Top 10 Most Desirable Production “Performance” Street Corvettes
Calling all Corvette Enthusiasts! We have an exciting new list to share about some of the most sought-after Corvettes in the industry. Today, we’re breaking down the top 10 most desirable performance Corvettes from Chevy from the C1 through C7 generations. Whether you’re looking for vintage American classic muscle or sleek new Corvette power and agility, Chevy has produced a wide array of desirable performance Corvettes for you to enjoy. Check out our post where we take a deeper dive into each generation and highlight our favorite performance Corvette.
By K. Scott Teeters
Marking a special moment in history, the new E-Ray Corvette made its public debut on January 17, 2023, precisely seventy years since the Corvette’s original grand introduction at the 1953 GM Motorama at the Waldorf-Astoria (nice to see respect for Corvette’s history). Today we are looking at the Top 10 Most Desirable Production “Performance” Street Corvettes – now let’s have some Bench Racing fun!
In this article:
- C1 – 1962 Fuel-Injected Corvette:
- Most Desirable Performance Corvettes of the C2s – The 1963 Fuel-Injected Corvette Sting Ray Coupe:
- C2 – 1967 427/435 L89 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe:
- C3s – The Most Desirable Performance Corvettes are the 1969 427/435 L89 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe:
- C4 – 1995 ZR-1 Corvette:
- C4 – 1996 Grand Sport:
- C5 – 2004 Commemorative Edition Z06:
- C6 – 2009-2013 ZR1:
- C6 – 2013 427 Corvette Convertible:
- C7 – 2019 ZR1:
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This certainly is a heady time for Corvette. The Z06 is finally in the hands of magazine road test writers, the all-wheel-drive hybrid has arrived, rumors of a 1,000-horsepower “Zora” Corvette abound, and many are speculating if Chevy is working on the C9 Corvette. As to the C9, of course, they’re working on the C9. New-gen Corvettes take time and don’t just happen in a few months before they debut. And Tadge Juechter and his team are as tight-lipped about future products as the head bolt on the LT6. We won’t know until they want us to know.
Example: At the Michelin Bash at the Corvette Museum in May 2022, Harlan Charles, Corvette Product Marketing Manager, was asked in a seminar, “We heard that you’re working on a Grand Sport C8. Is that true?” Harlan said, “Yea, we heard that too…”
So, there’s no shortage of things to anticipate and bench race about. So, let’s do some Bench Racing about Corvettes we do know about. For this Bench Racing session, the question is, “What would be the “Top Ten Most Desirable PERFORMANCE Corvettes?” By the time the 1956 Corvette arrived and there was an optional “performance” engine, Corvettes could be mild-to-wild, depending on your bank account and your nerve.
With 70 years of history, plenty of performance Corvettes are noteworthy. Sifting through them all is, of course, a subjective exercise. However, I have limited my list to C1-to-C7 Corvettes because with the introduction of the C8, its extreme performance capability, and the long waiting time to get one, all C8 Corvettes are highly desirable high-performance Corvettes.
I’ve broken my list down into generations. Each car is what I consider to be the best performance combo and doesn’t include factory one-offs, experimental, show Corvettes, outside builder Corvettes, and racing Corvettes. These are all Corvettes that could be ordered through any Chevrolet dealer and built according to factory-available options.
So, let’s put the peddle-to-the-keyboard and go Bench Racing!
C1 – 1962 Fuel-Injected Corvette:
Chevrolet built 14,531 Corvettes in 1962, of which 1,918 were the 360-horsepower Fuelie. 1962 was the last year for the C1, and the final year of every generation is the best-engineered version. There are many pristine ’62 Fuelies that are not at nose-bleed prices, an alternative could be the optional 327/300-horsepower 1962 Corvette, and Chevrolet made 3,294 of those; with some tweaking, these could be a sweet ride.
Most Desirable Performance Corvettes of the C2s – The 1963 Fuel-Injected Corvette Sting Ray Coupe:
The 1963 Sting Ray was the best-selling Corvette to date, selling 21,513 units, with the convertible slightly outselling the coupe. Of the total number built, only 2,610 were Fuelies. Consequently, restored and Top Flight ’63 Fuelie Split-Window Coupes are some of the most expensive classic Corvettes, aside from any ’67-to-’69 L88 Corvette.
Although customers grumbled about the coupe’s “split window,” the car is often referred to as the “Iconic” Split-Window Coupe.” There’s a poster showing the car’s unique roof with text that reads, “The Original American Idol.” We agree!
