The 10 Worst Corvette Years

The worst years for Corvette—including 1953, 1975, and 1979—had a variety of performance issues.
Written by Maxine Boyko
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Chevrolet has manufactured dozens of quality Corvettes for nearly seven decades. Despite their iconic look, there have been a few lackluster years for this beloved American sports car, including 1953, 1975, and 1979. 
If you’re interested in owning a Corvette, there are over eight design generations and over 75 special editions to consider. As you can imagine, it could take a very long time to weed out Corvette’s worst years for design, assembly, and performance. 
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1953 C1

Original MSRP: $3,498 
The first Corvette to come onto the scene was the 1953 edition! Chevrolet wanted to attract the eye of returning World War II servicemen who were exposed to European sports cars overseas, and the 1953 C1 Corvette was the outcome. 
Why avoid it: 
Lackluster engine power and crude production practices were the predominant reasons for this year’s failure to launch. The first crop of cars came out of a small garage in Flint, Michigan, which was not equipped to handle car manufacturing. Not to mention, no company had ever put together so many parts (108-piece bodies) on such a large scale before. 
On top of having production issues, the 1953 C1 was a mechanical nightmare. While the frame was brand new, the suspension was a hodgepodge of altered Chevy sedan parts that never quite meshed and gave it an inferior ride quality
The “Blue Flame” engine only put out a meager 150 horsepower—leaving consumers wanting more. To add insult to injury, the price point was too high for their young target market. 
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1975 Base Model

Original MSRP: $6,797
The US government had threatened legislation that would have banned open cars, so 1975 was the last year Chevrolet offered the Corvette as both a coupe and convertible. Although the legislation never came to be, strict emissions standards forced significant changes on Corvette’s mechanical and structural makeup nearly overnight.
Why avoid it: 
The big-block 270-horsepower engine was downgraded this year to satisfy federally-mandated emissions requirements. Coming in at just 165 horsepower, the 1975 base model had a mere 15 more horsepower than the Blue Flame engine from more than two decades earlier—and less than some of the sedans at the time.
The 1975 base model was also 827 pounds heavier than the 1953 model. When Car and Driver put it to the test, it took 7.7 seconds to hit 60 mph, making it one of the slowest sports cars of the 1970s!

1979 Corvette L48

Original MSRP: $10,220
Despite being on a list for the worst Corvette years, the 1979 L48 was a record year for Corvette sales. With 53,807 sold, the 1979 Corvette was the best-selling Corvette of all time
Why avoid it: 
The 400-horsepower Corvettes of the 1960s were nowhere to be found. Instead, the 5.7 liter V-8 produced a limp 195 horsepower, which made it quite a challenge to move the nearly 3,400-pound vehicle. 
This model was also considered pretty stripped down, unattractive, and essentially a piece of dowdily assembled plastic. Depending on your taste, you may not appreciate the entire interior being completely monochrome—including the door panels and dashboard.   
MORE: How to make money restoring classic cars
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1980 California 305

Original MSRP: $13,140
1980 was a pretty lousy year in general, and it was an especially bad year for the automotive industry abroad. California placed even stricter restrictions on vehicle emission requirements, and the Cali Corvette 305 suffered for it. 
Why avoid it:
Chevrolet essentially scrapped trying to certify the original 5.7L/350 cubic-inch engine for that year. That meant that if you were a California resident who wanted to buy a Corvette, you had to accept the woefully underpowered 5L/305 cubic-inch substitute.

1982 C3

Original MSRP: $21,800
The Corvette C3 had lost a great deal of interest over its 15-year run. To hopefully stoke some new interest in the 1982 C3, Chevy made a few modifications to the Corvette that gravely stunted its output.
Why avoid it: 
As if the Corvette C3 wasn’t already on the rocks, Chevy decided to take GM’s new Cross-Fire Injection for a test run. 
This decision discontinued the manual transmission option, which severely stunted its power. The 5.7-liter V8 was consequently reduced to 200 horsepower, further fading the C3 into obscurity—and ultimately retirement. 

1988 Commemorative Edition

Original MSRP: $34,284
1988 was a hotly debated year for the Corvette. This 35th Anniversary Edition Corvette was built to call back to the Corvette’s first year, offered only as a coupe with a white body and a blacktop. Although Chevrolet made many improvements over the previous model year, its appearance was simply overwhelming.
Why avoid it: 
Two words: white overload. The upholstery, door panels, steering wheel, and even the rims were all blinding white. You can imagine how difficult it would be to keep this car looking fresh and clean. 
Then, there’s the price. It’s hard to say yes to a creaky fiberglass body and plastic interiors when it will cost you an additional $4,795 over the 1998 Corvette coupe’s base price of $29,489. 

1987 Callaway Twin Turbo

Original MSRP: $48,000
At the time, the 1987 twin-turbocharged Corvette looked pretty great on paper. For this year, Chevy sent regular old Corvettes to Callaway headquarters for modifications. From the alterations emerged a 382 horsepower turbo motor capable of reaching 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 178 mph. 
Why avoid it:
Despite its incredible performance and power, the Callaway was incredibly fragile. Even when operating under normal conditions, the engine always seemed to be looming on the precipice of breakdown.
Getting down to brass tacks, it’s clear that the ‘87 Callaway simply couldn’t keep up with itself. The additional output stressed every component to no end, making this model extraordinarily unreliable and ultimately doomed for failure. 
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1984 C4 Corvette

Original MSRP: $21,800
The 1984 C4 was a much-anticipated release that unfortunately didn’t measure up to all the buzz. Corvette enthusiasts were majorly disappointed and it remains one of the cheapest classic sports cars you can find on the market today. 
Why avoid it: 
The C4’s first year was criticized harshly for its appearance. Critics remarked a lack of defined body lines and believed the new design to be downright ugly. 
The 1984 Corvette also didn’t have all that great of a driving experience. While it may have made for a great race car, the rigid suspension made for an all-too-unpleasant daily driver.
As if a harsh ride wasn’t enough, the Crossfire fuel injection technology needed frequent repairs, which took up a generous amount of time, making it an all-around unreliable year for Corvettes.

1995 Pace Car Replica

Original MSRP: $43,665
The Corvette served as the official pace car for the 1995 Indianapolis 500. It marked the second time that Chevy would produce a replica available to consumers. 
Why avoid it: 
While there wasn’t anything mechanically problematic about these cars, they were not the most pleasing to the eye. In addition to the two-tone purple and white color scheme, the black and red striping looked sloppy. 
Sometimes the avant-garde catches on and becomes the next best thing—other times it simply looks unattractive. Unfortunately for Chevrolet, the 1995 Corvette resulted in the latter outcome. 

1977 C3

Original MSRP: $8,647.65
Things had started to become stagnant for the Corvette in the 70s, partially due to a United Auto Workers labor dispute that occurred in 1969. The 1977 Corvette went virtually unchanged compared to the version that came a year before.
Why avoid it: 
Modified luggage and roof racks were the only distinguishing difference between this model and the previous year’s installment.
Another upgrade in the works never came to fruition since it was canceled mid-production. Thanks to a sales rights dispute with the manufacturer, the glass panels that were supposed to coordinate with the Corvette’s T-top never came to be.
The engines continued to lack adequate horsepower and struggled through strict emission-related production complications. 
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