The Corvette Is the Original
American Sports Car

And it's only getting better with the C8's mid-engine introduction

Corvette C8 Stingray exterior Corvette C8 Stingray exterior

Late Thursday night, in a hangar on the outskirts of Orange Country, California, we were in the audience as Chevrolet unveiled the highly anticipated mid-engine Corvette. The 2020 model is the eighth-generation Vette and offers up the most radical rewrite of the storied car's history. The C8 Stingray not only looks dramatically different, but its specs make it a vast departure from its predecessors. It's leaner and meaner and lot more responsive—there's a reengineered suspension system, Chevrolet's first eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and that repositioned small-block V-8 engine boasts 495 horsepower that gets it from zero to 60 mph in less than three seconds.

But unlike many of its exotic mid-engine competitors, this new Corvette remains a practical daily driver. And one that's relatively affordable, given all this luxury and power. GM president and global product chief Mark Reuss said at the reveal event that the C8 will start at just under $60,000 (which resulted in a booming round of applause). There's something optimistic about this gamble Chevy's taking on an overhauled, younger-skewing Vette. It's a risk. A moonshot, if you will. Which is fitting considering the Corvette's intertwined history with NASA and its heroic astronauts.

For over half a century, the Corvette has sat atop the throne of the American auto industry. Long known as "America's sports car," it actually holds the title for the longest-running continuously produced passenger car. That, in and of itself, is an achievement, but its legendary symbolism as a pop culture icon is even more impressive. Quickly after its inception, the Corvette became synonymous with freedom and adventure, searing itself into the American psyche as the ultimate dream car.

My first time driving one came when I was just 17. The boss at my after-school job had a 1974 C3 convertible and I was given permission, just once, to take it out for a spin all alone. I distinctly remember the sensation of turning the key and feeling the big-block V-8 roar to life. It sent a shot of testosterone pulsing through my body like I hadn't felt before (and maybe since).

It speaks to the legendary styling of this pop culture classic that we're only in the eighth generation of a car that's been produced for 67 years. Of course, there have been wins and losses (both in design and performance) but through it all, the lust and appreciation of the Corvette ran through the hearts of Americans young and old. Herewith, some highlights of the iconic sports car's journey.

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Evolution of an
American Icon

1951 - Project Opel creates the Corvette

1951

GM designer, Harley Earl, kicks off "Project Opel," pulling together a special project crew to design and develop a roadster that would compete with the European sports cars of that era.

FYI: Myron Scott, an assistant director for the Public Relations department and Chevrolet's chief photographer at the time, is credited with naming the car. He suggested Corvette, after the small maneuverable warship, and the name was quickly approved.

1953: First production Corvettes in Polo White exteriors

1953

The first production Corvettes all had Polo White exteriors, red interiors, and black canvas soft tops. Three hundred were made and all were powered by 150 hp engines that could go from 0 to 60 mph in 11 seconds. The base price? $3,490 (or $33,481 in 2019 dollars).

1955: Zora Arkus-Duntov sets a sedan-class record at Pikes Peak with the Corvette

1955

Zora Arkus-Duntov sets a sedan-class record by more than two minutes, when he drives a disguised 1956 Corvette with a V-8 engine to the top of Colorado's Pikes Peak, ascending the 4,303 meter summit in just over 17 minutes.

1961: Alan Shepard of NASA was given a new Corvette

1961

Alan Shepard, the first American in space, was given a new Corvette as a token of appreciation for his bravery, kicking off a long-standing relationship with NASA, including building the lunar rover.

1963: Restyled Corvette based on Bill Mitchell's Sting Ray race car

1963

The Corvette is totally restyled based on Bill Mitchell's 1959 Sting Ray race car. It's the first year two body styles were offered, a convertible and the famous split rear window coupe. Sadly, a year later, the split-window is eliminated because it intruded into the driver's rearward vision.

1968: Third-generation Corvette styled after the Mako Shark II concept car

1968

The third-generation Corvette rolls out with all-new sheetmetal exterior styled after the Mako Shark II concept car and becomes the first production vehicle to offer T-tops. Updates through 1982 include new bumpers and an integrated rear spoiler, while air conditioning, power windows and tilting and telescoping steering wheel became standard features.

1984: C4 Corvette

1984

The C4 Corvette was originally slated to roll out for 1983 but was delayed after setbacks due to parts and quality control. All-new from the ground up, the '84 Vette boasted an entirely new chassis for improved handling, a sleeker body design and digital gauge cluster inside.

1997: Fifth-generation Corvette debuts as a convertible, targa top and fixed-roof coupe

1997

The fifth-generation Corvette debuts as a convertible, targa top and fixed-roof coupe.

2005: C6 Corvette debuts with fixed headlights

2005

What distinguishes the C6 from recent predecessors were the fixed headlights that replaced the pop-up style lights that were a staple of the Vette's look for more than 40 years. Plus, the cabin was made a bit roomier for comfort and visibility while GPS navigation was offered for the first time.

2019: Eighth-generation Corvette debuts with mid-engine

2019

The eighth-generation Corvette is unveiled with dramatic styling updates, from door handles concealed under the air intakes, visible carbon-fiber accented engine and a luxurious cockpit interior outfitted in genuine leather and metal. Plus, enough storage space for two golf bags.

Corvette Mecca

Since 1994, the National Corvette Museum has celebrated the classic sports car with nearly 100 models in periodic settings, including mint classics and one-of-a-kind prototypes in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where the Corvette is manufactured.

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