1953 - current
cor·vette -noun -a lightly armed, fast ship used mostly for convoy escort and ranging in size between a destroyer and a gunboat.
Corvette -noun -a series of 2-seat sports cars produced by Chevrolet which produce immense pride in owners, and intense jealosy in non-owners.
This is the car that started a legend: the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette. The convertible body was constructed of fiberglass, and the only available color scheme was a Polo White exterior with a Red interior. The only engine offered was a "Blue Flame" inline six-cylinder, and the only transmission was a Powerglide two-speed automatic. Despite anemic performance and some dismal sales figures in the early years, Chevrolet persisted and now it's a legend.
There are many web sites devoted to this car and I won't try to duplicate them. Instead, I'd just like to show a picture of each model with some comments about the major appearance changes as the years progressed.
Click here to see a family portrait of all seven generations.
At the bottom of this page are links to other Corvette web sites.
The Chevrolet Corvette was introduced for the 1953 model year, with styling almost unchanged from the 1952 EX-122 show car.   The first Corvettes were produced in Flint, Michigan, but Corvette production was moved from Flint to a GM Assembly Division plant in St. Louis, Missouri, in December, 1953.
|Single headlamps, recessed into the fenders, covered with a wire mesh stone guard. |
Rounded rectangular grille opening. The horizontal center bar has 13 prominent vertical 'teeth.'
|Flat - no coves.
||'Bullet' taillights protruding from the fenders.|
Exhaust is ported through the bumperettes below both taillights.
|Single headlamps protruding from the fenders: stone guards are gone.|
The 13-tooth grille continues.
|Coves are introduced on front fenders and doors; often painted white.
||Taillights are recessed into the fenders.|
Exhaust continues to be ported through vertical bumperettes.
|Dual headlamps are introduced.|
The grille is narrower with only 9 teeth now instead of the previous 13. The grille was narrowed in order to make room for additional air inlets above and below the bumper under the headlights.
||Outboard bumperettes are horizontal.
|The 'teeth' are removed from the grille.
||Coves are continued.
||New rear end that foretells the C2 "Sting Ray" model: A single horizontal 'crease' runs from the top of one rear wheel opening, across the rear of the car to the top of the other rear wheel opening. |
'Quad' taillights are introduced, which have become a consistent design feature on all subsequent 'Vettes.
Exhaust ports are moved to the panel below the bumper.
Other photos of C1 Corvettes.
Concept cars based on the C1 Corvette.
|For 1963, the Corvette was completely restyled, and the "Sting Ray" name was introduced.|
The horizontal 'crease' design introduced in the '61 rear end is now continued all the way around the car.
'Flip-up' headlamps are introduced and will stay a Corvette feature for the next 41 years — until the C6 car is introduced in 2004.
|The coves are gone.
||In addition to the convertible, a fastback coupe was introduced in 1963. For 1963 only, the rear window was split into two halves. Complaints about visibility caused Chevrolet to begin using a one-piece rear window in 1964. The '63 Split-Window Coupes are a real collectors item now.|
The rear end continues with the style set in '61 with minor changes.
Other photos of C2 Corvettes.
|For 1968, the Corvette was completely restyled again. |
Flip-up headlamps were continued, although much different than the C2.
|The profile is best described as a 'coke bottle' shape.
||The rear end is now an almost flat vertical surface (slightly concave) with a slight upward flip at the rear of the 'trunk' (a mini-spoiler).
||Starting in '73, the chrome front bumper was eliminated. The entire nose is made from a plastic material to achieve the federal impact standards.
||The 'coke bottle' shape was continued.
||No significant changes.
|No significant changes.
||The 'coke bottle' shape was continued.
||Starting in '74, the chrome rear bumper was eliminated, and the entire rear end of the car was now made from a plastic material to achieve the federal impact standards. The shape of the rear panel changed from concave to a much rounder, convex shape.|
For '74, the rear impact panel was made in two pieces as shown in the 'blue' photo.
Starting in '75, a one-piece impact panel was used as shown in the 'teal' photo.
|The new front bumper incorporated an integrated lower air dam, and the bumper cover now extended to the wheel openings.
||The 'coke bottle' shape is continued.
||The new rear bumper incorporated a spoiler at the top of the rear bumper panel.
1981 marked the end of Corvette production in St. Louis, and the last '81 Corvette rolled off of that assembly line in July. For the 1982 model year, production moved to a brand-new facility in Bowling Green, Ky, and production of the '82 models began there in June, 1981.
Other photos of C3 Corvettes.
||1984||Again, for 1984, the Corvette was completely redesigned. Chevrolet put so much importance on this new Corvette that they skipped the 1983 model year for production 'Vettes. (There may have been some pre-production cars built, but none were built for sale to the public.) |
Interestingly, there was no visible grille on the C4: engineers had figured out how to get the necessary cooling air from under the nose.
The hood on the C4 stretched from the beltline on one fender to the beltline on the other. Opening the hood not only gave great access to the engine, but the front suspension as well.
Another noteworthy change was the headlights. While the C3 heatlights just flipped up and down, the C4's actually rotated 180°.
|The 'coke bottle' shape was virtually gone in the C4. The higher rear fenders and the somewhat pointed, grille-less nose makes me think of this as a 'wedge' shape.
||For the C4, the stylists again returned to a concave rear bumper panel, reminescent of the early C3s. The quad taillights remain, a constant Corvette design theme since 1961.
||1986||For 1986, a convertible Corvette was once again available, after a 10-year absence.
||1991||All Corvettes featured new front designs with wraparound parking-cornering-fog lamps.
||All Corvettes had new side panel louvers, and wider body-side moldings in body color.
||All Corvettes had restyled rear exteriors with convex rear facias and four rectangular tail lamps.
Other photos of C4 Corvettes.
| The next complete redesign of the Corvette occurred for the 1997 model year. The key feature: rounding. Everything was rounded to eliminate creases... and edges... and personality.   I like to call it the pregnant Corvette: It looks very fat and very heavy.
|| An indented cove returned to the side of the C5 'Vette, but it was quite different from the coves of '56 to '62.
|| The rear end of the C5 may be the biggest rear end ever on a sports car. "Fat ass" is the first thing I thought of when I first saw it.   I still feel that way 10 years later.
Other photos of C5 Corvettes.
| The most recent Corvette redesign occurred for the 2004 model year. The C6 lost a lot of the roundness of the C5, and the design is definitely crisper. |
The huge change at the front of the C6 was the elimination of the "pop-up" headlights, which had been a fixture of Corvettes since 1963.   I'm sure Chevy offered excuses for doing that, but it just doesn't seem right.
| The indented cove was continued from the C5, but the edges are much better defined.
|| The C6 appears to have gone on a diet (from the C5), and "fat ass" doesn't apply anymore.
Other photos of C6 Corvettes.
| The next Corvette redesign is scheduled to be launched for the 2014 model year. These pictures were released by Chevrolet as the official pictures, and it looks awesome: Unmistakenly Corvette, but also all new. |
| Everything is angular and creased, much like recent Cadillac show cars.  |
All versions (at this time) are called 'Stingray' to bring back a hallowed Corvette model name from the '60's.  To showcase the name, a stingray insignia is mounted on the front fenders.
| Just as the C6 'Vette 'lost' pop-up heasdlights, the C7 'lost' round tailights, a fixture on 'Vettes since day one!  60 years of tradition gone at a stylist's whim.  I'd really be upset if the new trapezoid shape didn't look so doggone good!  Also, the separated dual/dual exhaust tips have been brought together into one row of four adjacent exhaust tips at the center of the rear fascia.
Other photos of the C7 Corvette.