It’s no secret that I love Corvettes. Always have, always will. I still remember when the first C4’s were released and thus making the 1978-1982 C3 considered a late model. Though the aforementioned Corvettes may now be passé and limp-wristed by today’s standards, they’ll always have a place in my heart, and at the end of the day, they are still Corvettes!
Many may scoff at their 175-230hp power ratings, dated styling, and less than ideal build quality, but they represent the performance and technology of their time. Every Corvette ever made, from the Blue Flame 6-cylinder powered ’53 to the 638hp ZR1 of today was built using the latest technology and the best equipment of the day, and all of them were built by the best people, all of whom took great pride in their work.
Admittedly, 1974-1984 may represent a sort of low point in the Corvette dynasty, but all Corvettes in my opinion are created equal. Obviously, they’re not equal in terms of styling or performance, but in that one trait that every car that I purchase must require; soul. Soul is what makes a car a legend. Soul is what makes every man, woman and child who are passionate about cars stand up and take notice. Soul was even used as one of the last Pontiac tag lines (Fuel for the Soul).
But what gives a car soul? It’s hard for me to explain without sounding like a complete lunatic, but it’s just one of those things you know it when you see it. Let me give you an example; a ’67 Corvette Sting Ray has it. A ’97 Toyota Corolla doesn’t.
But this doesn’t mean only classic cars have soul. There’s no denying that the shiny Supersonic Blue ZR1 sitting in the Chevy showroom up the street has soul. It’s been there for almost three weeks, but I’ve ran out of fingers to count on how many times I’ve stopped to look at it. It’s almost as if it’s beckoning me to sell everything I own just to acquire it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s tempting, but not very realistic. I think the man who cleans the showroom glass is starting to get used to washing the smudges from my face and hand prints off of the windows. The Scion xB across the street doesn’t strike me the same way, strangely. I have no clue why.
My passion for Corvettes was further solidified when I was finally able to visit the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky this past summer. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I went twice.
The first occasion was while I was passing through during Power Tour, the second was while I was covering Holley’s LS Fest. Ten bones gains you entry, and there is no shortage of things to see. Zora Arkus-Duntov’s personal ’74 Corvette, the only Corvette he ever owned, is on display, as well as countless one-offs, historic race cars, pace cars, and even the actual ZR1 that set the record at Germany’s Nurburgring test track.
There’s something for the whole family to see at the NCM, including interactive Corvette quiz games, a Corvette arcade game, an in-house theater with a short film showing the Corvettes history, countless memorabilia, a gift shop, and even life-size statues of past and present Corvette engineers.
They even have dioramas of all scales, including a full-sized mock vintage showroom and a scene from the marriage process of the assembly line, featuring a white ’73 convertible. The NCM is a definite must see for everyone, even for those unfortunate souls who aren’t into cars.
After seeing everything at the NCM, if one doesn’t walk away feeling moved by the experience, than that person should visit the nearest Emergency Room, because they lack a pulse. Anyone who loves Corvettes will enjoy the experience, no doubt. But the NCM gives you love and respect for ALL ‘Vettes, not just the fast ones.
I’ve managed to compile a list of my top ten favorite Corvettes of all time, along with a quick explanation why. Keep in mind, these are my personal favorites, not what I feel are the ten best.
- 2009-2011 ZR1: One of the fastest (see #9), most powerful, and best handling ‘Vettes ever made. Enough said.
- 2006-2011 Z06: It raised the bar for all future Corvettes, paving the way for the ZR1 and it even made the Europeans stand up and take notice.
- 1953: It only has six cylinders and is pretty slow by today’s standards, but it’s the first of a long line of thoroughbreds and for a 58 year-old, it still looks just as gorgeous as it did then. Rare too!
- 1957: Just the combination of style and performance from the available 283/283 makes this one special car to me. It was also the first fuel injected ‘Vette.
- 1963 Sting Ray: An all new aggressive body, one year-only split rear windows, and more performance than ever made this one an instant classic.
- 1995 ZR-1: The aptly named “King of the Hill” was capable of high 12s back in the mid-nineties with a 405hp DOHC LT5 350 built in conjunction with Lotus, proving that not all C4’s were lame ducks!
- 1996 Grand Sport: An ultra-rare car with an ultra-rare ‘plant. The 330hp LT4 was a very respectable engine for its time and only complimented the GS’s striking appearance, sending the C4’s off with a bang.
- 1978 Pace Car: ’78 was a good year for Corvettes. It was its 25th anniversary, it received Indy pace car duties for the first time and it was also the first year a Corvette was built with a glass hatch, greatly improving rearward visibility. ’78 was also the first year since ’69 that black was an available color option; hence the two-tone black/silver arrangement on all Pace Cars this year.
- 1969 ZL-1: This “550hp” all aluminum, big-block 427 powered Corvette was downright sick. With quarter mile times capable of high tens, somebody please give me a winning lottery ticket so I can park one of these bad boys in my garage!
- 1971 LS-6: Having borrowed the bad-ass LS-6 from the previous year Chevelle, this was the highest horsepower rated, mass-produced Corvette for years until the 2006 Z06 arrived. Combine that with the unmolested early C3 styling and it’s an instant winner. Very cool, indeed!
Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite Corvettes with you, what are some of yours? Do you agree with my list or do you think I was smoking crack when I wrote it? Either way, make some free time soon to visit the National Corvette Museum soon and maybe your opinion will change.