The History and Evolution of the C5 Corvette

The Corvette is the quintessential American sports car. It’s the car that can compete in the international stage when it comes to sports features and capabilities. The fifth generation Corvettes—the C5—is something that Chevy had never created before. The 1997 Corvette was supposed to be the 40th anniversary release, but due to production issues, the release was rescheduled for later. So instead of 1994, 1997 saw the release of a completely new Corvette from the frame up. Here’s a brief history of the C5 Corvette from its launch in 1997 to its last production in 2004.

1997 C5 Corvette

The manufacturing company employed a different method in the construction of the frame for the C5. The design of the frame was completely different as well. Chevy utilized a method called hydro-forming. The way the method works is simple. Fourteen foot rails are basically curved and shaped through the use of hydraulic pressure that was typically measured at 7,000 lbs. per square inch. In the simplest explanation, this extreme pressure causes steel tubes to take shape. This method of framing allowed the creation of very precise and identical pieces. Previous methods of welding resulted in frames that weren’t exactly the same.

The structure of the C5 is also different. First off, let’s just mention the fact that balsa wood was incorporated into the floors of the Corvette. The wheelbase was extended as well. Typically, the wheelbase was 96.2 inches, but with the C5, this number was extended to 104.5 inches. The overall height of the vehicle was extended as well from 178.5 inches to 179.7 inches. The wheels on the C5 were moved to the corners in order to increase the stability of the car and the stability of the interior as well. Even with those extra additions, the entire vehicle itself ends up being 80 lbs. lighter than usual.

Here’s another new feature for the C5 Corvette. Traditionally, the transmission would be located in the back of the engine, bolted down. With the C5, the transmission is used to form a transaxle in the rear of the car. Other interior specs were different as well in a way that little details were improved for the improvement of the entire car altogether.

The first 50 C5s that ever came out in 1997 were painted as such: 17 red, 18 black, 2 silver, and 13 white. It was an unusual move, since traditionally, the first 50 cars in production are almost always painted white. Corvette was trying to achieve something else in a more marketing sense. Only a total of 9,752 of these cars were ever produced, so the demand for them rose greatly in the subsequent years.

1998 C5 Corvette

1998 came and the C5 called for little to no change, so that’s exactly what GM did. The only thing that was added to the 98 C5 was the Active Handling System. That year also saw the production of the convertible and the addition of a trunk—something that the Corvette had been missing since 1962. That year in 1998, the Corvette raced the Indy 500 using a purple car with yellow wheels. This car’s interior was also done in black and yellow leather. A total of 1,163 replicas of this racecar were made. The number of cars that went into production this year were significantly higher than the previous year.

1999 C5 Corvette

In 1999, Corvette switched things up a little bit and departed from the convertible style to adopt a hardtop instead. Consumers initially thought that it was a budgeting move; however, the adjustment proved to be more of a performance attribute, since the 1999 hardtop models were lighter than the sports coupe. This model did end up costing consumers less eventually, but it was only a couple of hundred in price difference.

2000 C5 Corvette

By the time the new millennium came, new details came as well. First is the paint color, Millennium Yellow. This was offered for the 2000 model year. In addition to this, Dark Bowling Green Metallic was added as well. The 2000 year didn’t see any other real changes to the car except the addition of the Z51 optional handling package upgrade.

2001 C5 Corvette

By 2001, the Z06 was added to the lineup. This vehicle had a titanium exhaust system and a stiffer suspension. It also featured lightweight wheels, functional rear brake duct cooling, and extra stitching details on the interior. This was Corvette’s no-compromise vehicle with its heavy duty suspension, wider wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, a lightweight body, and so much more.

2002 C5 Corvette

The horsepower of the cars had been increasing over the years, but the biggest jump came in the 2002 model. The 2002 Z06 went from having a capability of 385 hp to 405 hp in just within a year.This was also the year when Corvette decided to go back to race in the Indy 500.

2003 C5 Corvette

2003 was the 50th Anniversary year of the Corvette, so of course, an anniversary package was released with the cars. This package can be recognized in the Anniversary red exterior paint. All models from this year carried the 50th Anniversary emblem.

2004 C5 Corvette

The 2004 models came out to commemorate the closing year of the C5 generation and the success it has had over the last 8 years. These editions all carried the LeMans Blue paint. Though the C5 only had a production time of 8 years, it could very well go down as one of the best Corvettes ever designed and produced in history.


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