Best Corvette Trim Levels

In the past I wrote about the Best Camaro Trim Levels, and the Best Mustang Trim Levels. This time I am going to cover the Best Corvette Trim Levels. As a reminder, I am considering it a trim level if it either came from the factory or had a factory warranty attached to it. You will see why this is relevant at the end. The Corvette started in 1953 as America’s answer to the European sports cars. The first generation Corvette or C1, is still one of the most beautiful cars ever created. It wasn’t until the second generation that Chevy really started to introduce some unique trim levels. How do you tell a car guy from the mid-life crisis driving a red convertible automatic Corvette? The are probably driving one of these trim levels.

Corvette Grand Sport (C2, C4, C6, C7)

a blue C4 Corvette Grand Sport with white stripe and two red stripes over front wheels
1996 Corvette Grand Sport – photo by Steven N. Severinghaus

I toyed with including the Sting Ray(or Stingray depending on the year), but that almost just became the default Corvette trim level in the 60’s. The Grand Sport is becoming that way now with the newer models but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the C2 Grand Sport was built as a race car that was meant to compete with the Shelby Cobra. Unfortunately, the GM brass put a stop to it and now these are some of the rarest and most valuable Corvette models ever.

The C4 Corvette Grand Sport is probably the most recognizable. Chevy only made 1,000 and they only came in Admiral Blue with two red hash marks on the side and black, five-spoke wheels. They each featured a high-performance LT4 making over 330 hp. The Grand Sport would return for the C6 and C7 models and would feature a number of performance enhancements. The C6 featured bigger sway bars, stiffer shocks, stiffer springs, bigger tires, bigger brakes, and some Z06 pieces thrown in for good measure. The C7 is more of the same and they both feature the iconic side hash marks but in numerous colors.

Corvette Z06 (C2, C5, C6, C7)

a yellow C6 Corvette Z06
The C6 Corvette Z06 – photo by Alexandre Prévot from Nancy, France

The Z06 might be my favorite Corvette trim level. Introduced in the second generation, the Z06 was designed to be race ready from the factory. You actually had to know what to order because it wasn’t really advertised. The C2’s had bigger sway bars, better brakes, stiffer shocks and springs, and a large 36 gallon fuel tank. The C2 Z06 made 360 hp out of a 5.4L engine. The Z06 designation wouldn’t return until the C5 model. The C5 Z06 had a better suspension, better brakes, better cooler, it was lighter and it made more horsepower. The tuned LS1 made 405 hp and propelled the Z06 to 60 mph in 4 seconds flat. Those are still pretty good numbers.

The C6 Z06 really started the bring the power. This model featured the iconic 427 (LS7) making 500 hp. Combine that with the light weight and extensive use of carbon fiber (at least for a Corvette) and the car would hit 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds. It also had massive brakes with 6-pistons up front and 4-pistons in the rear. The C7 Z06 would add the supercharger to a 6.2 liter engine making over 650 hp. Magnetic suspension, carbon ceramic brakes, more carbon fiber, the car just keeps getting better. It now hits 60 in 3 seconds or less and tops out at 205 mph. Just incredible. Someone in my neighborhood has one and I am super jealous.

Corvette ZL1 (C3)

a yellow 1969 Corvette ZL1 with black stripes.
A 1969 Corvette ZL1 – photo from The Cheat Sheet

I know what you’re thinking, isn’t the ZL1 a Camaro trim level? You are correct. In fact, both the Camaro and Corvette were available in ZL1 trim in 1969. The Corvette was available for a very limited run in ZL1 trim. When I say limited run, I really mean it. Only three of these were ever built. In 1969, you could get a ZL1 Corvette which featured an all-aluminum 427 making 460 hp and weighing nearly 100 lbs less. The car was nearly a second faster than the top of the line Corvette models covering a quarter mile in the low 11 second range. If you are wondering how fast that is, the C7 Z06 mentioned above, MIGHT beat the ZL1 by a tenth or two.

Corvette ZR1 (started with C3, C6, C7)

a black Corvette ZR1
Corvette ZR1 – photo by Bull-Doser

The Corvette ZR1 trim level was introduced during the C3 generation. The option included a 454 cubic inch engine making 425 hp. The car had better brakes, an upgraded suspension, and a strong transmission. You couldn’t get them with power steering, power windows, or power brakes. They didn’t include air conditioning or a radio. The C3 ZR1 wouldn’t even be the craziest version, that would be the C4. Chevrolet teamed up with Lotus (yes, you read that right), to make the fastest production car based on the C4 Corvette. The ZR1 (or ZR-1 as it was called) used an active suspension derived from Lotus F1 cars. The car also featured four camshafts and 32 valves making 375 horsepower. The production car would only hit 180 mph and 0-60 in the mid 4-second range. Not quite the fastest production car, albeit another version would be (see below).

The C4 ZR-1 was incredibly hard to sell as it cost $100,000 and wasn’t the fastest car ever. The ZR1 would return for the C6 Corvette as the code name “Blue Devil”. The “Blue Devil” featured a supercharged LS9 making 630 hp which propelled it to a top speed of 192 mph. The car featured a see-through hood, carbon ceramic brakes, and gorgeous wheels. These might be in my top-5 of production wheels and I don’t even like chrome. The C7 ZR1 would take things to a whole other level. The new ZR1 featured a supercharged that displaced a massive 2.6 liters. That’s over a liter larger than my daily driver! The ZR1 makes a ridiculous 755 hp and reaches a top speed of 215 mph. No we are talking! Except it still isn’t the fastest Corvette….

Callaway SledgeHammer (C4)

a teal Callaway SledgeHammer Corvette
A Callaway SeldegeHammer Corvette – photo from Milos Nikodijevic

Ok, admittedly this is sort of cheating. Yes, you could get a Callaway Corvette from the factory that featured a twin-turbo V8 making around 400hp with a warranty. But, those weren’t the SledgeHammer. The SledgeHammer took those Callaway Corvettes and turned them up to 11. Well, technically 22 psi. This bumped horsepower up to an insane 898 HP and 772 lb ft of torque. This emissions legal, road legal car was driven to a ludicrous 254 mph! To put that into perspective, that is faster than the first generation Veyron. How ridiculous is that? While not technically a factory car, it was legal and it did accomplish Chevy’s goal of creating the fastest production car, sort of.

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