The Chevrolet Corvette is one of the most successful cars of all time. With a lifespan of decades spanning several generations, it has proven to be a familiar favorite of the auto industry. The Corvette only continues to grow as time goes on, as showcased with the popularity of the newest models. With all of the new and fresh Corvette designs coming out, it’s interesting to look back into history to see those classic Corvette models.
The Corvette has evolved over generations, changing designs and engines to fit the times and satisfy buyers, but a few years of the Corvette stand out amongst the others. Buyers search for these models wherever they can, and many look back at them with fond nostalgia. You could even be looking to purchase your very own classic Corvette.
What Are the 3 Most Popular Corvettes to Buy?
With half a century worth of models on the Corvette timeline, there are a lot of choices to pick from. Here are the three of the most popular classic Corvettes to buy and why they were so popular during their time.
1. 1967 Corvette 427 L88
The Corvette’s second generation brought some of the best and most beloved models. Placed in that golden age of emphasized performance and classic designs, the ’60s Corvettes are some of the best of all time, and it’s the reason why two models from this generation make the list.
The 1967 Corvette was one of the most powerful and meanest Chevys ever made. It came right before the barrage of 1970 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that cracked down on performance vehicles, highlighting this model as a peak engine year for the Corvette.
But why is it popular?
The L88 had a 427 cubic-inch big-block V8 — a monster of an engine that Chevy rated at 430 horsepower. When people actually got behind the wheel and felt the power of the L88, a lot of them thought it ranged more at 550. This kind of power would give the Corvette the ability to travel short distances in virtually no time at all.
Just starting the 1967 L88 would give you a testament to its sheer power — the engine quite literally roars to life before settling into a dull, aggressive idle, heat blasting from its exhaust and the whole vehicle rumbling with excitement.
Some parts of the L88, such as the radio and AC units, were not available with the L88 package. To offset these downgrades, the L88 was fitted out with all that GM had to offer. These included plush leather seats, tinted glass, power windows and more.
If you get your hands on one of these classic cars, the accessories inside can be particularly important to get the L88 back to classic status. Small accessory details like emblems can be the touch you need to take the vehicle back in time to 1967.
Because of the high combustion ratio, the L88 is said to have come with a warning to keep octane levels at a designated minimum so engine damage would be avoided, and regular gasoline was prohibited.
In truth, the L88 wasn’t intended for the casual driver — something the Chevy tried to emphasize with the warning label. Zora-Arkus-Duntov, the creator, actually envisioned the car to be set in the racecar category, and the L88 was his next attempt after the Grand Sport to elevate the Corvette to that performance level.
The entire L88 design was geared to success on the track. Accessories were removed to decrease weight, with speed and power emphasized above all else. In doing so, GM also went against its agreement with the American Manufacturers Association to ban those types of vehicles.
Most of the early L88s were expensive and purchased by race teams who collected the few made.
The L88 was probably one the most aggressive, powerful classic Corvettes that Chevy ever brought to market. It was also one of the rarest. It’s believed that only 20 L88s were made that year, giving those who scooped them up in 1967 a valuable treasure from the classic past.
The scarceness of the L88 makes it one of the most sought-after Corvettes of any generation, which means it is also one of the most expensive. But if you’re able to get your hands on an L88, you’ll own one of the most classic and popular Corvettes of all time.
2. 1990 Corvette ZR-1
The beginning of the C4 generation saw a growing dissatisfaction among Corvette fans. The cars had lost the performance standards of the old days and were quickly falling into a dark age era. But before it could burn down completely, Chevy introduced the all-new ZR-1 in 1990 — a complete redefining of the classic car.
One of the main differences between this model and those preceding it in the C4 generation was its power. It had a Lotus-designed LT5 engine with 380 horsepower that could reach 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds. The other Corvette models in this generation didn’t come close to this kind of performance.
With this engine, the Corvette was once again in the high-performance category until the introduction of the LT1 in 1992. The ZR-1 brought excitement back to the Corvette and energized a generation that was heading towards disappointment. In later years, the Corvette would become even more powerful, upgrading to newer, bigger engines. Though the C4s became more powerful as time went on, the 1990 model paved the way for a new, exciting line of Corvettes.
