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The Chevrolet Corvette is an all-American classic and the most successful sports car in history. The second generation of the vehicle, the Chevy Corvette Stingray, debuted in 1963. Chevrolet offered the 1964 Corvette and Corvette Z06 with a legendary 375 horsepower V8. It was the most powerful small-block GM would make until 2001. What’s more, it was the reborn 2001 Corvette Z06 that would finally claim the 1964 Corvette’s record.

The original Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

This is a 1964 Corvette convertible. The second-generation Chevrolet Corvette was nicknamed the Stingray | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
The second-generation Corvette was nicknamed the Stingray | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The first generation of the Corvette was a sporty convertible. Chevrolet offered this American roadster from 1953 through 1962. GM originally conceived of the car to compete with exotic European sports cars. But as other American automakers chased the Corvette, the successful car inspired the horsepower wars that would lead to the great Detroit muscle cars.

Chevrolet debuted the second-generation Corvette in 1963. Distinctive, slanted front fenders earned the second generation the nickname Corvette Stingray. The two-seater offered a coupe body style and nimble, independent rear suspension. In addition, for one year only, the Corvette had a groovy split rear window. For this reason, many fans consider 1963 one of the best Corvette years. But the 1964 Corvette went down in history for a very different reason.

The 1964 Corvette Z06 came with a 375 horsepower V8

This is a photo of The 1964 Corvette engine. Chevrolet offered a 375 horsepower V8 in the Stingray Corvette and Corvette Z06. | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
A V8 exclusive to the 1964 Corvette set records | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

General Motors installed inline-six engines in the first Corvettes. Then, in 1955, Chevrolet updated its flagship sportscar with a 265 cubic-inch V8. Finally, in 1962, engineers bored the little V8 out to 327 cubic inches. Eventually, GM would increase the 327’s stroke to create the legendary 350 cubic-inch small-block V8. But for several years, the performance team leveraged the 327 small-block V8. This small-block’s evolution would result in one of Chevrolet’s greatest racing engines.

For the 1964 model year, engineers upgraded the 327 with an aggressive new camshaft. This improvement bumped the carbureted engine’s power rating to 365 horsepower at 6,200 RPM. This 327 was one of the elite few engines producing one horsepower for every cubic inch at the time. The small-block V8 also made 350 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM.

The Corvette team did not stop at an improved camshaft. Instead, they also offered a fuel-injected version of the 327. This engine’s code was L84. The L84 V8 made 375 horsepower at 6,200 RPM. Corvette buyers could order a “fuelie” (fuel-injected) 327. And fuel-injected cars could be equipped with the incredible racing-ready Corvette Z06 package.

The L84 from the 1964 Corvette and Corvette Z06 would hold the record of Chevrolet’s most powerful stock small-block for nearly forty years.

The 327 V8 in the 1964 Corvette Z06 held the Chevy small-block horsepower record until 2001

This is a 1964 Chevrolet Corvette at a museum. The Stingray Corvette Z06 made legendary small-block power. | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
The 1964 Chevrolet Corvette is cherished by muscle car fans | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

By 1965, Chevrolet decided the future lay in big-block V8s in lightweight cars. So engineers redesigned the second-generation Corvette to fit General Motor’s big-block engine family. The 327 V8, once GM’s premier racing engine, was replaced for lack of displacement.

With its stroke lengthened, the 327 morphed into the 350 cubic-inch small-block V8. GM equipped vehicles with the legendary 350 for decades. The long-lived engine powered trucks, van, and generations of Camaros. Hot rod fans fell in love with the easy-to-modify 350. But five generations of stock 350s never made as much power as the stock 327 in the 1964 Corvette Stingray. It would take a brand new Corvette Z06 to break the record.

By the early 2000s, Detroit began to revive classic V8s and muscle cars. In 2001, Chevrolet brought back the Corvette Z06. For the new car, engineers built the LS6 V8. The fuel-injected 350 cubic-inch small-block V8 was rated for 380 horsepower. Therefore, the final generation of the 350 finally dethroned the 327. What’s more, the second-generation Corvette Z06 one-upped the first. 

Today, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a classic car making a comeback. And the 2023 Corvette Z06 is one of the most exciting ‘vettes yet. But fans of vintage Stingray with lightweight, small-block engines will always cherish the record-breaking 1964 Corvette and Corvette Z06.


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