Chevrolet Corvette (C5)

Chevrolet Corvette (C5)
Chevrolet Corvette (C5)
Chevrolet C5 Corvette Convertible (Orange Julep).jpg
Chevrolet Corvette C5 Convertible
Manufacturer Chevrolet Division
of General Motors
Production 1996–2004
Model years 1997–2004
Assembly Bowling Green, Kentucky, United States
Predecessor Chevrolet Corvette (C4)
Successor Chevrolet Corvette (C6)
Class Sports car
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
2-door hardtop coupé
Layout FMR layout
Platform Y-body
Engine 5.7L LS1 V8
5.7L LS6 V8 (2001–2004) (Z06)
Transmission 6-speed manual
4-speed auto.
Wheelbase 104.5 in (2,654 mm)
Length 179.7 in (4,564 mm)
Width 73.6 in (1,869 mm)
Height 47.7 in (1,212 mm)
Convertible: 47.8 in (1,214 mm)
Curb weight 1,472 kg (3,245 lb)
Convertible: 1,473 kg (3,247 lb)
Hardtop: 1,439 kg (3,172 lb)[1]
Related Callaway C12

The Chevrolet Corvette (C5) is a sports car produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1997 through 2004 model years.



Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The C5 was a major change from the previous generation. Designed from the outset as a sturdy convertible, as opposed to a coupé that was subsequently weakened by the removal of the roof structure, the car now had a hydroformed box frame. The transmission was moved to the rear of the car to form an integrated, rear-mounted transaxle assembly which was connected to the all-new LS1 engine via a torque tube; this engine/transmission arrangement helped facilitate a desirable 50-50 (percentage, front-rear) weight distribution for the vehicle. The LS1 engine initially produced 345 hp (257 kW), but that was increased slightly in 2001 to 350 hp (261 kW). The 4L60-E automatic transmission carried on from previous models, but the manual was replaced by a Borg-Warner T-56 6-speed that is capable of propelling the C5 to a top speed of 200 mph (320 km/h). Gone were the squeaks and rattles of the C4,[2] replaced by a stronger frame that would last for at least two more generations.[citation needed] By all measures, the new C5 was better in every aspect than the C4 it replaced.

The styling of the C5 was also a departure from the trend set by the previous-generation Corvette. Where as the styling of the C4 had largely been a simplification of the C3 fastback design, straightening out the complex curves of the car to give it sleeker lines, the C5 reversed that somewhat. The vehicle now had a more rounded and graceful appearance that helped to recapture some of the aggressive looks of the C3 without compromising aerodynamics.

In the inaugural model year (1997), only the fastback coupé was offered, with the convertible – the first to offer a trunk since 1962 – following in 1998. 1998 also saw the C5 convertible pacing the Indianapolis 500, and a replica pace car edition was sold; C5 Corvettes subsequently paced the 2002 and 2004 Indianapolis 500 races, but no replica pace car versions were offered during those model years. In 1999, a third body style, the hardtop (also referred to as the "fixed-roof coupé" or "FRC"), was added to the lineup. This body style, as its name suggests, featured a fixed top (no removable targa top panel as with the fastback coupé) with a roofline shape and trunk space similar to that of the convertible.

Aside from cosmetic differences (new wheel styles, paint colors, pace car/commemorative editions in 1998, 2003, and 2004, etc.), horsepower boosts, and new offerings for optional equipment, there were few fundamental changes from one model year to the next within the production run of the C5. One of the more popular "high-tech" options introduced to the Corvette line was a head-up display or HUD, while another innovation was the Active Handling System (first available as an option in 1998, then standard on all models in 2001). The C5 was also the first Corvette to incorporate a drive-by-wire throttle; and variable-effort steering, whereby the assist level of the power steering is varied according to vehicle speed (more at lower speeds, less at higher speeds).

In contrast to the reputation of high-performance vehicles for poor fuel economy, the C5 achieves comparatively high EPA ratings of 18/25 mpg (city/highway) with the automatic transmission[3] and 19/28 with the manual transmission,[4][5] allowing it to avoid the "gas guzzler" tax that is levied against most other vehicles in the Corvette's class. A number of factors are responsible for this: the relatively light weight of the C5 (a curb weight under 3,300 lb (1,500 kg); Chevrolet went so far as to omit the spare tire as a weight-saving measure, relying upon run-flat tires instead); the C5's low drag coefficient; and the vehicle's tendency to upshift into the higher gears as soon as possible. The manual transmission's Computer-Aided Gear Shifting results in an obligatory shift from 1st gear directly into 4th gear under certain driving conditions; the system can be inhibited through the use of an aftermarket device.

Suspension choices for the base model C5 were limited to the standard suspension (RPO FE1), with options for either the autocross-inspired FE3 Sport Suspension (included with the Z51 Performance & Handling Package and standard on the 1999–2000 FRC); or the F45 Selective Ride Control Suspension, which permitted "on-the-fly" driver selection of different ride characteristics (sport or touring). Late in the production run (starting with the 2003 model year), the F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension replaced the F45 as the third suspension choice. The racing-inspired FE4 suspension used for the Z06 is stiffer again than any offered on the base model C5, and is unique to that model with no optional suspensions offered.

