Maybe you’re thinking about fixing up an old Corvette. But you should be aware of the worst Corvette years so you don’t end up with a lemon. Here they are.
There is no denying that the Chevrolet Corvette is one of the biggest success stories in American automotive history. Looking back, it’s nearly impossible for most of us to remember a time when it wasn’t around.
For decades the Corvette has been one of the coolest cars on the road. And yet, this “coolness” hasn’t always been the case. (As with anything, there have been some missteps along the way!)
Let’s take a look at some of the worst Corvette years so that you can see whether or not you agree.
What Were the Worst Corvette Years?
Maybe you’re thinking about fixing up an old Corvette. Or maybe you want to become a member of the “Corvette Owner’s Club.” Either way, you should be aware of the worst Corvette years so you don’t end up with a lemon. Here they are:
1988 Commemorative Edition
A little background on paint color before we dive in: the first 1953 Corvettes are all painted Polo White.
So, the idea behind the 1988 Commemorative Edition (emphasis on the word commemorative) was to bring back the all-white look with modern (for the 1980s) style.
The problem, however, was the choice of color. They went stark white, so much so that it was almost difficult to look at (with white leather upholstery, and even white wheels). The result was a garish-looking nightmare of a car.
If the intent had been to honor the original classic Vette, unfortunately, the designers of this car missed the mark by a mile.
Corvette Stingray (1975)
One of the primary criticisms of the ’75 Stingray was horsepower vs gas mileage. The car’s 350 small block was a gas guzzler, yet it put out a laughable 165 horses.
Additionally, car lovers seem to have a love/hate relationship with the body style of this model.
It’s not a terrible looking car, per se, but many Vette lovers feel that the silhouette doesn’t live up to the classic lines of its predecessors.
Corvette L48 (1979)
Let’s go back in time a little further now, and dip our toes into the 1970s. The reality is that A LOT went wrong in the ’70s, and not just with the Corvette.
The exterior of this Vette looked like an identical twin of the 1978 model, but that’s pretty much where the similarities ended. The base 1979 L48 came with a 5.7-liter V8 that generated barely 195 horsepower, and the interior color was all the same…and we mean ALL THE SAME. EVERYWHERE!
Sadly, though, that’s not the worst part of the 1979 Corvette story. Incredibly, the 1979 model’s sales were through the roof, and in fact, it remains the best-selling Corvette of all time.
1975 Corvette Base
Staying in the misery of the ’70s for another minute, let’s take a look at the biggest disaster outside of the global oil crisis.
Where to even start? Well, first of all, by the time the 1975 Corvette rolled off the line, the big block was gone and the base 350 had lost half a point of compression. Not only that, it had gained a catalytic converter, resulting in a drop in output to 165 horsepower. (Yes, you heard that right.)
Simply put, 1975 was a low point for the Corvette, despite the fact that they SOMEHOW managed to sell nearly 40,000 units.
Callaway Twin Turbo (1987)
Let’s start by stating the obvious: The 80’s was a bad decade for the Corvette (and for many of us, to be honest). The 1987 Callaway Two Twin Turbo is a perfect example.
This car had plenty of strikes against it, but ultimately the big problem was that the early Callaway models simply weren’t built to last. The engine looked great, but that’s basically where the coolness ended.
Priced at nearly $50,000, this was an extremely expensive car for the time and was ultimately a big-time disappointment for the company. How big of a disappointment? Believe or not, only about 500 of this model were ordered.
Corvette Pace Car (1995)
Fortunately for everyone involved, the 1980’s eventually ended. But in taking a leap forward to the ’90s, the 1995 Corvette Pace Car may have been a lot of things, but none of them were especially great.
Considering that this car was a replica of the Corvette Convertible Pace Car for the 1995 Indi 500, there was nothing mechanically awful about it. The biggest issue was aesthetics.
The car’s color stuck out like a sore thumb…literally (picture a thumb that got smacked with a hammer, all discolored and swollen). The top half was purple (a paint color that is never flattering on a car, let alone a Corvette), and the bottom half was white with a bright red band separating the two.
Thankfully, only 527 units of this model were produced.
The 1958 Corvette
The moral of this story is that Harley Earl didn’t know when to put his pencil down, and the result of his work was a mess.
The 1958 model was the first Vette with four headlights and chrome EVERYWHERE you looked. It was running down the trunk lid, and trailed from the headlights to the front fenders. It had big wraparound chrome bumpers, and even chrome seats…just kidding!
The happy ending to this story is that the minute GM replaced Harley Earl with a new head of design, his team immediately started pulling chrome off the model they designed for 1959.
The 1953 Corvette
It might surprise you to find this model included on our list of the worst Corvettes ever. After all, 1953 was the year of the FIRST Corvette and is typically found on lists of the 10 Greatest Vettes of all time.
Believe it or not, both are true.
Consider the fact that a lot of corners were cut in the design and production of the original 1953 Corvette. The engine was positioned low and rearward, and the suspension was basically composed of modified parts from a Chevy sedan.
The biggest problem with this model year was the fact that the body was made up of 108 pieces of fiberglass, something that had never been done on such a large scale up to that point in history. The result was a crude finished product.
Thus, the 1953 Corvette is both an amazing and lousy automotive creation.
Corvette C4 (1984)
The 1984 Corvette featured a full Targa roof plus an all-new chassis. (And that was about all it had going for it.)
Critics were especially hard on this car’s manual transmission and lack of horsepower. The Cross-Fire injection engine produced a lackluster 205 horses, enabling the Porsche 911 3.2 to easily embarrass the C4.
Despite the fact that this year marked the return of the convertible body style, the change simply wasn’t enough to make this car a commercial success.
Corvette Pace Car (1998)
Our final entry into the worst Corvette’s ever made takes us back for one last look into the ’90s.
The 1998 Corvette Pace Care holds the proud distinction of being one of the most hideous Corvette’s ever produced. (The paint job was even worse than the 1995 Pace Car, which is really saying something!)
Not even the wheels or upholstery were spared this design fiasco, and it’s hard to imagine that someone didn’t get fired for turning the beloved Vette into a rolling billboard of bad taste.
Aside from marking the return of the Corvette as the Indy 500 Pace Car, this car is better off left as a distant memory when compared to the greatness of the Corvette’s other models.
The Not-So-Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly
When it comes to car design, not every year can be a winner. Although there have been many amazing Corvette years with models that will withstand the test of time and remain classics, this list offers you a look at some of the worst Corvette years ever.
Nonetheless, Corvette lovers are a loyal bunch, and everyone has a different opinion. So take a look at this list, compare notes with other car enthusiasts, and decide for yourself which ones are the best or worst of in the long history of this awesome sports car.
Now, on a positive not, since we’ve talked about the bad, take a look at the good, including the five most expensive Corvettes of all time!