The Corvette name is synonymous with sleek styling, smooth handling, and the raw power of an American-built sports car. Anyone who finds themselves behind the wheel of one of these beautiful rides is surely a lucky – and affluent – driver. This Chevrolet brand is one of their biggest money-makers, and serves as a great creative outlet for their engineering team. With sports cars like Corvettes, there are far fewer limits on mechanical and aesthetic decisions involving cost or design. This is especially important for their division Corvette Racing – they keep Chevrolet’s hold tight on the global racing market.
Many legendary Corvettes have been released over the years – such as the 60s Stingray, or the coveted C-series cars. These gasoline-powered beasts are what established the brand’s reputation as the powerful American sports cars they are known as today. However, Chevrolet has elected to enter the burgeoning electric supercar scene with the upcoming Genovation GXE Corvette. This new all-electric American supercar will boast more than 800 horsepower, and will be able to hit confirmed speeds of 220 miles per hour. It accomplishes this with a 60kwh battery pack, which will remain charged for 130 miles. Plus, every heavy part (the battery and electric motors) has been arranged to give the car nearly-perfect weight distribution.
Though it marks a significant departure from the traditional Corvette mechanical design, it won’t be left in the dust of similar all-electric cars that are hitting the market in the upcoming year. This is quite important for Corvette Racing as well – with the advent of electric supercars, we are likely to see events devoted solely to these types of vehicles. Corvettes should be in every type of race, as they are some of the best cars in the industry.
The Corvette has a long, interesting history that any auto enthusiast should know more about. After all, any gearhead would want to learn a few things about the quintessential American sports car. If you’re interested in this American sports car company, read on to learn 20 fun facts about Corvette.
The First Corvette Was Introduced at Motorama
The very first Corvette was introduced at the GM Motorama traveling show at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. On January 17th of 1953, the first American sports car, Chevrolet’s 1953 Corvette, rolled onto the floor. With its all-fiberglass body, white exterior, and red interior – combined with a sleek aesthetic design and a respectable 150-horsepower motor – the Corvette was an instant hit. In fact, it went into production in June (just a few months after the show).
They’re Named After a Type of Warship
The namesake of the Corvette finds its origin in Enlightenment Era warships. The first examples of the corvette warship appeared in the 17th century. They possessed a single tier of guns, and were one combat grade below the frigate. These ships were fast, maneuverable, and strong, making them an essential part of any navy. Plus, the modern navy still uses corvettes. Though they have been upgraded for modern warfare with armor and better design, they are still just one step below the frigate – though both are capable of missions that cross the ocean. Whichever type of ship the Corvette was named after, the name is fitting – this sports car is nimble and maneuverable, taking to the track like these ships took to the waves.
Corvette Has Won Many Awards
Many automotive publications and organizations have presented the Corvette with various awards over its years of existence. Several models have been rated on lists of sports cars and muscle cars as the best of their category. Plus, the Corvette was voted Car of the Year a few times during its 65-year existence. However, the biggest testament to the innovative and intelligent design that Chevrolet pioneered is an endorsement from the Society of Automotive Engineers. This organization decided to grant the 1999 Corvette Convertible the title of Best Engineered Car of the 20th Century. This is a huge honor from this professional society, as they do not hand out such awards freely.
Three NASA Astronauts Drove Corvettes
Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, and Gordon Cooper were three members of the Mercury Seven – a group of astronauts that flew on many different manned spacecraft during the 20th Century. During their time in the spotlight, they eventually befriended Jim Rathmann, a Chevrolet dealer and the winner of the 1960 Indy 500. Rathmann convinced executives at General Motors to produce Corvettes especially for the astronauts. They were given a large discount on the brand-new cars, paying a special ‘used’ price after only 3000 miles were put on the odometer. This was likely a marketing move, but we don’t think the astronauts would complain about getting such a fantastic deal on one of these classic American sports cars.
