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What’s the most Chevrolet car in the back catalogue?

Come on, this one's easy

Published: 04 Mar 2024

If you ask someone to think of the quintessential American sports car, there’s a good chance that the Corvette will be on the tip of their tongue. Maybe after the Mustang or Dodge Viper, perhaps the Ford Thunderbird or Shelby Cobra. But certainly above the 1912 Stutz Bearcat.

The Corvette story is of gradual evolution from a lazy Fifties runabout to a European-rivalling sports car with fearsome performance and dare we say it some top notch handling. It has grown over eight generations since it was first introduced in 1953 as a ‘dream car’ concept at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.

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The fibreglass body was an exotic touch, but the 3.9-litre inline six engine was deemed to be a little underpowered at 150bhp, especially given that it was matched up with a two-speed automatic. It managed 0–60mph in 11.6secs and the Europeans were not getting worried just yet.

The C2 model in 1963 was a more aggressive affair. The designers had the likes of Jaguar’s 1961 E-Type to contend with, so the styling bar had to be raised significantly, with much of the look taken from GM styling chief Bill Mitchell’s sleek Stingray racecar of 1959. That car never got to race at Le Mans like Mitchell wanted, but the look was influential. And has there ever been an ugly car with pop-up headlights?

Chevrolet’s small block V8 engine had arrived on the scene too, and it managed 249bhp from its 5.4 litres of capacity. Some Corvette fans say that the L88-engined car of 1967 is the ultimate iteration of the car – a big block 7.0-litre version of the V8 was eased into the engine bay, said to produce well over 500bhp if you could find a petrol station selling high octane racing fuel. Heavy duty suspension was fitted along with beefier brakes, while Chevrolet took out the radio and heater to discourage the car from being driven on the road.

The third gen in 1968 was a sleek evolution that would remain in production through to 1982. The C4 and C5 models embraced the anonymity that plagued the whole Chevrolet range during the Eighties, early Nineties and beyond. Since the C6 of the mid-Noughties the model has been on an upward curve, building up to the latest version that was introduced in 2020.

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The C8 is the pinnacle of Corvette evolution, the sum total of the car’s 70 years. It was described at launch by leading automotive publication Top Gear as “ready to party”. We also rated its 6.2-litre nat-asp V8, sharp road manners and handling prowess, as well as its ease of use and better quality interior. The purists might have been upset with the mid-engine setup, but if you want to eat with the grownups sometimes you have to learn to copy them in the right way.

Old Corvettes offered mindless muscle, the C8 added smarts and panache. It’s lucky it got good before the V8 is consigned to the history books, which will have a decent chapter on the eight decades of petrol powered Corvette.

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