The Corvette was first created under the code-name XP-122 to provide Americans with a glimpse of a European-style sports car designed for this side of the Atlantic. It was one of several concept cars unveiled in January, 1953 at the GM Motorama show in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Initial plans called for about 150 Corvettes, primarily to help draw potential customers into Chevrolet dealerships scattered across the U.S.’s then-48 states. Overwhelming demand doubled the first-year production to 300 units. The following year, the Corvette moved to a GM assembly facility in St. Louis, Mo., where 3,640 Corvettes were built for the 1954 model year.
Those first Corvettes sparked Americans’ 60-year love affair with the Corvette. Since 1953, more than 1.5 million Corvettes have been built. These cars have become synonymous with American performance — from cruising down Americana on Route 66, to taking the checkered flag at the world’s most prestigious road race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
• 1955: 265-cid V-8 debuts in the Corvette as an option, with 195 hp. Ninety percent of customers select it.
• 1957: 283-cid V8 introduced; Rochester mechanical fuel injection helps the small block produce 283 hp — or one horsepower for every cubic inch.
• 1959: William Mitchell, vice-president of GM styling, races the original Stingray Corvette racing car concept, which features a 315-hp version of the fuel-injected 283 small block.
• 1964: 327-cid Small Block is rated at 375 horsepower with Rochester fuel injection; the first Holley four-barrel carburetor is used on a production small block engine.
• 1969: The 350-cid small block is introduced in the Corvette. The standard engine is rated at 300 hp and an available “L46” version is rated at 350 hp.
• 1970: The first LT-1 debuts in Corvette, rated at 370 hp and 380 lb.-ft. of torque.
• 1972: Final year for the Gen 1 LT-1.
• 1982: Cross Fire electronic fuel injection introduced, featuring a pair of diagonally opposed throttle bodies feeding a 350 engine and rated at 200 hp.
• 1985: Tuned Port Injection introduced on the Corvette, ushering in the modern age of port fuel injection and increasing the Corvette’s horsepower rating to 230.
• 1986: Aluminum cylinder heads introduced mid-year on the Corvette.
• 1987: Hydraulic roller lifters introduced on the “L98” Tuned Port Injection engine, reducing friction for greater efficiency and performance – the Corvette’s output jumps to 240 hp.
• 1992: Gen 2 LT1 introduced in the Corvette, featuring a reverse-flow cooling system, all-new cylinder heads and computer-controlled ignition timing, pushing horsepower to 300 – a 20% jump over the ’91 Corvette’s L98 engine.
• 1996: The high-output LT4, with 330 hp in limited-edition Corvette models, is the finale for the Gen 2 engine.
• 1997: New Gen 3 Small Block debuts in the all-new C5 Corvette, carrying the LS1 name and features an all-aluminum construction, deep-skirt block and 350 hp.
• 2001: Higher-performance LS6 engine with 385 hp powers the new, track-oriented Corvette Z06. Horsepower increases to 405 in 2002.
• 2005: The Corvette’s new, 6.0L LS2 engine with 400 hp introduces the Gen 4 Small Block.
• 2006: Racing-inspired 7.0L LS7 engine debuts in the Corvette Z06 with 505 hp and features forged titanium connecting rods, high-flow cylinder heads, titanium intake valves, dry-sump oiling system and more.
• 2008: The 6.2L Small Block debuts on the Corvette with 430 horsepower.
• 2009: New Corvette ZR1 receives a 638-hp, supercharged LS9 small block – the most powerful production-car engine ever built by GM and enabling a 205 mph top speed.
• 2011: GM builds its 100 millionth small block on Nov. 29. It is an LS9 engine built at the Performance Build Center, in Wixom, MI.
• 2012: Final year for the Gen 4 engine in the Corvette.
• 2013: New LT1 Gen 5 Small Block debuts in the seventh-generation, 2014 Corvette with preliminary output of 450 hp (335 kW) – 231% more power from only 42% larger displacement. It is the most significant redesign in the small block’s nearly
Source: General Motors Corp.