With its Y-body two-door style, the ZR-1 is a classic-looking Corvette. Though it didn’t undergo significant changes during the C4 generation, this style seems to embody the authentic feel of a Corvette. With its smooth exterior and speedy, sinewy appearance, it drives well and looks good, too. It’s an undeniable car of its generation, nostalgic and powerful, and a joy to drive around and show off.
In the buildup to the C4, GM was strategizing for the future. They knew they needed to make a high-performance vehicle. There was fear that foreign manufacturers would take over the American car industry if they couldn’t create something that met the needs of the American people. GM needed to build something that blended high performance with fuel efficiency and drivability. This philosophy conceived one of the best Corvette models ever.
There’s no question that the ZR-1 changed Corvettes forever – in a good way. Part of the value of owning a ZR-1 is its contextual importance in Corvette history — it reinvigorated the brand and inspired a whole new generation of fans. It opened a new avenue for Corvettes and would compete with the sports car giants like Ferrari and Lamborghini. Though the ZR-1 was very costly at the time, it was still lower than most high-performance cars of the day, relegating the Corvette to a unique place in the market where it excelled.
The ZR-1 is one of the most impactful Corvettes ever, with maybe only the first model ever able to counter its mark on Corvette history. Today, it remains vastly popular among collectors for its legacy, performance and style.
If you’re looking to restore your ZR-1 to its classic look, Top Flight Automotive offers front and rear bumpers, alternators, radiators and other Corvette parts for this specific generation.
3. 1963 Corvette Sting Ray Split-Window Coupe
The C2 1963 Sting Ray was the first hit in a stretch of some of the best Corvette years.
The main factor that separates this Corvette from all the rest is its appearance. There was nothing quite like it. It was a fixed-roof coupe, with square edges sheered at both ends. The Corvette hood played to its name, flattening like a stingray to its two hidden headlights. Sharp lines and neat edges ruled this design, blending modernity with a classic appearance that created something truly unique.
But there was nothing more popular than its split windows. This minor design feature inspired a generation of collectors. Two windows sit on the tapered end of the Sting Ray, facing up towards the sky. Not surprisingly, the two rear windows proved to be a safety hazard and a hindrance to visibility. However, a significant number of people cherish the split window design and seek these models for just that feature. Many people who purchase this vehicle are looking at a major restoration project — seek a trusted shop for headlights, grills and taillights specific to this model.
The amazing appearance of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray was only made better by solid performance. One of the engine options was an L84 small-block engine with up to 360 horsepower. Drivers looking to boost performance could order the Z06 option, which created an overall more powerful experience regarding suspension, fuel tank and the gearbox.
The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray was versatile — the casual driver could drive around, cruise the neighborhood and show off to friends, and the performance racer could throttle the engine’s power to high speeds. It was a transcendent and beloved car, offering a little something to everyone.
Though the other options on this list are great Corvette models, each with defining characteristics and a legacy, they are close competitors to other models out there. The 1963 Corvette, with its classic look and performance, is a nearly unanimous pick as the best Corvette Chevy ever sold. You’ll see it come up time and time again in the ‘best’ Corvette lists, almost always ranking in at number one.
Only 21,513 of these models were ever created, and even fewer feature the split window configuration that came with its first design. Collectors and fans yearn after it more than any other model. It’s all of the best things about the Corvette packed into one model, making it one of the most popular Corvettes to buy.
After more than fifty years since its inception, the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray’s legacy is still strong.
Other Notable Mentions
Because of the half-century run and spanning generations, it’s challenging just picking three models out of all of the great Corvettes. Picking the best Corvette engines, the best Corvette design or the best Corvettes overall is subjective to each individual.
Some of these other notable mentions, though not in our top three, could show you which Corvette is right for you:
- 1970 Corvette LT-1: The 1970 LT-1 was among the best of the C3 generation, offering a powerful engine that met performance standards without a bulky engine. This was one of the last power-driven models until the ZR-1 was unveiled.
