Yes, the Corvette is about style and horsepower. But the car’s handling is what set the stage for all of those ‘Vette versus Porsche 911 magazine covers over the years. No matter what vintage, the Corvette was built with an eye toward being the best-driving sports car for the buck that it could possibly be. So, let’s put aside the fiberglass, the engines, and everything else for just a moment and look at how the Corvette’s underpinnings have evolved over the years.
Generation 1: 1953-’62 If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll find plenty to like under the first-generation Corvette. The chassis is an adaptation of Chevrolet’s 1949-’54 cars, but it soldiered on until the ’63 redesign—even after all other Chevrolet automobile front ends were updated in ’55. The earliest Corvettes bounced on front coil springs with upper and lower control arms bolstered by a stabilizer bar. While that was fairly cutting edge by prewar or immediate-postwar standards, it still used kingpins to mount the spindles, limiting the range of motion and also making accurate front end alignment tricky. Steering was accomplished by a worm-and-sector style box with a pitman arm attached to a drag link that connected to a third arm. The third arm then, in turn, moved the tie rods that turned the spindles. While the setup wasn’t complicated, it wasn’t as precise or smooth as you might expect from a sports car, even by 1950s standards. The first Corvettes also had the distinction of being the only ones equipped with a solid rear axle. The Corvette rear used a removable third member like Chevrolet passenger cars through 1964, and the housing was hung from longitudinal leaf springs with direct double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers. While not as exotic as an independent axle, it was a simple, durable, and infinitely rebuildable setup. The foundation for the original Corvette chassis was a sturdy perimeter frame with boxed rails and a massive X-member tying the two sides together. This was a common approach to eliminating chassis flex in an open-top car, but it added weight.