C2 – 1967 427/435 L89 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe:
The new C3 “Shark” was supposed to be a ’67 model but wasn’t ready in time. To keep the last C2 fresh, new front fender vents, steel Rally Wheels, a center-mounted rear backup light, and a new big-block “Stinger” hood were added.
Engine options ranged from mild to wild. For street use, the $437 L71 427/435 was at the top, but there was more if you could afford it. The L89 was an L71, except it had lighter aluminum heads that shaved 75 pounds off the front of the car. RPO L89 was $368 on top of the $437 for the L71, for a total of $805.
L89 engines were available from 1967 to 1969, with 16 sold in 1967, 624 in 1968, and 390 in 1969. Not only are the cars rare, but they also represent to best performance combos in their day. From a high-performance and low-production perspective,’ the lighter L89 427/435 engine with 460-lb/ft of torque qualifies it for one of the Top 10 Most Desirable PERFORMANCE Corvettes list.
C3s – The Most Desirable Performance Corvettes are the 1969 427/435 L89 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe:
The 1969 Corvette was a much-improved car. Changes included: revised door mechanisms; a 350 cubic-inches base engine; a steering column-mounted ignition switch; a smaller 15-inch diameter steering wheel; 8-inches wide Rally Wheels; a passenger side dash map pocket; optional side-mounted exhausts; and a “Stingray” badge on the front fender.
In 1969 390 L89 Corvettes were sold. Between the improvements to the 1969 Corvette, plus the uniqueness of the L89, and low production, 1969 427/435 L89 has a solid spot for C3 Corvettes on our list.
C4 – 1995 ZR-1 Corvette:
The C4 ZR-1 Corvette was the most radical street Corvette offered up to 1990. The Chevrolet/Lotus Engineering, all-aluminum, double-overhead-cam engine is still a jewel. When the C4 ZR-1 came out in 1990, its 350 LT5 engine was rated at 375 horsepower, a full 125 horsepower more than the base 250-horsepower 350 L98. Suddenly, it was 1969 again! Then in 1993, engineers did some hot rod tricks and got the horsepower up to 405! Along with the Lotus engine, the drive-train was beefed up, and the largest rear tires available were used P315/35ZR-17 Goodyear Eagle GT. Plus, the entire back end of the body, from the doors back, was wider to accommodate the large rear tires.
But the C4 ZR-1 had issues; price and appearance. First, the ZR-1 option was $27,016 on top of the base price of $31,979 for a whopping $58,995! And second, the ZR-1 was for all that money, it didn’t look much different from the base car. In 1993 the ZR-1’s horsepower was bumped up to 405 horsepower, and in 1994 the ZR-1 got dedicated 5-spoke wheels, only available on the ZR-1.
From 1990 to 1995, Chevrolet sold a total of 6,922 ZR-1s. Today nice ZR-1s can be found for between $20,000 and $35,000 depending on mileage, condition, and added features. Between the uniqueness of the LT5 engine and the current low prices, the C4 ZR-1 is an extreme performance Corvette value.
C4 – 1996 Grand Sport:
To send the last of the C4s off with a bang, Corvette assistant chief engineer John Heinricy delivered the Grand Sport. The juice inside the Grand Sport was the final iteration of the classic small-block Chevy. The LT4 was a hot-rodded LT1 rated at 330 horsepower; however, insiders claimed the LT4 packed at least 370 horsepower.
Grand Sport production was limited to 1,000 units, 810 Coupes, and 190 Convertibles and was handsome and menacing-looking. It featured dedicated Admiral Blue paint, a wide white center stripe, black-spoke 1994-1995 ZR-1 wheels, rear fender flairs, and red hashmarks on the driver’s-side front fender. Tore grunt, the Grand Sport had killer good looks.
The Grand Sport package was reasonably priced at $40,475, but despite the car’s limited production, the prices for used Grand Sports never took off because the newer Corvette kept improving. Grand Sports are totally unique, desirable Corvettes. And with suppressed prices, they are a performance Corvette bargain!
C5 – 2004 Commemorative Edition Z06:
The C5 Z06 was a game-changer. Named after a 1963 suspension and brake racing package. No one knew anything about RPO-Z06 unless they were into racing. In 2001 the Z06 moniker was resurrected as a “performance model” based on the stiffer Hardtop model, with the more-powerful 385-horsepower LS6 engine and improved suspension, brake, and tire configuration. Priced at $7,025, the C5 Z06 was an instant hit. Finally, a track-focused Vette. It is lighter, more powerful, has wider tires and wheels, and looks like “business.” Then in 2002, LS6’s output was bumped to 405 horsepower.
