The Most Famous Corvettes: From Production to Racing Hollywood Blockbusters

The Most Famous Corvettes: From Production to Racing to Hollywood Blockbusters
 
The Corvette has been a hallmark of the American automotive industry since its debut back in the 1950s. It is one of the most iconic cars in history, whether we’re discussing the first generation, the second generation, or the seventh generation. It embodies style, performance, power and an unbridled passion for the road. It has also been instrumental in racing, has been showcased in blockbuster Hollywood hits, and has even been associated with the US space program. 
 
As one would expect of a vehicle with such a long history and rich heritage, there are many specific Corvette models that have gone on to gain fame and glory in their own right. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the most famous Corvettes in history.
 
1960 Le Mans Winning Corvette Race Car
 
In 1960, the first generation Corvette had finally come into its own as Chevy realized the original inline six-cylinder engine chosen to power the car just wasn't cutting it. The automaker replaced it with a bigger, badder small-block V8, and the car's popularity spiked. In 1960, four first-generation Corvettes took the field at Le Mans – three fielded by Briggs Cunningham, and a fourth by another team leader. Of the Cunningham cars, one was out early on, and the second failed in the 20th hour. The third, however, went on to win 8th place overall and 1st for its class. The so-called Cunningham Corvette was driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman (Cunningham was part of the driving pair for a different car). Not only was this a win for Cunningham and Chevy, but for the American auto industry as a whole, which had largely been dismissed by the rest of the world up until this point. 
 
1963 Corvette Grand Sport
 
The second generation Corvette was a complete departure from the first, and that was a very good thing. It brought about a number of innovations, including the iconic split rear glass and a body style that remains beautiful and iconic to this day. The Belgian engineer responsible for the redesign and salvation of the Corvette (Zora Arkus-Duntov) also worked on the second generation with the goal of creating a true performance vehicle. His hopes were achieved and the model was dubbed the Grand Sport. Originally, Chevy planned to produce just 125 Grand Sport coupes. However, only five were actually built, of which three went to Nassau. Before any others could be built, new regulations that banned the automaker from direct race car sponsorship went into effect, and Chevy dropped the car completely. Because only five of these cars were ever built, the Grand Sport remains one of the most valuable (and famous) Corvettes of all time. 
 
Jay Leno’s 1963 Corvette Split Window
 
Jay Leno is both well known for his humor, and for his passion for cars. As one would suspect, he owns some true rarities, including a 1963 Corvette Stingray Split Window. The split rear window was only one of the unique things about this particular car. The wheels themselves came in 17 pieces. Today, this remains one of the most sought after, coveted Corvette examples. As you would expect from an automotive fan like Leno, his Corvette is as original as possible, all the way down to the center caps on the wheels. 

 
Bruce Willis’ 1967 Corvette Convertible 427
 
From politicians to astronauts, everyone loves the Corvette, and Bruce Willis, Hollywood action star, is no exception to that rule. Willis ended up buying a 1967 Corvette Convertible 427 while he was shooting Last Man Standing in 1996. He then used it as his summer car for several years at his residence in Idaho. Willis also took care of a few modifications while he owned it. The car was repainted to its original condition, and he also had a new CD player and audio system installed. Willis also exchanged the wheels for polished Cragar S/S options. However, it and three two other classic cars were ultimately offered up by Willis in 2009 as auction items with no reserve through Barrett-Jackson. Interestingly, Willis attempted to auction the car off previously, in 2008, but it had a high reserve which went unmet, so the car did not sell. 
 
Corvette Summer Movie Car
 
If you’ve never seen the film Corvette Summer, you can be forgiven. It debuted back in 1978, and while it was a cult hit at the time, most of its enduring fame comes from two factors. First, it featured Mark Hamill before he played the role of Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars film. Second, it featured one of the most iconic Chevrolet Corvettes to ever grace the silver screen. The film follows the exploits of a high school shop class that finds a junked Corvette and restores it (heavily modified, of course). Then, it’s stolen, so Hamill and his lady love set out to find and return the car. The car itself was so heavily altered that it was difficult to tell at first glance that it was, indeed, a Corvette Stingray. 

Michael Jordan’s Corvette C4
 
Celebrities love to drive supercars, but where some might prefer European models, the greatest star in NBA history prefers to drive an American icon in the form of a Corvette C4. MJ has owned several Corvettes over the years, but his most recent acquisition, and the one that has garnered the most press, is a burgundy early model Corvette ZR1 (C4) which is shown smoking the tires after Jordan signed an autograph for a fan. The fact that Jordan, who stands 6’ 6”, fits very comfortably behind the wheel of a Corvette should put to rest the notion that only smaller drivers can fit comfortably.
 
Vice President Joe Biden’s 1967 Corvette Convertible 
 
It’s not just Hollywood celebrities who love the Corvette. Vice President Joe Biden also has a passion for the ‘Vette, and owns a 1967 convertible model. Biden appeared on Jay Leno’s Garage with his car during his tenure as VP and has been spotted driving it many times since leaving office. The car is more than just another well-preserved classic, though. It was actually a wedding gift to Biden from his father, who owned a dealership. As proof that Biden actually loves to drive the car, his sons actually pitched in to have the engine and transmission rebuilt for him as a Christmas gift one year.
 
1 Millionth Corvette
 
The one-millionth product to roll off any assembly line is something important, but imagine just how much more important the 1 millionth Corvette might be. This particular car was completed in 1992 and ultimately ended up in the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where it sat happily for many years before being swallowed up by a sinkhole that opened up within the museum's showroom and devouring a number of rare Corvettes. Not to worry, though. The 1 millionth Corvette was ultimately restored to its former glory about a year and a half after the sinkhole appeared. Sadly, only three of the eight cars swallowed by the earth were deemed repairable. Thankfully, the 1 millionth Corvette was one of those. It is currently listed as being worth $750,000. With that being said, several original components had to be replaced.
 
Corvette C5-R
 
The ban on manufacturers sponsoring race cars was removed in the 1970s. However, it took over two decades for Chevy to get back to the track. However, when they did, they came back with a bang – in the form of the 1999 C5-R. This car was designed by both Chevrolet and Pratt & Miller, and became one of the most acclaimed machines of the new millennium. In all, the car raced in 10 different events, and collected wins at eight of those, including Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Thanks to that outstanding performance streak, the C5-R remains one of the most famous Corvettes ever. 
 
Apollo Astronauts’ and Their Love Affair with Corvettes
 
Did you know that the US space program and the Chevy Corvette have actually had a long relationship? It actually dates back to Alan Shepherd and his personal Corvette, but it goes a lot deeper than this. An auto dealer in Florida wanted to make some extra sales, so he approached NASA about a deal. If the Mercury astronauts would buy new Corvettes, he would offer them special lease deals. In total, six of the Apollo astronauts took the offer. It doesn’t stop there. Three Apollo 12 astronauts fell for the 1969 Corvette, and ordered matching vehicles with 390-horsepower 427 engines, all of which were decked out in gold and black.
 
In the End
 
It's difficult to conceive of a car more iconically American than the Corvette. Despite its rocky start, the patience, dedication, and love of engineers, drivers, celebrities, politicians, astronauts, sports stars and everyday people have helped to ensure that no matter what happens, the Corvette will always live in our hearts and our history. 
 
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