Car Infographic: 62 Years of Chevrolet Corvette Horsepower
Automotive technology has seen a lot of changes in the past six decades or so, especially when it comes to engine output. Horsepower figures once considered exclusive to only the fastest sports cars are now laid down by even the most modest of commuter cars, while the top-end performance vehicles continue onward into the stratosphere with nearly unfathomable horsepower specs. This trend is particularly obvious when considering the under-hood history of Chevrolet’s legendary Corvette,.
Spanning seven generations and 62 years, the story of Corvette horsepower begins in 1953 with the first-generation 1953-1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1. This initial take on the iconic American sports car actually included the option of a carbureted 3.9-liter inline six-cylinder engine. Producing a mere 150 horsepower, this unit made for the least powerful ‘Vette in the model’s long history. Luckily, first-gen buyers could also go with a fuel-injected 5.4-liter V-8 if desired.
The 1963-1968 Chevrolet Corvette C2 was the first Corvette generation to break the 400-horsepower mark, with the 425-horse big-block 427 V-8 stuffed into the 1965 Corvette Stingray. However looking at the bar graph, we see emissions regulations making their presence known as max horsepower takes a nosedive in 1972, right in the middle of the third generation of the C3. Most of the V-8s from that generation barely made 200 horsepower.
For years, things didn’t really improve all that much, until finally, in 1987, the power began to rise once again. Things really started to heat up with the C5, which Chevy used as the platform to introduce the venerable LS engine line.
The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette C6 was the first generation to see output crest the 600-horsepower mark, with its 638-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. These days, with the 2014-2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C7 debuting just last year, you can pick up an example of the racer-for-the-street 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 for a taste of 650 supercharged horsepower at the rear wheels.
Which begs the question – how far will the Corvette go when it comes to making outrageous output?
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Why it matters
It’s fascinating to cruise through seven generations and 62 years of Corvette at a glance, and looking at the horsepower figures gives a good indication of just how far internal combustion technology has come. Also, the dip seen in the ‘70s and early ‘80s is a dramatic example of what stricter emissions controls can do to the evolution of a sports car, and could predict the effects of future regulation.
Now, I know the purists would be less than thrilled if toaster technology was suddenly included with the Corvette’s beloved dino-juice-gulping V-8, but this is 2015, and frankly, the writing is on the wall.
However, putting potential governmental intrusion into the horsepower wars to one side, I can’t help but wonder what would happen 10, 15, even 20 years down the line if the Corvette was left unchecked.
I see three distinct possibilities. The first is more power via updated internal combustion technologies, and just so long as gasoline isn’t suddenly 10 bucks a gallon, I don’t think an extra few hundred ponies is entirely out of the question with the C8, C9, and onwards.
More likely, however, is the inclusion of hybrid technologies. Now, I know the purists would be less than thrilled if toaster technology was suddenly included with the Corvette’s beloved dino-juice-gulping V-8, but this is 2015, and frankly, the writing is on the wall. Most of the other major sports car manufacturers are already prepping for the inevitable hybridization that will extend the life of the internal-combustion engine for some time into the future, and if the 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder, 2014 McLaren P1 and 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari are any indicators, an electric motor and a battery pack aren’t necessarily a gearhead’s worst enemy. In fact, the tech should be met with open arms, given the fact it can enable both four-figure output numbers and emission-free driving, depending on the circumstances.
The final wrinkle would keep horsepower figures stagnant. However, performance would still see an increase thanks to extensive weight savings rendered by the inclusion of new materials technology and engineering tricks. Some manufacturers, like Porsche and Mazda, are already calling for an end to the horsepower wars, content to focus on making their cars lighter, rather than simply throwing on gobs of extra power.
Which path will the Corvette take? Maybe all three. I could see more output from the ICE, with a top-shelf hybrid model for those who want the latest and greatest, plus a reduced curb weight across the line.
Let’s just hope we don’t see a repeat of the ‘70s (165 horsepower from a 5.7-liter V-8? Really?).
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