Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Still sexy at 60

Corvettes always make hearts beat faster, and the sixth-generation beauty is no exception

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Whether you love them or hate them, there's no denying a Chevrolet Corvette of any vintage is among the most famous cars on Earth.

Case in point is the tremendous amount of attention the newly designed 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray received when it was unveiled a couple of weeks back at the Detroit auto show.

You couldn't walk five feet in Detroit without overhearing someone talking about the new Vette. Opinions ranged from it being the coolest car EVER to complaints that the back end got hit with an ugly stick.

A day rarely goes by in my life when I don't have a Corvette-related conversation. Typically, I'm dreaming out loud about the one I want and how fast it will go. That said, in light of all the recent Corvette fever, it occurred to me there may be a few folks out there who haven't a clue what we Vette-heads are talking about when we start comparing the likes of the Corvette C4 with the C5, or lament how tough it is to find a really clean C3.

On that note, without looking under the hood at the many engine changes, (we'd need an entire section), here's a quick Corvette history, a Vetucation if you will.

First generation - C1 (1953-1962)

Three hundred hand-built Polo White Corvette convertibles were produced for the 1953 model year. The cars were in huge demand and typically only made available to GM executives and movie stars. These early Vettes are often referred to as "solid-axle" models because the independent suspension setup didn't debut until the 1963 Sting Ray model. Although the chassis remained, many changes occurred throughout the first generation, including a fresh body in 1956 with a new grille and side coves. The rear fins were also removed. Yep, you read it right -- the first Corvette had tail fins.

Second generation - C2 (1963-1967)

The second-generation Corvette was smaller than the first generation, but abundantly more powerful and arguably the most sought-after. The Sting Ray name first appeared in 1963, also the first year of the Corvette coupe. The '63 coupe featured the polarizing and extremely popular split rear window. The new Sting Ray featured hidden headlights, functional hood vents and an independent rear suspension. Four-wheel disc brakes were introduced in 1965, and so was the ferocious addition of a big-block engine. You'll know one of these cars if you spot it on the street. It will make your knees weak.

Third generation - C3 (1968-1982)

The third-generation Corvette was patterned after the Mako Shark II concept car. The C3 coupes were also the first cars to use T-top removable roof panels. Sting Ray emblems weren't used on the 1968 model, but Chevy sales literature still referred to the Corvette as a Sting Ray. The name returned from 1969 through to 1976, but like the most recent use of the name with the new C7 Corvette, the name was changed to just one word, Stingray. Styling didn't change much throughout the car's lifespan. Due to government regulations, one big change took place in 1973 when the Corvette's chrome front bumper was changed to an impact-resistant urethane bumper cover. The big power that had dominated the late '60s was a thing of the past by the end of this car's production, and due to emission-control requirements, the once-potent Corvette was a shadow of its former self.

Fourth generation - C4 (1983-1996)

The fourth-generation Corvette was the first totally redesigned Vette since 1963. The car was actually supposed to be a 1983 model, but quality issues and parts delays meant only 43 prototypes for the 1983 model year were built. All but one of the 1983 prototypes were destroyed. That one and only 1983 Corvette is now on public display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. Because of the radical changes, many Corvette fans hated the C4 design, and even today, these cars are widely considered the least desirable Corvettes. It's a shame these cars don't get more respect, but if you shop carefully, one can be had for a song. Later models, such as the 1992 ZR1, are making a resurgence in the collector-car market.

Fifth generation - C5 (1997-2004)

With Japanese hotrods such as the Nissan 300ZX and Mazda RX-7 flooding the market, the C5 Corvette had to be tightened up in all areas, including handling, comfort and power. With a top speed of 291 km/h, increased structural rigidity and a beautiful design, that goal was achieved -- and then some! The C5 is responsible for creating a whole new generation of Corvette fans.

Sixth generation - C6 (2005-2013)

The C6 Corvette was a bold new design with a fresh-looking body and exposed headlamps for the first time since 1962. The passenger compartment is larger and more comfortable, and a new 6.0-litre engine and reworked suspension geometry were incorporated. The final C6 Corvette will be built next month at the Bowling Green, Ky., assembly plant, where all Corvettes are made. The plant will then be shut down for a few months while the new tooling and integration issues are looked after, paving the way for the all-new 2014 C7 Corvette.

willy@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 1, 2013 F6

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