E-Fest 2008, Bradenton, Florida, USA
The Chevrolet Corvette (sometimes referred to as a Vette) is a sports car manufactured in six generations by General Motors (GM) since 1953. The first Corvette was designed by Harley Earl and named by Myron Scott after the fast ship of the same name. Originally built in Flint, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri, it is currently built at a GM assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The National Corvette Museum and annual National Corvette Homecoming, also located in Bowling Green, celebrate the car’s history.
The second generation, or mid-year, was designed by Larry Shinoda with major inspiration from a previous unproduced design called the “Q Corvette” by Peter Brock and Chuck Pohlmann, and under the styling direction of Bill Mitchell. Production started in 1963 and ended in 1967. Introducing a new name, Corvette Sting Ray, the 1963 model year Corvette was the first year for a coupe with its distinctive split rear window and non-functional hood vents as well as an independent rear suspension. Duntov never liked the split rear window because it blocked rear vision. Bill Mitchell however found the split to be a key part of the entire design. Duntov got his way on the 1964 model and the now unique ’63 model gained the name “Split Window Coupe”. The decorative hood vents were also eliminated for ’64. Maximum power for 1963 was 360 hp (268 kW) and was raised to 375 hp (280 kW) in 1964.
Four-wheel disc brakes were introduced in 1965, as was a “big block” engine option (the 396 CID (6.5 L) V8). Side exhaust pipes became optional on the 1965 Sting Ray and persisted through 1967, then again for 1969. Chevrolet would up the ante in 1966 with the introduction of an even larger 427 CID (7 L) version, creating what would be one of the most collectible Corvettes ever. In 1967 an L-88 version of the 427 was introduced, which was rated at 430 hp (321 kW), but unofficial estimates place the actual output at 560 hp (418 kW) or more. Only twenty such engines were installed at the factory in the 1967 Corvette, and the cars can fetch US$1,000,000 or more in auction today. From 1967 to 1969, the 1282 cu ft/min Holley triple two-barrel carburetor, or Tri-Power, was available on the 427. The 1967 Corvette originally was going to be the first of the C3 generation; however, due to delays the C3 had to be put off until 1968. This was also the first year for the L-88 engine option with about 550 bhp (410 kW). Other early options available on the C2 included the WonderBar auto-tuning AM radio, an AM-FM radio (mid 1963), air conditioning (late 1963), a telescopic steering wheel (1965) and headrests, presumably to prevent whiplash (1966).
In 2004, Sports Car International named the Sting Ray number five on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s.
The design of this generation had several inspirations. The first was the contemporary Jaguar E-Type, one of which Mitchell owned and enjoyed driving frequently. Bill Mitchell also sponsored a car known as the “Mitchell Sting Ray” in 1959, because Chevrolet no longer participated in factory racing. This vehicle had the largest impact on the styling of this generation, although it had no top and did not give away what the coupe would look like. The third inspiration was a mako shark that Mitchell had caught while deep-sea fishing.
In 1961 the Corvette finally sold over 10,000 vehicles per year, hitting a number of 10,947 in that production year.
In 1962 Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov came up with a lightweight version of the C2. Concerned about Ford and what they were doing with the Shelby Cobra, GM planned 100 Grand Sport Corvettes. The plans never came about and only five were built. They were driven by historic drivers such as Roger Penske, A. J. Foyt, Jim Hall, and Dick Guldstrand among others. Today the cars 001-005 are all held by private owners. They are among the most coveted and valuable Corvettes ever built.
The popular Z06 performance package on the C5 and C6 model Corvettes is named after a Z06 performance option dating back to the 1963 model year.
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