Corvette Sting Ray

This one is a bit specific — we're talking the black model that gave its name to the mid-1980s TV show called ... "Stingray." For some, the show's drama was all tied up in the sleek look of Ray, Nick Mancuso's title character's ride. But there's something beyond TV glamour, since How Stuff Works also praises the model for its "ferocious" appeal, "with the mid-year debut of a big-block V-8, the 396 Turbo Jet. The Turbo Jet delivered 425 bhp and a thumping 415 pound-feet of torque." Ferocious, indeed. Trivia note: Early on, the cars were called Sting Ray (two words) but on later models, the moniker was condensed to one word: Stingray.

Related: 32 Legendary Vehicles From '70s and '80s TV Shows

1970 Chevy Corvette Stingray
1970 Chevy Corvette Stingray by Chad Horwedel (CC BY)

1970 Corvette Stingray LT-1

This sassy model was prominent on the New York Daily News' list of the "best Corvettes of all time," considered an unmatched combination of power and lightweight construction. Here's how auto writer Brian Leon called it: "Love it or hate it, the curvy C3 Corvette is one of the automotive style icons of the 1970s. Based on the famous Mako Shark concept, the C3 unfortunately fell victim to the oil crisis of 1972, which forced automakers into downsizing engines and power figures for the sake of fuel economy. Luckily, the C3 had a few years to stretch its legs before the downsizing began, and one of the best Corvettes to come out of this generation was the LT-1. Powered by a 350-cubic-inch small block V-8, the LT-1 ran the quarter mile in 14.36 seconds at 101.69-mph, and remains one of the most desirable Corvette trims ever made."

1978 Chevrolet C3 Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica
1978 Chevrolet C3 Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica by Sicnag (CC BY)

1978 Corvette

Car and Driver's chronology of the Corvette noted that this was a special year: "To celebrate the Corvette's 25th anniversary, Chevrolet unveiled the most significant restyling since the '68 model — including a new fastback rear window. The division also produced two special Vettes: a Silver Anniversary model, and a limited-edition replica of the Corvette that paced the '78 Indy 500."

1984 Corvette
Source: The Chevy Store

1984 Corvette

This model marked the debut of the fourth generation of Corvettes. The Living the Dream Corvette Club's website notes that, "The 1984 model carried over the 350 cu in (5.7 L) L83 slightly more powerful (5 bhp) ‘Crossfire' V8 engine from the final 1982 third-generation model. New chassis features were aluminum brake calipers and an all-aluminum suspension for weight savings and rigidity... A new electronic dashboard with digital liquid crystal displays for the speedometer and tachometer was standard." For many, this is a most-familiar model that remained in production for more than a decade.

1990 Corvette ZR-1
Source: CarGurus

1990 Corvette ZR-1

This model, Road & Track states, was "hot stuff on any continent," featuring a 5.7-liter aluminum V8, allowing MotorWeek to get it up to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. "But it wasn't all about straight-line speed, either. The ZR-1 was also noted for its agility and predictable handling."

Buchanan Corvette Show 2012
Buchanan Corvette Show 2012 by Jerry Edmundson (CC BY)

1997 Corvette C5

Here's how Edmunds.com profiled this pivotal model: "While the C4 generation Corvette was capable, it wasn't until the C5 came along in 1997 that Chevrolet finally produced a Corvette that mixed both performance capability and true touring comfort. The C5 was the first Corvette that was as comfortable crossing the country as dicing for position on a racetrack." The balance, it seems, is thanks to a revised structure featuring an all-new backbone frame.

DSC_1189 by Branndon Winters (CC BY)

2002 Corvette Z06

This model was selected as one of the "Top 10 Corvette Models of All Time" by Money Inc. Writer Nat Berman said that the Z06 "transported the car into the modern era with refined interior, smooth styling and added technology. No top 10 list is complete without mentioning the Z06, a performance bargain that ranks with some of the best cars ever. The 2002 model featured a new 5.7-liter LS6 V8 with 385-horsepower in 2002 and 405-horsepower in the coming years. The 0-60 time was 3.9 seconds and the stick custom Goodyear tires with lightweight technology and stiffer suspension resulted in exceptional handling."

2005 Corvette C6
Source: carsforsale.com

2005 Corvette C6

Sometimes it is about the little things that make a big difference in appearance — and appeal. Roadshow by CNET tells us that, visually, the C6 "that arrived for 2005 is most easily distinguished from its predecessor with fixed headlights in place of the pop-ups that were a Corvette staple for more than 40 years." It also says that a larger cabin improved passenger comfort and the model also offered navigation for the first time. In addition, the convertibles had the first power-top option since 1962.

2009 Corvette ZR1
2009 Corvette ZR1 by Abdullah AlBargan (CC BY)

2009 Corvette ZR1

Roadshow by CNET noted that, "The C6 generation of the Corvette also included the reintroduction of the ZR1 model in 2009. Internally known at GM as ‘Blue Devil,' the super Vette used a supercharged engine with 638 horsepower giving it a top speed of 205 mph." In press materials at the time, Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager, said, "Chevrolet's goal with the new ZR1 is to show what an American supercar can deliver, at a price that trumps exotics that cost two, three or four times as much — and does so with exceptional driveability."

2012 Grand Sport Corvette Centennial Edition
2012 Grand Sport Corvette Centennial Edition by hedrives (CC BY)

2012 Corvette Centennial Edition

To honor Chevrolet's centennial, a limited-edition Corvette model was released with plenty of fanfare, while a centennial package was also available on all models. Of the special model, a Road & Track feature by Matt DeLorenzo noted, "The Centennial Edition comes in one color, Carbon Flash Metallic, with satin-black graphics, satin black wheels and red brake calipers giving the car a sinister look." Who doesn't like to be bad sometimes?

Chevy Corvette Stingray Z06
Chevy Corvette Stingray Z06 by Chad Horwedel (CC BY)

2017 Z06 Corvette

CorvSport, the "Corvette Blog for Obsessed Fans," put this on its list of the "Oh So Greats" (all-time best) list by Scott Kolecki, who writes, "Corvette is best measured by its power and its drivability, then there is no argument that one of the greatest of all Corvettes is also one of the newest. Since its introduction in 2015, the C7 Z06 Corvette has been pushing the envelope of power and performance both on and off the racetrack. The car boasts 650 horsepower, 650 lb.-ft. or torque and a zero-to-60 time of just 2.95 seconds."

With the recent unveiling of the new 2020 Corvette Stingray — which we'd also love to drive if given the chance — the company shows no signs of slowing down the production of innovative legends.