Charting the Corvette’s Horsepower Evolution Since 1953

Denver, CO – June 23, 2015 – While the Corvette is a power-churning machine today, its horsepower history is pretty rocky. To celebrate America’s favorite sports car and keep up with Corvette fever, has created a chart to illustrate the changes in Corvette horsepower over the years. From the Corvette’s debut with a slight inline 6 to the 2015 Z06, the chart shows how Corvette horsepower has quadrupled from 1953 to 2015.

“Horsepower is the most popular metric for sports car performance — both gear heads and enthusiasts want to see power ratings above all else,” explains Mike King of “What’s so fascinating about the Corvette is the way that horsepower quickly rose in the 50s and 60s, dropped off in the 70s, and then dramatically increased in just the last five years,” says King.

The chart shows how 60s era third generation Corvettes reached over 400hp but plummeted below 300hp in 1972, remaining at this surprisingly low horsepower level until the late 1980s.

“A lot of young enthusiasts don’t know that a 1978 Corvette was basically less powerful than a modern-day V6 Camaro,” says King. “The 1970s and early 80s were a terrible time for performance enthusiasts.”

First Generation – 1953-1962

Revealed in 1953, the first Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan. All were powered by the three-carb, 150 horsepower Blue Flame inline-six cylinder and two-speed Powerglide transmission. The first small block V8 showed up in the Corvette in 1955 and was backed by a three-speed manual — saying goodbye to the six-cylinder Corvette. In 1957, the V8 was increased to a 283 and ordered to be fuel injected. 1958 saw the first year of the 160-mph speedo and the engine grew to a 327 in 1962.

Second Generation – 1963-1967

The Z06 was introduced (for the first time) as a special equipment option on the Stingray. In 1965, the big block arrives in the form of a 396 cubic inch L78 — increasing to 427 cubic inches in 1966. In 1967, the legendary L88 iron block made its debut. It rated at 430 horsepower but was later found to pump out 500 horsepower in independent testing.

Third Generation – 1968-1982

The Corvette offered a 435 horsepower, 7.0L, 427 cubic inch engine for the C3 debut. In 1970, the 390 horsepower, solid lifter LT1 was introduced — the big block was increased to 454 cubic inches. The LS6 454 was introduced as an option in 1971, and the first generation LT1 is killed off by 1972. 1974 marked the last year for the big block, and by 1975, the Chevy 350 was making only 205 horsepower in the Corvette. Since GM didn’t certify the 350 V8, all California bound Corvettes got a 305 in 1980. Corvette production was paused in 1983 for a rebuilding year.

Fourth Generation – 1984-1996

The C4 started out with a measly 205 horsepower and 290 lbs-ft of torque. In 1985, things started to look up slightly with a 230 horsepower 5.7L. In 1987, a Callaway TT option that made 345 horsepower/465 lbs-ft of torque was available through some dealerships. The ZR-1 debuted in 1990 with a 5.7L capable of making 375 horsepower — increased to 405 hp in 1993. In 1992, a new LT1 was implanted in the Corvette, this time making 300 horsepower. New for 1996 was the LT4 engine that was rated at 330 horsepower.

Fifth Generation – 1997-2004

The 345-hp LS1, an iconic all aluminum engine, became the backbone of the GM engine family, starting with the Corvette. In 2001, the modern Z06 was introduced with a 385 horsepower LS6 and top speed of 170 mph. The Z06 pushed over the 400 horsepower mark, making 405 horsepower in 2002.

Sixth Generation – 2005-2013

By 2006, the Z06 got a new 7.0L making 505 horsepower and 470 lbs-ft of torque. In 2008, the base engine was a new LS3, which made 430 horsepower. A new ZR1 debuted in 2009 with a supercharged 6.2L and top speed over 200 mph.

Seventh Generation – 2014-present

The C7 debuted making 455 horsepower with a 6.2L, new generation LT1. A 2015 year model Z06 showed up making 650 horsepower with a supercharged 6.2L, making it the most powerful Corvette to date!


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