Almost Half of all Corvette Owners have College Degrees
Corvettes offer high performance, but they also come at a higher price than other vehicles. So, one would assume that people driving these sports cars tend to be more well-off than others. As most people know, higher wages often come naturally with the completion of higher education. So, the results from a 2013 survey by the Specialty Equipment Market Association are not surprising. The Association found that 48% of all Corvette owners held some type of degree. So, statistically you may be just a bit smarter if you own a Corvette.
New Corvettes Are Fast in Reverse
While they aren’t the fastest cars in reverse – that title belongs to the Nissan Leaf – they do clock in at fairly high speeds in this gear. In fact, a 2014 Corvette Stingray clocked in at 53 miles per hour. That’s a lot higher than the average reverse speed you might use. But hey, you never know. It could be useful in the event of a natural disaster or a zombie apocalypse or something. Or in a movie about this kind of event, perhaps.
Fastest Corvette Motor was Made in 1968
The fastest Corvette motor – boasting a 0-60 time of 2.8 seconds, according to MotorTrend, was the 1968 LT-2. Designed as a prototype for the 1970 Corvette, but placed in a 1968 Corvette body, this engine offered a 10.86 ¼ mile time as well. For comparison, the 2018 Corvette Z06 makes it to 60 miles per hour in 2.95 seconds. Therefore, this old motor still outpaces its brand-new descendants in the acceleration game – though the newer cars tend to run the quarter-mile a bit faster (by milliseconds).
Corvette Pioneered Wraparound Windshields
The 1953 Corvette came stock with a wraparound, or panoramic, windshield – the first mass-production car to do so. These became wildly popular during the 1950s, but were later abandoned due to distortion concerns. Other issues also existed with this type of windshield, including a weaker roof structure due to the lack of supporting pillars. Therefore, they were gradually phased out over the course of the next few generations of Corvettes.
The Corvette’s Original Logo Was Different
The very first logo designed for the Corvette included a checkered flag crossed with the American flag. Robert Bartholomew was the artist behind this stylish design. However, it came to the attention of Chevrolet executives that the use of the American flag for commercial branding purposes was illegal. Therefore, just four days before the Corvette’s debut, the logo was redesigned into the one that is used today. The modern logo has a fleur-de-lis and the Chevrolet bow instead of the stars and stripes.
Only One 1983 Model Corvette Exists
Chevy did originally create a brochure for 1983 cars, but production was pushed back for emissions compliance and retooling reasons, among others. Thus, Chevrolet decided to introduce the next generation of Corvette as the 1984 model instead. However, 43 pilot cars were still built – and all but one were destroyed. The final 1983 Corvette also narrowly escaped destruction when a sinkhole opened up beneath the museum it was being kept in. It still rests in the same museum, but now has its own dedicated display.
Prince Wrote “Little Red Corvette”
Prince started to come up with the idea for “Little Red Corvette” when he fell asleep in one of his backup singer’s cars. Though the car wasn’t actually a Corvette – it was actually a 1964 Mercury Montclair Marauder – the lyrics worked better with a Corvette as the subject. The song was a commercial success and became very popular. In fact, Chevrolet even put up some billboards that used the tagline, “They Don’t Write Songs About Volvos”, that featured Corvettes. This was a great advertising strategy, likely increasing Corvette sales – all thanks to the “Purple Rain” artist.
First Commercial Vehicles Constructed of Only Fiberglass
Fiberglass is a pretty common construction material in vehicles today, but when the first Corvette came out it was rare. Like a 1950s version of fiberglass, it was light and durable, but wasn’t fully trusted at the time. After the Corvette was introduced in 1953, with its body created entirely out of fiberglass, its sleek looks and effective performance greatly boosted the popularity of fiberglass. After the release of this model of Corvette, many more cars began to be released with fiberglass included in their construction – or even making up the whole body of the car, as in the Corvette.
The 1953 Debut Only Had Two Options
Today, you’d probably find a huge list of options on a Corvette factory order form. However, the 1953 Corvette only offered two options – a heater and an AM radio. The car could be purchased with all of the options for only about $200 more than the list price. Despite this lack of luxury in the first Corvette, it was still a huge commercial success and revolutionized the American car industry. It was the first truly American sports car, and will always have that title to fall back on when competitors try to take their audience.
