Chevrolet corvette C5, the 276 km/h Porsche fighter for small budget

The Corvette C5 is the fifth generation of the US sports car series.

The market launch of the fifth Corvette was already planned for 1993 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary, but the presentation was delayed due to internal problems at General Motors, among other things. For these reasons, Chevrolet did not unveil the successor to the Corvette C4, which had been built since the spring of 1983, until January 6, 1997. GM officially began deliveries and sales on March 7, 1997.

Although it retained the classic configuration as a two-seat coupe with removable roof, front-mounted eight-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive, the new Corvette was completely redesigned. In the history of the Corvette, the C5 was the first newly developed model, as parts from other GM models had been used previously. The « Fifth Generation » therefore received a completely new design, a new frame, a new 350-horsepower aluminum alloy engine and a new chassis. In addition, higher-quality materials were used and the build quality was also improved.

The C5 was produced until the beginning of 2004 and replaced a year later by the successor model Corvette C6.

Chevrolet corvette C5

Corvette C5 Body

With its newly developed body, the C5 had a drag coefficient (cw) of 0.29. Initially available only as a coupe with a removable targa roof, the C5 was later launched in two more versions. For the first time in the model’s history, Corvette buyers (at least in the USA) had a choice of three body variants. In addition to the coupe with removable roof center section and the convertible offered since model year 1998, a version with a fixed roof was available on the U.S. home market since model year 1999. Dave Hill officially introduced this ’99 fixed roof model in August 1998.

This so-called Fixed Roof Coupe (FRC), which was never offered in Europe, was priced below the regular coupe. The fixed roof made the structure 12% more torsionally rigid than the basic coupe, and the C5 « FRC » weighed 41 kg less than it. The top version « Z06 » released in 2001 was based on this « Fixed Roof Coupé », which is why the roof cannot be removed on the Z06 either. This was to increase the torsional rigidity of the body.

The C5 is one of the widest production Corvette models to date. The successor C6 model is both narrower and shorter than the C5. The width of the Corvette C5 increased by 110 mm at the front and 76 mm at the rear compared to the previous C4 model. The length also increased by 90 mm to now 4570 mm. The wheelbase also grew by over 220 mm to 2665 mm. Thanks to weight-saving design with lightweight materials, the new C5 was nevertheless 36 kg lighter than its predecessor. Following tradition, folding headlights and four taillights were again installed, which were now again more rounded (oval).

In contrast to the C4, the lower hood provided a better view of the road. In the previous C4 model, the fenders were integrated into the hood and formed a unit with the front part of the body that could be opened completely (so-called clamshell hood); in the C5, on the other hand, the hood was again designed separately and could be opened conventionally. The rear part of the car, which was often criticized in the Corvette C4 as being too large and too « shaved off », was given a more harmonious design in the C5, without the aerodynamics having to suffer as a result. The entrance was made more comfortable and the interior space improved. The trunk, accessible through a large tailgate, is almost twice as large as on the C4, as the spare wheel and a jack were dispensed with. Instead, the C5 received special Goodyear run-flat tires.

C5 convertible

A year after the new C5 was launched, there was another convertible in 1998. It was significantly lighter than the C4 Cabrio, but had four times the chassis rigidity. Another new model variant was the replica of the « Indianapolis 500 Pace Car » – also a convertible.

The top was designed so that it did not require any reinforcements. As a result, the convertible was only slightly heavier than the coupe and hardly more so than the latter with its removable Targa roof. The trunk, with a capacity of 393 liters, offered more than any other convertible at its time. To allow for this extra space, an electric soft top was not included, nor was it available at extra cost.


The transmission in the Corvette was moved to the rear axle for the first time in transaxle design. With this design, the four-speed automatic transmission or the six-speed manual transmission, available as an option from 1998, is not flanged to the engine but forms a unit with the rear-axle differential. Combined with the engine’s installation position towards the center of the car (front-mid engine), this results in a weight distribution of approximately 51.4 percent at the front and 48.6 percent at the rear.

The box frame of the C5 is made from a single piece. Since there are no joints, this frame is stronger and stiffer than conventional automobile frames. In addition, the driver and front passenger are protected in the event of an accident by this high-strength frame, load-bearing cross members and roll bar. The driveline has been decoupled from the chassis from the C5 onwards, eliminating one of the criticisms of previous models. The drive shaft is made of metal matrix composite, a metallic composite of aluminum, aluminum oxide and ceramic, to achieve high strength in lightweight construction.


The C5 is powered by a completely redesigned V8 aluminum engine that still displaces 5.7 liters. The new engine, designated LS1, was the most powerful Chevrolet small-block ever built in production up to that time: It produced 257 kW (350 hp) at 5400 rpm and delivered 483 Newton meters of torque at 4200 rpm. From the 2001 model year onwards, the output of the LS1 engine was discreetly increased, as various engine components from the Z06 were used. It now produced 261 kW (355 hp) at 5200 rpm and 508 Nm at 4000 rpm. The automatic version had a slightly lower torque of 489 Nm at 4000/min.

The so-called LS1 unit is of all-aluminum construction. In addition to the engine block, the cylinder heads are also made of aluminum. The intake tract with its ducts of exactly the same length is made of plastic, and the ignition system controlled by the electronic engine management system now has individual ignition coils for each cylinder. Key features of the LS1 engine include: an aluminum engine block and cylinder head, a 10:1 compression ratio, a new composite intake manifold and advanced sequential fuel injection (SFI). The LS1 engine’s spark plugs have platinum electrodes and therefore no regular maintenance is required up to 165,000 km of driving.