Dubbed “America’s Sports Car,” the Corvette has written a lot of history since its first model was rolled out in 1953. Like with most cars and trucks, the “Vette” has seen successes and failures in model designs throughout its history, but this sports car continues to stir up excitement and captivate its audience even as it pushes 70.
While looking forward to the promised performance and high-tech offerings of the 2023 Chevrolet Corvette, American sports car enthusiasts still love the simplicity and nostalgia of first-generation Vettes. The 1962 Corvette was the last model of that first generation, but how many are still around?
The sports car America fell in love with
In contrast to how we age, modern Corvettes are “fleeter of foot” and a lot more agile than when they were younger. What was the Chevrolet Corvette like in the beginning, and what made America fall in love with this particular sports car?
Vettes in 1953 barely made a splash in the automotive world thanks to its underpowered inline-6 engine paired with a two-speed automatic transmission, but the installation of a 195 horsepower V8 engine in 1955, linked to a manual transmission, caught everyone’s attention. The 1956 Corvette SR2 really turned heads when it set a new speed record at Daytona. Then, fuel injection, added in 1957, boosted the sports car to 259 horsepower.
The 1961 Mako Shark design gave sports car enthusiasts a look into the future of second-generation Corvettes, but Chevrolet didn’t give a full transformation to the Corvette design until the introduction of the 1963 Stingray. Car and Driver notes that the 1962 small block V8 engine Vette was the last of the first-generation Corvettes.
Are there any 1962 Corvettes out there?
“A paltry total of 14,531 Corvettes were manufactured during the whole 1962 model year,” notes Car and Driver. Beginning with limited numbers means that a lot fewer have survived over the past 60 years. The most well-known 1962 Vette belongs to St. Louis Cardinal’s slugger Mark McGwire, who received a 1962 red Corvette from the team after hitting his 62nd home run in 1998.
Despite their slow, heavy steering and an archaic kingpin-type front suspension, about a hundred 1962 Corvettes have survived, based on Hagerty sales data. Various dealers and car traders around the country still have 1962 models available, but what can you expect to pay?
Car and Driver estimates that you will pay at least $20,000 for a 1962 Vette. However, depending on its condition, a base model 1962 Corvette, which cost a little over $4,000 new back in the day, could cost you between $30,000 and $82,000, while a mint-condition model can set you back close to $110,000 in 2021.
How do new Vettes differ from the 1962 Corvette?
The 2021 Corvette has the same V8 engine but produces 490 horsepower thanks to some technological tweaking in its eighth generation. Chevy moved the engine to the area behind the seats instead of under the hood. Dual exhaust featured in the Z51 package can provide a 5 horsepower boost, but models from 2021 and beyond no longer feature a manual transmission.
Modern technology has greatly improved the car’s performance, handling, and riding comfort over nearly 70 years, but the price to own a C8 Corvette has kept pace with inflation. You can expect to pay from $60,000 for the coupe and over $67,000 for the convertible. Chevrolet designers have leaked information about the 70th anniversary “E-Ray,” boasting the same 6.2-liter V8 engine as the Stingray, but with an output of about 600 horsepower along with electrification and forced induction.