Along the way, the Corvette Racing Team won Le Mans in 2001 and 2002. Chevrolet celebrated the C5’s final year with the Commemorative Edition Coupe, Convertible, and Z06. This package had dedicated paint, stripes, and creature-comfort options, costing $3,700 for the Coupe and Convertible and $4,335 for the Z06. The Z06 version had a dedicated carbon fiber hood, with hood, roof, and rear deck white and red stripes. The space between the white and red stripes was clear to allow the carbon fiber weave to show. The overall look was dynamic. Only 2,025 Commemorative Edition Z06 Corvettes were built, making this the most desirable performance C5 Corvette.
C6 – 2009-2013 ZR1:
Minutes after the C6 debut, the press asked, “Where’s the Z06?” What they didn’t yet know was that engineering lessons from the C5-Rs were poured into the C6 Z06. Its 505-horsepower 427 LS7 engine with a dry-sump oil system and aluminum frame were the key features. Word quickly spread, “The C6 Z06 is a beast!” But in 2009, Chevrolet unleashed another beast, the $103,300, 638-horsepower supercharged ZR1, the first factory-built, supercharged Corvette.
Prices for ZR1s still remain high, but look at what it is. The ZR1 was a Z06 with more power and carbon fiber than had ever been added to a Corvette, ever. Between the dedicated 20-spoke wheels, unique side fender vents, rear spoiler, and raised hood with a see-through window to the LS9’s intercooler, this was not your average C6 Z06. The ZR1 screamed, “Look at me! I’m special!” From 2009 to 2013, only 4,686 ZR1s were made; yes, the C6 ZR1 had it all; power and distinctive looks, thus making it to our Most Desirable list.
C6 – 2013 427 Corvette Convertible:
2013 was the end of the line for the C6. As a send-off, Chevrolet delivered the 427 Convertible wearing the Z06 wide-body, with the 505-horsepower Z06 427 LS7 engine and suspension. Priced at $76,900, any production color was available, but the optional white $2,059 60th Anniversary package was the hero version.
What the 427 Convertible didn’t have was the Z06’s aluminum frame. But since most owners didn’t race them, no one complained. The C6’s steel frame with the LS7 engine had no problems with street use. Many road tests said, “Best Vette Yet!” The 2013 427 Convertible hearkened back to the days of roaring Fuelies and big block convertibles. By the end of 2013, 2,552 customers plunked down $76,900 for some “Get in the wind” top-down performance motoring.
C7 – 2019 ZR1:
Most Desirable Performance Corvettes Winner
So, what’s the ultimate desirable production street Corvette? Hands down, it has to be the 2019 ZR1. This is the last of the front-engine, high-performance Corvettes. The supercharged LT5 engine was rated at 755 net horsepower. Let that sink in.
The C7 ZR1 starts with everything the C7 Z06 has, plus an additional 105 horsepower, dedicated front fenders, hood, front bumper cover, wheels, ceramic J57 brakes, wider front wheels, and badging. All that for only $119,995 for the coupe and $123,995 for the convertible.
But wait, there’s more! For an additional $7,995, there was RPO-ZTK, the Track Performance Package. Track goodies included; Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tires, a high, adjustable rear wing, carbon fiber end caps for the front splitter for Coupes, and special chassis calibration.
How many 2019 ZR1s were scooped up? Chevrolet sold 2,441 coupes and 512 convertibles. When you factor in all the uniqueness of the C7 ZR1, these may well be “The Most” desirable of all production street Corvettes. Regardless of the performance of the E-Ray and the all-electric C9, these cars will definitely appreciate over time.
If you are in the market for a used Corvette for Sale, make sure you check out our Corvettes for Sale Classified Ads.
Want to know what the current auction prices are? Get the latest scoop on Corvette auction prices with the results from the Mecum auction that ran January 4-15, 2023 at the Osceola Heritage Park, located at 1875 Silver Spur Lane in Kissimmee, Florida. Corvette Auction Results Kissimmee 2023
Are you looking to buy a Corvette on a budget? The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 has a starting price of $106,395 but let’s face it, that isn’t in everyone’s budget. Check out K. Scott Teeters’s article on the top ten under-appreciated, under-valued Corvettes to buy in his article on Which are the Best Used Corvettes to Buy.
About the Author
K Scott Teeters is a well-known Corvette historian and monthly journalist for Vette Vues Magazine as well as a world-renowned automotive artist whose work includes all production of Corvettes from 1953 to now as well as Corvette show cars, prototypes, racing cars, and experimental and engineering studies. You can find K. Scott Teeters’ art collections for sale at Fine Art America.
You can read more about Corvette’s History by generation. Check out these Corvette overviews:
- Chevrolet Corvette C1 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C2 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C3 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C4 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C5 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C6 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C7 Overview
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