The fifth generation Corvette featured major design changes that set it apart from the C4 Corvette. The resulting models of the 1997-2004 are considered by many Corvette fans to be among the best ever produced. Here’s a look at the design of the C5 Corvette
and how it set the new standard for excellence and performance.
The Bones of a Convertible
The fifth-generation Corvette was produced in coupe, convertible and hardtop models, but it was designed with the convertible in mind. In other words, the basic integrity of the car’s structure was the same with or without a top. This contrasted with previous generation Corvettes that had been designed as coupes only to have the structure weakened when the top was removed to produce a convertible. This structural strength was achieved through the use tubular hydroforming (THF) to produce a unibody box frame.
New Transmission in a New Location
The C5 featured a rear transmission as part of a rear-mounted transaxle connected to the engine using a torque tube. One advantage of the new setup was a weight distribution in the vehicle of roughly 50% in the front half and 50% in the rear half, a balance that helps produce optimal performance and handling on the road or track.
The previous manual transmission was replaced by the T-56 6-speed built by Borg-Warner. It combined with the new LS1 engine to produce a top-end speed for the C5 Corvette or 175 mph. The automatic transmission in the fifth-generation Corvettes, the 4L60-E, was a continuation of the one used in the C4 Corvette near the end of its run.
The Return of the Curves
The C3 Corvette was a fastback, and the C4 simplified the fastback design. Many Corvette lovers were thrilled to see the C5 Corvette with a more rounded body, especially in the rear of the car. The result was the retention of outstanding aerodynamics, but a body style with a softer, sexier appearance.
Muscles Made of Aluminum
Under the hood, the C5 Corvette sported GM’s totally-new LS1 V8 small block. This all-aluminum 5.7L engine made 345hp (257 kW) and 350lb-ft of torque. The power was boosted slightly for the 2001 model year to 350hp (261 kW).
Fifty Years of Automotive Leadership
The C5 Corvette, 1997-2004, was in production when year 50 of the ‘Vette rolled around in 2003. Chevrolet pulled out all the stops for the 50th Anniversary Special Edition Corvette. It featured Magnetic Selective Ride Control said to be the car industry’s first suspension with semi-active technology that responded quickly and automatically to road conditions.
The car came in Anniversary Red, a beautiful burgundy red with Xirallic aluminum-oxide flakes topped by a tinted clear coat. The 50th Anniversary Special Edition Corvette featured shale interior trim along with anniversary badges inside and out. The seats and floor mats came with special 50th Anniversary embroidering.