Corvette Body Styles

by Dennis Hartman

Since 1953, General Motors has produced the iconic Chevrolet Corvette sports car. In over 50 years of Corvette production, and spanning five major redesigns, the car has been offered with several different body types. Despite the differences over the years, the Corvette of today has much in common with its predecessors.

Corvette Convertibles

Every generation of Corvette has been offered as a two-door, two-seat convertible: the classic roadster configuration. This has been true since the original Corvette in 1953, which was offered exclusively as a convertible with a soft folding top. Corvette roadsters are among the most popular and valuable American classic cars. Corvette convertibles feature enclosed rear trunks, which have a limited capacity due to the space taken up by the top when it is folded in the down position. One way in which Corvette convertibles differ across the generations is in the way the top is stored, sometimes within the trunk compartment and sometimes in a separate compartment with a hard cover between the seats and the trunk itself. Corvette convertibles have also come with single-piece removable hardtops in some model years. The hardtop option is offered in addition to a standard folding soft top.

Corvette Coupes

Beginning in 1963 the Corvette was also offered as a coupe. A closed coupe has been part of the Corvette lineup ever since. Because of its structural rigidity the hardtop coupe was used as the basis for a number of special performance editions and Corvette racers. These included the 1978 Indianapolis 500 pace car, the Corvette ZR1 factory performance edition, the Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette in 1988, and the current Z06 and ZR1 performance models. In the 1990s, the name "Corvette coupe" was used in marketing to refer to the base model, priced below the convertible and performance editions.

Split-Window Coupe

With the second generation Corvette in 1963 came the well known "Stingray" split-window coupe. This model, conceived by Chevy designer Larry Shinoda, featured a two-piece rear window with a thin extension of the roof line splitting it in two. The split-window coupe was discontinued for the 1964 model year, having only been produced in relatively small numbers in 1963. The split-window coupe is one of the most easily recognizable Corvettes, selling for a premium on the collector's market.

Corvette Hatchbacks

Chevy introduced the first hatchback Corvette in 1982 with the Collector Edition. With plans for an all-new Corvette to be launched in 1984, the hatchback feature was meant to indicate the future design and drive excitement in the Corvette brand. When the fourth generation Corvette arrived in 1983 as a 1984 model, it was available as both a coupe and convertible. The coupe, however, featured a glass liftgate hinged at the top, much like the hatchback on the 1982 Special Edition. This gate provided easy access to the cargo area and was open to the passenger compartment. By some definitions, cars cannot be properly classified as hatchbacks unless they include at least two rows of seating. Since the Corvette has always been a two-seater, the term "hatchback" is used unofficially. Among automobile enthusiasts, terms like "liftback" or "hatchback coupe" are generally preferred.

Other Corvette Tops

Beginning with the fourth generation Corvette in 1984, several Corvette models were offered in a targa (semi-convertible) body style with a fixed rear window and fully removable glass top. This option continued with the fifth generation Corvette in 1997. Targa Corvettes are referred to as "glass tops" by Chevrolet and resemble the hardtop coupe, only with a black glass roof panel instead of a body-colored, non-removable roof. The Corvette was also available with T-tops in the 1970s and early-'80s. These cars feature a pair of removable roof panels with a solid bar running the length of the opening, thus providing better structural rigidity and resembling the split-window coupes of 1963.

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