C5 Corvette Basics

Model Lineup
The C5 was introduced as a 1997 model (coupe only) in March, 1997. The C5 convertible followed in the fall of 1997 and debuted as a 1998 model. In the 1999 model year a fixed-roof hardtop model - the lightest, stiffest and quickest model in the Corvette family - came onto the scene. For 2001, the hardtop model becomes the Z06.

Sales & Market Penetration
Corvette has long been the leader in the U.S. High Sports market segment. The introduction of the C5 coupe, along with subsequent introductions of the convertible and hardtop models, has helped Corvette to maintain leadership, even in the face of strong recent competition. The following statistics, gathered from various sources by the Corvette Brand Team, serve to illustrate the battle that has been raging since 1995 in the U.S.

Model Year 
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
Corvette
Volume
18,224
21,660
16,116(1)
29,331
29,606
% of Segment
37.6%
24.7%
24.7%
34.2%
31.6%
Dodge Viper
Volume
1,434
1,195
1,687
1,328
1,224
% of Segment
3.0%
2.2%
2.6%
1.5%
1.3%
BMW Z3
Volume
10,305
19,432
21,075
19,604
% of Segment
18.7%
29.8%
24.6%
21.0%
Porsche
Boxster
Volume
4,608
8,954
11,964
% of Segment
7.1%
10.4%
12.8%
Porsche
911
Volume
5,208
6,786
6,916
7,371
7,898
% of Segment
10.7%
12.3%
10.6%
8.6%
8.4%
M-B
SLK
Volume
4,548
10,152
11,313
% of Segment
7.0%
11.8%
12.1%
Others
Volume
23,655
15,205
11,8468
7,554
12,055
% of Segment
48.7%
27.6%
18.2%
8.8%
12.9%
Total High
48,521
55,151
65,153
85,765
93,664
Sport
% of U.S. Car Industry
0.6%
0.6%
0.8%
1.1%
1.1%

(1) Corvette C5 introduced in March, 1997

Styling
When Chevy Studio designers redid the Corvette for 1997 they took great care to be sure that the car included several styling cues from the past, while giving it a fresh new look with much better aerodynamic characteristics.

Four almost-round taillights, a Corvette styling signature evocative of many previous models, grace the rear of the car.

The design of the instrument cluster, with analog-style instruments, is also reminiscent of early models. It includes unique black light illumination and a sophisticated electronic driver information center with readouts in four languages.

A passenger "grab handle", similar to that found in Corvettes of the mid-60's, is also included.

A stylized side "cove" in the bodywork behind the front wheels harkens back to the Corvettes of the 50's, and the famed Corvette "crossed-flags" emblem returned with a new, more modern look.

On the C5 convertible a sleek "waterfall" panel, another feature from the 50's, reappeared between the seats.

Last but not least, the Corvette's body is still made of fiberglass, albeit a much-improved variety that is highly crack-resistant and allows the Bowling Green plant to provide the smoothest, most blemish-free Corvette exterior finish ever.

Backbone Structure
The C5 Corvette structure, consisting of a strong perimeter frame combined with a center backbone, provides an impressive level of rigidity. This robust design allows Corvette's independent suspension to be tuned precisely for driver control and freedom from impact harshness.

The C5 Corvette was designed to be a convertible, even though the convertible didn't actually debut until a year after the coupe. As a result, the C5 convertible has received accolades for its structural integrity, great noise isolation and relatively low level of wind buffeting during top-down operation.

In 1999 a fixed roof hardtop model was added to the lineup - becoming the stiffest, lightest and quickest Corvette available. It was offered only with the 6-speed manual transmission and the Z51 Performance suspension. The Corvette Team indicated right from the beginning that the hardtop would be further developed in the performance dimension, and with the introduction of the Z06 that promise has been kept.

Double Wishbone Suspension
An SLA (Short and Long-Arm) suspension with aluminum double wishbones and knuckles is used at each corner. This suspension design contributes to a compliant ride, while providing impressive response, especially during aggressive cornering.

Control Technologies
Variable Effort Steering: All Corvettes come with Magna-Steer, a speed-sensitive, variable-effort power steering system. This computer-controlled system, combined with a rack-and-pinion steering gear, provides maximum steering assist for parking and precise steering feel at higher speeds.

ABS with Four-Wheel Discs: A premium four-wheel disc brake system with ABS is standard on all Corvette models. The brake rotors are large and well vented for powerful and robust braking performance. Premium non-metallic linings provide smooth, quiet braking.

Standard Traction Control: A full-function Traction Control system is also standard on every Corvette. It works in conjunction with ABS and electronic throttle control to optimize traction by reducing tire slip on many surfaces. An on-off switch is provided.

Active Handling: A sophisticated stability control system that utilizes special sensors to measure yaw, lateral acceleration and steering wheel position, then brings into play the combined power of Corvette's standard ABS and traction control system to smoothly assist the driver in maintaining vehicle control in oversteer or understeer situations.

Safety & Security
Many of Corvette's standard features are aimed at enhancing accident avoidance, occupant protection and security. A complete list of Corvettes standard & optional features may be found in the "Features & Specifications" section.

Powertrain
Central to the Corvette mystique over the past 47 years has been its ability to generate big horsepower and torque numbers. Thanks to Chevy's ongoing emphasis on providing exhilarating performance, the Corvette has filled well over a million sports car enthusiasts with awe and respect. Over time the original Chevy "Small Block" V-8 (first used in Corvette in 1955) was refined and enchanced, producing levels of power and torque that enthusiasts hungered for and couldn't get elsewhere. In the 60's and early 70's, several Big-Block engine variations (427 and 454 cubic-inch monsters) were offered, and they produced astounding horsepower and torque numbers. When fuel economy and emission compliance concerns finally killed the big-blocks development of the small-block shifted into a higher gear. In 1990, the most exotic small-block-to-date was introduced - the dual overhead-cam LT5 that provided the high-revving power for the Corvette ZR-1. It had little in common with previous small-block designs, and was the product of a joint venture between Chevrolet and Lotus Engineering. Mercury Marine, in Stillwater Oklahoma provided manufacturing expertise. In 1992, a GEN II small-block engine, the 5.7L LT1, was introduced, and it expanded the standard Corvette's performance envelope significantly. It was capable of much higher rpm limits than the L98 that it replaced, and delivered a much broader torque band. In the bargain it also delivered better fuel economy, reduced exhaust emissions and improved durability. Thousands of new Corvette buyers appreciated its considerable sweetness.

The sweetest small-block of all arrived in the new C5 in 1997. The GEN III LS1 was a clean-sheet design. Featuring an aluminum block, it enabled powertrain engineers to take advantage of inherent design strengths of the original small-block while eliminating virtually every one of its weaknesses. From top to bottom the new LS1 is new and different - the only commonality between it and the original Chevy Small-Block of 1955 being its 4-inch bore centers.

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