Seven generations of Corvette vs. the world

The Corvette is America’s sports car and it has been for a very long time. Since its shaky beginnings in 1953, the Corvette quickly evolved and became a performance machine on par with the best the world had to offer. From fuel injection to independent rear suspension to disc brakes, the Corvette pioneered many of the common technological features we find today. Over its 61 year life, the Corvette’s rivals have changed and some no longer exist. But this is how each generation of Corvette stacked up against its fiercest rivals.

Corvette vs. the World

Ford Thunderbird and Corvette
Supplied, Wikimedia and GM Archives

Round one: 1957 Corvette “fuelie” vs. 1957 Ford Thunderbird supercharged

The Corvette received a shot in the arm when it became available with a 265 cubic-inch V8 in 1955. Two short years after that engine debuted, Chevrolet had made a 283 cubic-inch V8 with Rochester fuel injection and 283 horsepower. In 1957! A “fuelie” Corvette could pass through the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds and could carry on to 132 mph. Despite this blazing performance, sales were few as fuel injection was a $484 option on a $3,170 car.

But Chevrolet wasn’t the only American sports car in those years. Before it ballooned into a wallowing luxury car, the Ford Thunderbird was a sports car. Though generally softer than the Corvette, the Thunderbird packed a serious punch in 1957. While the Corvette utilized Fuel injection, the Thunderbird used a Paxton supercharger to boost 300 horsepower out of its 312 cubic-inch V8.

While both cars were seriously fast for the time, the Corvette has the slight edge due to its lighter weight. This combined with the available racing brakes and suspension make the Corvette the performance winner here.

SPECS: Thunderbird | Corvette “fuelie”

Cost when new: $3,908 | $3,654

Power: 300 | 283

Displacement: 5.1 | 4.6

Weight: (pounds) 3,134 | 2,849

Pounds per horsepower: 10.4 | 10.1

Corvette and Jaguar E-Type

Corvette and Jaguar E-Type
Supplied, GM Heritage Center and Wikimedia

Round two: 1963 Corvette Sting Ray “fuelie” vs. 1963 Jaguar E-Type

The Corvette was almost completely new for 1963. The top engine still featured fuel injection but it now displaced 327 cubic-inches and made a ferocious 360 horsepower. Reliability of the Rochester fuel injection unit was still rather poor, but when it was running, nothing could touch a 1963 “fuelie.”

The famous E-Type debuted in 1961 and was still largely unchanged by 1963. Like the Corvette, it featured independent rear suspension and was available as a coupe or a convertible. But unlike the Corvette, its big 3.8 litre straight-six wore three carburetors and the Jaguar featured disc brakes on all corners.

The Corvette was not a cheap car in 1963 and the E-Type cost $1,000 more than the Corvette. The Corvette has a definitive edge in the straights while the lighter Jaguar is likely faster in the bends. Both are beautiful and the top restorations of these cars are each worth about $150,000 so we’ll call this one a draw.

SPECS: E-Type | Corvette Sting Ray “fuelie”

Cost when new: $5,620 | $4,682

Power: 265 | 360

Displacement: 3.8 | 5.4

Weight: (pounds) 2,866 | 3,150

Pounds per horsepower: 10.8 | 8.8

Corvette vs. the World

Porsche 911S and Corvette Stingray
Supplied, Wikimedia and GM Archives

Round three: 1969 Corvette 427 vs. 1969 Porsche 911S

The C2 Corvette was revolutionary but the C3 was evolutionary. A swoopy new body was lower than the C2 but underneath, familiar mechanicals remained. Not counting the race-bred and hardly tractable 510 horsepower L88, the top engine on the Corvette was a tri-carb 427 cubic-inch big-block V8. Weight distribution suffered predictably but acceleration was brutally fast. The saying used to go that if Vietnam didn’t kill you, a big-block ‘Vette would.

Where as the 427 Corvette was an axe-wielding beer drinker, the 1969 Porsche 911S was a sword brandishing sommelier. The 911 weighed just 2,200 pounds and it’s basic design would last into the 1990′s. But for all it’s wonderful air-cooled sounds and sophistication, there’s no hiding the fact that it displaces just 2.2 litres and the overpowered Corvette would likely dominate it on a high speed track.

Today, a 1969 Porsche is worth multiple times the value of a 427 Corvette but I’ll still call the Corvette the winner here for delivering more performance despite being at a lower price point.

SPECS: 911S | Corvette Stingray 427

Cost when new: $7,895 | $5,218

Power: 190 | 435

Displacement: 2.2 | 7.0

Weight: (pounds) 2,249 | 3,425

Pounds per horsepower: 11.8 | 7.9

Corvette vs. the World

Corvette ZR1 and Dodge Viper RT/10
Supplied, GM and Wikimedia

Round four: 1993 Corvette ZR1 vs. 1993 Dodge Viper

The ZR1 was a different kind of Corvette. For the first time ever, the Corvette sported a DOHC V8 in the familiar 5.7 litre displacement and it quickly earned the nickname “King of the Hill”. But the ZR1 was not cheap — it was nearly double the cost of a $34,000 Corvette! Engine power drooped to embarrassing levels in the 1970′s but the ZR1 announced that performance was back with a vengeance and the Corvette was once again, a force to be reckoned with.

