Attracting attention on American roadways since 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette is one of the most recognizable automobiles ever made. From Harley Earl’s original prototype to the latest 2021 model year, the desirable dream car inspires driver imagination. Some models are more available than others, however. What model year is the rarest Corvette? Here’s what we know:
A concise Corvette history
The first Corvette was the brainchild of Chevy brand master and General Motors design VP Harley J. Earl. Chevrolet general manager Ed Cole then came aboard, and Project Opel was born. The prototype ‘Vette was a hit at the January 1953 Motorama show in New York, and by the end of the year, 300 hand-built C1 models had rolled off the production line.
C1 Corvettes came with a two-speed automatic transmission and were available with one color option: Polo White with a red interior, explains Silodrome Gasoline Culture. The 1953 convertible model boasted an inline six-cylinder engine and was one of the first American-made cars with a fiberglass body. Roughly 200 of the original 300 cars are still around, but they’re not the rarest model. That distinction belongs to a Corvette made in 1969.
Rarest Corvette models
To date, more than 1.5 million Corvettes have been sold. According to MotorTrend, the rarest models were built between the early 1960s and the early 1970s. Here they are in order of rarity:
1967 Corvette L88
With only 20 built, this mid-year ‘Vette came without the air-conditioner, radio, and heater that were standard on earlier models, but it did offer options such as a Positraction limited-slip differential and a heavy-duty braking system. Scarcity of the limited-edition sports car can be attributed to the fact that the L88 was marketed more to professional racers than to typical auto buyers, explains Car and Driver magazine.
1967 Corvette L89
With an over-the-top 435-horsepower engine, this limited-edition Corvette was the zippiest vehicle one could reasonably drive on city streets, says MotorTrend. It featured the same aluminum cylinder heads and the L88 model of the same year, but only 16 were built and sold.
1971 Corvette ZR2
One of the rarest Corvette Stingrays ever produced, the 1971 ZR2 offered an array of high-performance options, including an M22 four-speed manual transmission, a dual-disk clutch, a heavy-duty, lightweight aluminum radiator, and larger anti-sway bars, says HotCars. Despite public interest in such a supercharged street vehicle, a mere dozen were built and sold before Chevy ceased production.
1963 Corvette Grand Sport
By 1963, the three biggest carmakers in the U.S. were restricted by The American Manufacturer’s Association from building ultra-fast factory race cars. Nonetheless, GM engineer Zora Duntov conceived a lighter Stingray to one-up the Shelby Cobra, says SuperCars. Only five were built, making the ’63 Grand Sport the second-rarest Corvette around today.
1969 Corvette ZL1
Drivers who wanted to upgrade from a factory V8 engine to the incredibly fast, super-charged ZL1 had to order extra options, including heavy-duty brakes, a transistorized ignition system, a Positraction rear end, and a specialized suspension package. According to MotorTrend, the option package effectively doubled the price of the now-rarest ‘Vette, and only two 1969 ZL1 Corvettes were made and sold.
The 2021 model year
As with previous models, the 2021 Corvette C8 is a great-looking performance car with room for two. Unlike the original ‘Vette which only came in white with red interior, the 2021 Stingray comes with a range of color options, including Elkhart Lake Blue, Torch Red, Zeus Bronze, and Sebring Orange, says CarsDirect. Thanks to strategically placed carbon fibers, the body of the newest Corvette is 19 percent stronger than previous models, explains CarIndigo.
Car buyers can expect to pay a base price of around $59,000 for a 2021 Corvette. Beef it up with additional options, and the cost of a new ‘Vette may exceed $78,000, says U.S. News.