The C5 is capable of matching or besting the 0–60 mph acceleration times of some of the world's premier sports cars, including the BMW Z8, Ferrari 360, and Porsche 911 Turbo (Type 996). A composite of published performance numbers for the base-model coupé and convertible gives a 0–60 mph time of around 4.7 seconds, and a standing quarter-mile time of around 13.2 seconds at 109 mph (both times for a vehicle equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission).

The C5 has been criticized for its liberal use of light-weight materials (e.g., plastics, plywood, etc. in areas such as interior trim components and floor pans), overhead valve engine, and leaf springs, all of which were interpreted as cheap-and-easy substitutes for higher-quality materials or more sophisticated designs, the C5 became regarded as the best performance vehicle available for the price to enthusiasts. In some cases, the C5 provided performance equal to, or better than, vehicles approaching 2–3 times its sticker price, which some buyers of the C5 viewed as an acceptable trade-off for these lower-cost compromises.


Note the distinctive black brake duct in front of the rear wheel, and the fixed-roof coupé body style.

A successor to the ZR-1 made its debut in 2001 as the Z06, giving a nod to the high-performance Z06 version of the C2 Corvette of the 1960s. Instead of a heavy, double-overhead cam engine like in the ZR-1, the Z06 used a high-output, tuned version of the standard LS1 Corvette engine (designated LS6), which initially produced 385 hp (287 kW). Although its total horsepower output was less than that of the last ZR-1, the Z06 was much lighter, and could out-perform the ZR-1 in every category except top speed. It also cost substantially less money than the ZR-1.

Chevrolet engineered several modifications for the Z06 to best use the increased power. Starting with the most structurally rigid body style, the hardtop or FRC, new components included: uprated FE4 suspension, larger wheels and tires, revised gearing ratios, and functional brake cooling ducts. The Z06 is 38 pounds lighter than a standard C5 hardtop thanks to weight-saving measures such as a titanium exhaust, thinner glass, lighter wheel, non-EMT tires, reduced sound proofing, fixed rear radio aerial, and a lighter battery. Starting with the 2002 model year, the LS6 engine output was increased to 405 hp (302 kW) due to a larger CFM air intake, stiffer valve springs, lighter sodium filled valves, more aggressive camshaft lift and timing, lighter pistons, and revised engine block.

The 2004 Z16 Commemorative Edition was equipped with a carbon fiber hood, saving an additional 10 pounds of weight. Other unique characteristics of the Z16 (Commemorative Edition Z06) are the polished aluminum wheels, special paint color and striping, and commemorative-edition badging and wheel center caps. The Z16 also received shock damping tuning for improved handling. The Z16 option accounted for the majority of Z06 Corvettes in 2004, totaling 2025 units, with 325 units shipped overseas.

Factory performance figures for the 405 hp (302 kW) version of the Z06 give an acceleration time from 0–60 mph as 3.9 seconds.

Special Editions

Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica

1998 Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car Replica

In 1998, the newly-introduced convertible version of the C5 was chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500 race, and a Pace Car Replica (RPO Z4Z) was offered to the public. Aside from lacking the equipment necessary for actual pace car duties (light bar, special racing harnesses, etc.), there was little difference between the Pace Car Replica C5 and the vehicle that actually saw duty during the race.[6]The Pace Car Replica package consisted of a special paint color ("Radar Blue"), unique interior colors (black and yellow), painted yellow wheels, and special pace car decals. The Pace Car Replica package also included other optional equipment: the newly-introduced Active Handling System (RPO JL4); an electronically-tuned AM/FM radio with CD player and a Bose speaker system; an electronic dual-zone heating & air conditioning system; and leather adjustable sport bucket seats. While regarded by many as the most garish Corvette appearance package offered to date, the 1998 Pace Car Replicas nevertheless enjoy a strong and loyal following of owners and collectors.

50th Anniversary Edition

2003 Corvette 50thAnniversary Edition

A 50th Anniversary Edition (RPO Z25) was offered during the 2003 model year to commemorate a half-century of Corvette production. Available in convertible and coupe models, the 50th Anniversary Edition came with a special shade of red paint ("Anniversary Red Metallic") and shale two-tone leather interior; Anniversary Edition convertibles were adorned with a shale-colored soft top as well. A new option for Corvette in 2003, the F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension was standard on the 1SC-equipped Anniversary Edition vehicles, but not on the Z06. Special ("Warm Nickel Metallic") painted aluminum wheels, embroidered upholstery trim, and badges completed the Anniversary Edition package. Also included were all of the convenience options offered on the upscale Corvette models.

