A Dozen Dazzling Cutting-Edge Corvettes Over The Decades

Before it become a nostalgia model, the Chevrolet Corvette was a technical pioneer.
  • 1960 CERV I, 1990 CERV III and 1964 CERV II (left to right). Image source: General Motors Co.

     

    While Chevrolet launched the Corvette in 1953 using an assemblage of uninspiring off-the-shelf parts, including the old standby Stovebolt Six engine (rebranded with sidedraft carburetors as the Blue Flame Six), the car quickly became General Motors’ technology leader.

    Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette’s first true chief engineer, pushed the application of the original small block V8 in 1955 and added Rochester Ramjet mechanical fuel injection in 1957. He developed the production Corvette into a legitimate Le Mans racer while GM design boss Bill Mitchell created the one-off Sting Ray Racer prototype in 1959.

    Under Duntov, Chevy engineers produced testbeds like the mid-engine, open-wheel 1960 Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle (CERV) I, which looked like a mid-engine Indy Car a year before such a car debuted at The Brickyard. Duntov described CERV I as “a design without limit” and an “admirable tool” to instruct Chevy on “what to put in Corvette.”

    The closed-wheel, open-cockpit CERV II of 1964 featured front and rear torque converters in a patented mid-engine all-wheel drive layout.

    The 1990 CERV III was designed as more of a high-performance road car than as a racer, with the aim of developing mid-engine structures for a production model that never arrived. The twin-turbocharged double-overhead cam V8 in CERV III produced 650 horsepower, forecasting the muscle of forced-induction Corvettes like the supercharged 638-hp 2009 Corvette ZR1.

    Finally, with the eighth-generation 2020 Corvette Stingray, Corvette fulfills Duntov’s dream of a mid-engine layout. Just as importantly, Corvette reclaims its mantle as a contemporary technology leader.

  • 1959 Corvette Sting Ray Racer incorporated independant rear suspension and developed styling themes that appeared on the 1963 Corvette. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • 1960 Corvette, lined up on the starting grid for the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • 1960 CERV I, demonstrating the potential of a mid-engine layout for maximum performance. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • 1960 CERV I. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • 1960 CERV I. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • 1964 CERV II. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • 1964 CERV II. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • The crew of Apollo 15 took the GM fuel-cell-powered lunar rover to the moon in 1971, and drove matching Corvettes on Earth, which at the time were considered suitably high tech transportation for astronauts rather than nostalgiac cars for retirees. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • 1990 CERV III. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • 1990 CERV III. Image source: General Motors Co.

  • In 2016, Team Chevrolet Corvette Racing won its eighth 24 Hours of Le Mans, demonstrating the company's dedication to keeping the 'Vette an authentic sports car even as its customer demographics suggested otherwise. Image source: Image source: Richard Prince for Chevy Racing via General Motors Co.

Dan Carney is a Design News senior editor, covering automotive technology, engineering and design, especially emerging electric vehicle and autonomous technologies.

 

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