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THE CHEVROLET CORVETTE

Chevrolet Corvette The Chevrolet Corvette
Debuting in 1953 at the General Motors Motorama in New York City, the Corvette has become one of the longest-running automotive nameplates in history. Although the original '53 was hardly a sports car with its modest six-cylinder engine and two-speed automatic, subsequent models slowly refined the Corvette into America's premier sports car. The 1956 model featured revised bodywork and much improved handling thanks to legendary engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, but it wasn't until the 1963 "Sting Ray" Corvette that it attained true sports car status.

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When the new style arrived during 1996, the fifth-generation rear-drive sports car delighted some enthusiasts but dissatisfied others. Arriving on the market in January 1997, the latest Corvette was practically a different breed of sports car. Again fiberglass-bodied, the 2-seater was 1.2 inches longer than its predecessor, on a wheelbase that gained a whopping 8.3 inches.

The transmission moved from behind the engine to the rear axle. That change was intended to create a more even front/rear balance, and also to improve interior packaging. A removable roof panel was standard on the new hatchback coupe. Analog gauges replaced the prior mix of digital and analog instruments. No spare tire was included, due mainly to lack of space. That wasn't exactly a drawback, since the standard tires could run for up to 200 miles with no air pressure at all. A 5.7-liter LS1 aluminum V8 engine produced 345 horsepower. A 4-speed automatic transmission was standard, with 6-speed manual shift the optional choice. Traction control was standard. Corvettes were in short supply for a while. At first, only high-volume Corvette dealers got cars at all.

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