A Corvette Car Beat Established Racers at Le Mans
The Corvette Racing division started in 1999, and just two years later claimed its first Le Mans victory with the C5-R. The brand-new player on the scene beat established racers like Ferrari and Maserati, winning victories in 2001, 2002, and 2004 at Le Mans. For a company that had been around for much less time than its competitors, this was an impressive start and proof that Corvette was a brand to be respected globally. Plus, Americans can be prideful that their own original sports car brand made strides in the global market.
The Original Designer Was Inspired by European Cars
Harley Earl, the designer who created the first Corvette, was undeniably influenced by European sports cars from manufacturers like MG and Jaguar. He was a frequent attendee of road-racing events, such as those at Watkins Glen. After watching the power displayed by these British cars, he decided that America needed a sports car to call its own. He took inspiration from the designs of these European racers, and went on to create the very first Corvette design by 1953.
There Were No Manual Corvettes in 1982
1982 was a dark year for Corvette enthusiasts. Many auto enthusiasts prefer to use manual transmissions, as they are more fun to drive and offer better control (which is very important in racing). So, many people were disappointed when Corvette never released a car equipped with a manual transmission back in 1982, favoring automatics. Though this may have been an attempt at entering the future of car design, it was misguided due to a failure to understand the desires of their customers. The manual transmission as an option was thankfully reintroduced in the 1984 model of Corvette.
The Corvette Stingray Was Inspired by a Real Shark
The Stingray was designed by Bill Mitchell, first releasing in 1963. The legend goes that he caught a shark while he was on a fishing expedition, and eventually he had the head stuffed. He found inspiration for a new car based on the appearance of the shark, and even had the initial Stingray prototype repainted multiple times in order to get an exact match for the color of the shark’s skin. This may not be wholly true – it could just be a tall tale – but either way, it is a fun story that gives a cool backstory to the most popular Corvette model of the 1960s.
Corvette is the Official Sports Car of Kentucky
In 2010, the mayor of Kentucky announced that the official sports car of Kentucky would from then on be the Corvette. This isn’t a surprising decision, as the Corvette factory at Bowling Green, Kentucky is the only one remaining in America. This factory almost closed back in the early 2000s, but luckily got back on its feet a short while later. They now get consistent business and should stay operational for the foreseeable future. They will probably work especially hard now that state pride is at hand, alongside the pressure already existing from working for such a famous brand.
Biggest (by displacement) Motor was a Big-Block
The Chevy Big-block is a legendary V8 motor that offered huge displacement and horsepower. The 454 cubic inch motor – or 7.4 liters – made 275 horsepower. And that’s to the rear wheels of a 1970 Corvette. This was an incredibly respectable amount of power for this time in American motorsports history, marking the big-block as a solid choice to power any vehicle – not restricted to General Motors products. Many custom cars have made use of the 454 big-block since its original release in 1970.
The Corvette ZR1 Had a Motor Designed by Boat Engineers
The ZR1’s LT5 motor was originally designed by Mercury’s MerCruiser division in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The marine division was chosen to design the motor because it had to retain a relatively small displacement – 5.7 liters – but had to make over 400 horsepower. Boats tend to have similar displacement-to-power ratios, making the MerCruiser division a natural choice to design the engine. And they easily succeeded. By 1993, the motor was producing about 405 horsepower, right on their original target. It eventually went on to perform quite well in road tests, and even broke a world record for endurance.
Corvette will go down in history as one of the premier names in motorsports. It will always hold the title of the first American sports car, and will likely continue to create impressive vehicles for years to come. Hopefully they keep their racing performance up as well, and continue to show up the foreign race teams that have been in the business for many years. Corvettes may be expensive and flashy, but they have performance and design that justifies the price. Whether you are after speed, handling, or just plain style, a Corvette has fit the bill since the first one came out in 1953. They rank among the best cars not only in America, but in the world.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker