Happy National Corvette Day! This celebration of America’s sports car, which happens to fall just four days before the 4th of July, marks 68 years since the very first Corvette rolled off the line. Chevrolet has sold over 1.75 million examples of America’s favorite two-seater since, spanning eight generations. Each of those generations is distinct, offering a wide range of looks, performance, and price. That means there’s a Corvette for nearly every taste and budget, from four-figure daily drivers to million-dollar historic race cars.
Our Valuation mavens currently track market prices of all regular production Corvettes from the first generation C1 (1953–63) to the sixth generation C6 (2005–13). The lowest #4-condition (Fair) value is $3600 and the highest #1-condition (Concours) value is $3.1M. With a gulf that wide, we can’t possibly cover them all on National Corvette Day, so we figured we would highlight the king of the collectibility hill for each generation. Strap in, Vette fans.
C1 (1953–62): 1953 Corvette Roadster
#2 (Excellent) condition average value: $224,000
The 1953 Corvette was the one that started it all, and it’s good to be first. Although its sweet looks wrote a check that its Blue Flame six engine and two-speed Powerglide couldn’t quite cash, it set the Vette down the path to becoming America’s sports car, and for that reason it will always be collectible. With just 300 built, all in Polo White, 1953 is also the Corvette’s rarest year by far.
The Corvette got more refined and quicker as the 1950s went on, so if you want a C1 to drive a later one is probably a better choice. A ’53, meanwhile, serves more to round out a collection. If you’re in love with the ’53’s smooth sides and tail fins, however, a ’54 or a ’55 is a much cheaper alternative. The ’54 is essentially the same car but GM built over 10 times as many examples and a #2-condition car can be had for under $100,000. The 1955, meanwhile, has the looks of the ’53 but introduced the small-block V-8 to the Corvette for the first time. It carries a #2-condition value of $139,000.
C2 (1963–67): 1967 Corvette 427/430-hp L88 Coupe
#2 (Excellent) condition average value: $2.5M
The C2’s five-year production run was the Corvette’s shortest, but a lot happened in that time. The car gained independent rear suspension and a coupe model in 1963, added disc brakes and available big-block engines in 1965, lost its optional fuel injection in 1966 (injection returned in 1982), and introduced what would become the most valuable production Corvette of them all–the L88–in 1967.
It’s a legend today, but the L88-powered Corvette was something of a secret back in 1967. Although it was technically available to the public, GM never actively promoted the L88, instead hoping that only serious race teams would order what was the most hardcore Corvette around. The L88 was essentially a competition engine for the road with aluminum cylinder heads, solid-lifter camshaft, and forged pistons for a 12.5:1 compression ratio. 103 octane fuel was required.
To further discourage average Joe from ticking the box for an L88, GM intentionally underrated it at 430 hp, 5 horses fewer than the cheaper L71. Selecting an L88 also added F41 suspension, Positraction, J56 heavy-duty brakes, heavy-duty aluminum radiator, and Muncie M22 four-speed while deleting a heater or radio. This was a Corvette for the track, not the turnpike.
The L88 option was only around for three years, 1967–69. The ’67 version is the only one with the more attractive C2 body. It’s also the rarest with just 20 cars built. By 1968, more people had caught on and 80 of them ordered an L88 that year. In 1969, 116 people ordered one. The last ’67 L88 to hit the open market was earlier this year at Mecum’s Glendale auction, where a Sunfire Yellow coupe sold for $2,695,000.