- 1953 Corvette: You can’t go wrong with the model that started it all — the 1953 Corvette. It was met with popularity from the start — people loved its muscley, speedy look. It looked strong and sturdy and was a fresh alternative to the other fragile foreign cars of the day.
- 1955 Corvette: Though good praise initially met the Corvette, its first couple years were disappointing, and Chevy needed a way to jumpstart its success before it faded away into oblivion. This jumpstart came in the form of the 1955 Corvette. It had less power than other models but was something different and unique. The 1955 Corvette had nowhere near the kind of power and performance that later models would boast, but this release set the Corvette on a path to a renowned legacy as a sports car.
- 1982 Collectors Edition Corvette: The 1982 Collector’s Edition Corvette marked the end of the C3 generation, and many collectors view this one as one of the most valuable. The collector’s edition introduced something brand new to the Corvette — a liftable frameless rear-glass hatchback. Emblems decorated the exterior and interior alike, stamping it as an official collector’s edition. The design of this Corvette was stunning, with a unique silver and beige finish on the exterior. Luxurious carpeting filled in the interior to match.
Shop Online With Top Flight Automotive
With the number of popular Corvettes to buy, there’s something here for everyone, whether you’re impressed by performance, appearance, drivability or legacy. If you’ve already purchased your own Corvette, you could be looking for a way to restore it and return it to its natural glory. That’s where Top Flight Automotive comes in.
Top Flight Automotive can take care of all of your restoration needs. We have the largest product portfolio of Corvette parts anywhere and offer you a one-stop shop for all of your projects.
Quality restoration products can be challenging to find, and that’s why we’ve created a place that only deals with the best products. Most products can get shipped to you within the same day, and our expert sales representatives are always available during business hours to answer any questions you may have.
Get the parts you need and seek out Top Flight Automotive for an easier restoration process. Shop online today!
December 27th, 2022 at 2:13 pm (#)
I absolutely agree with your picks, with one exception, the 1965 396 Corvette is missing from the list. This was the first year for the big block and the only year the 396 was ever offered.
January 28th, 2023 at 6:53 pm (#)
The 2013 Special Edition 427 convertible was certainly unique and an only year production
February 13th, 2023 at 10:09 pm (#)
The 1997 removable hard top 6 speed is my favorite for driving. I have driven 2 of the top 3 yet the 1997 6 speed is my car forever. If I get a new vett I know it will not be driven as much as my 1997.
February 19th, 2023 at 3:45 am (#)
I bought a 1958 corvette in 1968 and it was stolen from my garage 1970- I was drafted into the army . . . never found the Vette lived in Lovina Michigan… loved that car. in 1989 i bought a new king of the road a 1998 black coupe corvette.
February 21st, 2023 at 10:30 am (#)
The 63 Stingray came out the year I graduated
from high school. I knew then that I had to have
one. My opportunity came in 1965 when I bought a Daytona blue with red leather interior
convertible, both tops and a 327/340 hp engine. The car had 1,800 miles on it and I was
able to buy it for $1,800.00! I was 20 years old and driving the coolest car on the road! It doesn’t get better than that. College, family and jobs soon took priority and had to sell it.
I was in the car business in Denver for a while and got to drive Porsches, Panteras, Ferraries and newer Corvettes but none were better than my 63 Vette.
March 25th, 2023 at 4:00 pm (#)
In March1956 I bought a 1954 Corvette. It was a light blue, I don’t know if this was original color or not. The main object was the car, it made me “King of The Hill”. Living in rural Indiana this was the first car like it anyone had ever seen except in photos. No one at the local Chevy dealer had seen a Corvette and they were most anxious to make sure every item about the car was working correctly. I had a great summer and fall driving the car but had to sell it when I joined the Marine Corps that winter. I offer my best thoughts to all those “want-a-be’s” who would love to have a Vette at some time in their life.
May 15th, 2023 at 9:49 pm (#)
I bought a 1978 L82 25th anniversary bone white with red interior put a 5.7 Edelbrock manifold and Edelbrock 750 carburator with turbo 400 California edition I’m loving it my first and only seen it at age 19 couldn’t afford it had kids