A slightly modified 50th Anniversary Edition Corvette was chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500 race in May 2002; then the production vehicle became a centerpiece of the subsequent 50th Anniversary Celebration, sponsored by Chevrolet. Festivities included gatherings in Nashville, Bowling Green, and St. Louis. Thousands of Corvettes and their owners arrived from all over the country to participate in the events marking the vehicle's 50th year of production.[7]

24 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition

During the 2004 model year, a 24 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition package (RPO's Z15 & Z16) were offered as an option for all three C5 models (fastback coupé, convertible, Z06) in celebration of the C5-R "1–2" in-class finishes at Le Mans. The package consisted of a special paint color ("Le Mans Blue Metallic"); shale two-tone leather interior (coupés and convertibles only); and wide, silver-and-red stripes optionally applied down the center of the car (Z06 only). Commemorative Edition convertibles received a shale-colored soft top, and the Z06 version (dubbed the "Z16" after its RPO for the Le Mans Commemorative Edition) received a carbon fiber hood as a further weight-reduction measure. Special commemorative badging, headrest embroidery, and brightly-polished wheel rims (a first on the Z06) with unique centercaps completed the package.


The C5-R was a racecar built by Pratt & Miller for GM Racing. It was based on the C5 road car but had a longer wheelbase, wider track, an enlarged 7.0 L V8 and different bodywork with exposed headlamps. It is raced in the American Le Mans Series in the GTS Class and has been to four 24 Hours of Le Mans races.

  • 2001 The car's remarkable 2001 racing season produced eight victories in ten races, including an overall win in the 24 Hours of Daytona and a one-two finish in the GTS class at Le Mans.
  • 2002 In 2002 the C5-R repeated its one-two victory at Le Mans and also dominated the GTS class in the American Le Mans Series. A new transaxle unit replaced the previous year's separate transmission and differential. Corvette faced stiff competition from the new Prodrive Ferrari 550, which led for most of race but had problems late, leaving the victory to Corvette.
  • 2003 In 2003, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest placed additional restrictions on all 24 Hours of Le Mans competitors, reducing power by 10% in an attempt to slow the cars. At the 2003 season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring race, the C5-Rs remained in winning form, with one of them finishing first in class and eighth overall. Also in 2003 the yellow paint was dropped in favor of a special red, white, and blue color scheme to commemorate the Corvette's 50th anniversary. However, at Le Mans the Prodrive Ferraris spoiled the anniversary and hopes for a three-in-a-row victory in the GTS class.
  • 2004 Corvette C5-R came back in 2004 and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in their class. The Prodrive Ferrari led most of the race, but with under 12 hours to go both the Prodrive cars had problems causing them to pit and lose laps. The Corvettes went on to finish 1–2, with the No. 64 car finishing 16 laps ahead of the lead Ferrari.
  • 2005 Although in the process of becoming superseded by the C6-R, the Corvette C5-R was not finished with its racing successes. In FIA GT, the new Corvette Europe team won races at Imola and Zhuhai. The Euro team also managed a number of podium finishes. In the ALMS, the Pacific Coast Racing team achieved some podiums behind the factory C6-R.
  • 2006 The C5-R returned to Le Mans (France) for the first time as a non-factory entry, run by Le Mans regular Luc Alphand. It finished third in the GT1 class behind the C6-R and Prodrive Aston Martin.
  • 2007 Alphand's squad again ran the C5-R at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, in pairing with a C6-R acquired from Corvette Racing.

Production notes

Year Production Base Price Notes
1997 9,752 $37,495 LS1 engine is new; the fastback coupé is the only body style offered
1998 31,084 $38,995 Convertible C5 debuts with the first trunk in a Corvette convertible since 1962;
Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica offered; Active Handling System introduced as optional equipment
1999 33,270 $39,777 Less-expensive hardtop coupé is offered as a base-model body style
2000 33,682 $40,900 Newly-styled alloy wheels debut. Three new colors: Millennium Yellow, Magnetic Red ll, and Dark Bowling Green.[8]
2001 35,627 $41,475 Hardtop coupé body style becomes top-performance Z06, utilizing the new LS6 engine and suspension improvements;
Second-Generation Active Handling System becomes standard equipment on all models; slight (5 hp) increase in base model engine power
2002 35,767 $42,450 20 hp (14.9 kW) increase for the Z06
2003 35,469 $45,895 50th Anniversary Edition package offered for base models;
F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension supersedes F45 Selective Ride Control Suspension as base-model option
2004 34,064 $46,535 24 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition package offered for all models
Total 248,715

See also


  1. ^ "C5 Corvestte Specifications". Idaho Corvette Page and CV World Internet Publishing. Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  2. ^ "The Immortal Corvette: 1997–2003". Retrieved 2009-12-25. 
  3. ^ "Compare Old and New MPG Estimates". 2006-09-10. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  4. ^ "Compare Old and New MPG Estimates". 2006-09-10. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  5. ^ Both manual and automatic figures are the original ratings given on stickers at the time, before the EPA's rating changes in 2008. See "2008 Fuel Economy Tests" at for details.
  6. ^ "Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car Replicas to be Offered". Retrieved 2009-12-25. 
  7. ^ "50th Anniversary Corvette Registry". General Motors Corporation. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  8. ^ 2000 Corvette Buyers Guide

External links

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