C5 Corvette (1997-2004) – GM originally planned a 1993 debut for the fifth generation Corvette, to mark it’s 40th anniversary. However, taking a cue from previous generations, the C5 was also a late arrival. It was finally introduced to the public in 1997 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Unlike the early years of the Corvette, when legends such as Zora Arkus-Duntov and Bill Mitchell defined the expectations of the Corvette, the C5 was the direct result of market research and customer clinics. Chevrolet sent surveys to nearly 1600 Corvette owners asking for input about their Corvettes and what they would like to see in future generations.
The result was a brand new Corvette that took very few cues from previous generations. The car was still unmistakably a Corvette, but virtually all interior, exterior and suspension components were redesigned for the C5. The 1997 Corvette had a completely new engine driving a rear transaxle, which was a first for the Corvette franchise.
The rear transaxle combined a GM built, electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission or a six speed manual. Locating the transmission in the rear maintained nearly equal front-to-rear weight distribution and improved interior space by enlarging the footwells. Wheelbase increased more than eight inches from the C4 Corvette, significantly improving ride quality. The C5 contained 1500 fewer parts than the C4, as part of a concerted effort to reduce the shakes and rattles that plagued the C4.
In 1998, a separate trunk with outside access returned to the Corvette Convertible – a first since 1962.
In 2001, Chevy brought back two names from its past – Z06 and LS6 – with the introduction of a Z06 model powered by a specific, more powerful 385hp-Ls6 engine. All 2001 hardtop models were Z06s with LS6 engines, and all had 6-speed manual transmissions with revised ratios.
For the 2003 model year, all Corvettes wore 50th anniversary badges, and the factory offered a 50th Anniversary Package that included Anniversary Red exterior paint, unique front fender emblems, champagne -painted aluminum wheels and a Shale interior which blended a lighter gray/beige on seats and carpeting with a darker gray/beige for console, instrument panel and upper door panels. This marked the first departure from black instrument panels for the C5.
The C5 Corvette was a huge success. C5 accolades included Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” in 1998, Automobile Magazine’s “Automobile of the Year” in 2001, and inclusion on Car and Drivers annual “10 Best” list in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, and 2004.
The Base Corvette Sport Coupe retailed for $37,495 in 1997. By 2004, the Base Corvette Sport Coupe was retailing for $44,535.