The ZR1 might have been high-tech but the Dodge Viper RT-10 was all brute force. The Viper’s massive 8.0-litre V10 made 400 horsepower at just 4,500 rpm. The Viper was a car that would rip off your head and then chuckle about it. Massive displacement gave it frightening speed and the Viper was capable of a 12.9 second quarter mile. Of course it didn’t have side windows or exterior door handles, so it wasn’t exactly modern.

The Viper wins this one. The Viper had all the luxury features of a cave and driving it assaulted your ears and kidneys. But more excitement for less money makes it the winner here. And seeing as early Vipers can be picked up for $27,000 today, why don’t you buy that instead of a Subaru BRZ?

SPECS: Viper RT/10 | Corvette ZR1

Cost when new: $50,700 | $66,278

Power: 400 | 405

Displacement: 8.0 | 5.7

Weight: (pounds) 3,456 | 3,465

Pounds per horsepower: 8.6 | 8.6

Corvette vs. the World

BMW M3 and Corvette Z06
Supplied, Wikimedia and GM

Round five: 2004 Corvette Z06 vs. 2004 BMW M3

The C4 was a quantum leap from the C3 and the C5 was a quantum leap from the C4. The C5 eschewed the famous “small-block Chevy” V8 for an all new LS-series V8. In Z06 trim, the engine was good for 405 horsepower. The C5 Z06 was built as a no-frills track-oriented car. The homely roof design increased rigidity and reduced weight from the standard “hatch” arrangement. The interior was still made of tupperware and the seats were still horrible, but the Z06 was a fearsome track day beast.

Meanwhile in the German camp, the BMW M3 reached what many believe to be its zenith with the E46 generation M3. Three hundred and thirty three horsepower were available at screaming rpm’s from BMW’s glorious 3.2-litre straight six. These cars were available with manual transmissions or BMW’s controversial SMG automatic. Either way, the M3 is a true M car in the finest tradition.

In a way it’s unfair to compare a focused sports car with a sports sedan, but the M3 really is that good. The M3 is a more balanced car but the Z06 is faster on a track. The M3 is also undeniably prettier and far better trimmed. All that taken with the fact that the M3 cost less than the Corvette means it wins this round.

SPECS: BMW M3 | Corvette Z06

Cost when new: $47,100 | $52,385

Power: 333 | 405

Displacement: 3.2 | 5.7

Weight: (pounds) 3,415 | 3,248

Pounds per horsepower: 10.3 | 8.0

Corvette vs. the World

Ferrari F430 and Corvette Z06
Supplied, Wikimedia

Round six: 2007 Corvette Z06 vs. 2007 Ferrari F430

The C6 Z06 was a headline car. This 505 horsepower monster took no prisoners and with seven angry litres of displacement, it sounded the part too. At the time it was made, it was the fastest and most powerful Corvette ever made. My favourite fact about the Z06 is that it used balsa wood sandwiched between layers of carbon fibre to make up the floor pans. Is it the only car to ever do this?

Though the Ferrari 458 makes the F430 look rather dated, it was quite the contender when it was new. It was acclaimed by journalists at the time for being one of the best handling cars ever made. The F430 cost a whopping $195,000 and for that hefty chunk of change (literally 4.3 pounds in $100 bills) you got a 483 horsepower 4.3 litre V8 and one of the sweetest engine sounds ever made.

But the fact of the matter is that the F430 costs more than twice the price of the Corvette and it just isn’t twice the car. The Corvette offers more power, lighter weight and impressive handling. Go ahead and gather your pitchforks, but the Z06 wins this one.

SPECS: Ferrari F430 | Corvette Z06

Cost when new: $195,000 | $69,175

Power: 483 | 505

Displacement: 4.3 | 7.0

Weight: (pounds) 3,351 | 3,222

Pounds per horsepower: 6.9 | 6.4

Corvette vs. the World

Nissan GT-R and Corvette Z06
Supplied, Nissan and GM

Round seven: 2015 Corvette Z06 vs. 2015 Nissan GT-R

The C7 Corvette is all new and brings the Stingray name back to the model. The newest Z06 is the most powerful Corvette (most powerful GM-anything, for that matter) ever made. Its 6.2-litre V8 makes 650 horsepower thanks to a supercharger. Triple pedal devotees rejoice over the Corvette’s seven-speed manual transmission.

The C7 is brand new but the Nissan GT-R is getting a little long in the tooth as the same basic design has been around since 2007. Nevertheless, the GT-R is a high-tech rocket-ship capable of humbling the mightiest supercars ever made. The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 spools out 545 horsepower and the GT-R uses one of the most advanced traction control systems on the market.

The GT-R is the antithesis of the Z06. The Corvette is pushrods and pound-feet while the GT-R is turbos and traction control. The GT-R is much faster to 100 km/h and faster around a track as well. But the GT-R’s problem has always been that it’s a little antiseptic. The GT-R is a joyless machine and while it’s very good, I can’t imagine that I’d have less fun in a Corvette. If you want to set lap times, the GT-R wins but if you want to have a sports car that makes you want to drive home the long way, the Corvette is your champion.

SPECS: Nissan GT-R | Corvette Z06

Cost: $108,500 | $82,657*

Power: 545 | 650

Displacement: 3.8 | 6.2

Weight: (pounds) 3,851 | 3,252

Pounds per horsepower: 7.1 | 5.0

*Canadian price unavailable

About Clayton Seams