Corvette Wheels Pt 3 of 3 – 1997 to 2009

Dateline: 7.19.11
A Historic Look Back at the Wheels that Vettes Ride On!

After much anticipation, the all-new C5 Corvette was released as a 1997 model. The new design was truly a “modern” Corvette. However, many of the basic components can be traced all the way back to the ‘57 “Q-Corvette” proposal. Yes, forty years before, Zora Arkus-Duntov was thinking about advanced hardware that included and all-aluminum, fuel-injected engine, an aluminum-case transaxle, inboard-mounted rear drum brakes to reduce unsprung mass, a lightweight pan chassis similar to the 356 Porsche, and four-wheel independent suspension. Fast forward forty years and you have the C5 Corvette. Lightweight alloy wheels eliminated the need for the inboard-mounted rear brakes and the new hydroformed frame rails replaced the pan body structure. Other than those details, body styling, and a lot of computerized components, the new C5 Corvette was the realization of the ‘57 Q-Corvette proposal.

1997 – 1999 Wheel

As tire and wheel size grew to handle increased horsepower, it was now essential that the wheels be as light as possible for a production car. Additional unsprung mass from larger wheels and tires is the kiss of death for improved handling. The new C5 was riding on 17” x 8.5” front wheels and 18” x 9.5” rear wheels. In comparison, the ‘96 C4 Corvette Continue reading “Corvette Wheels Pt 3 of 3 – 1997 to 2009”

Corvette Wheels Pt 2 of 3 – 1968 to 1996

Dateline: 7.10.2011
A Historic Look Back at the Wheels that Vettes Ride On!

1968 was a major turning point in the Corvette story with the introduction of the Mako Shark II-inspired C3 Corvette. The Mako Shark II was first unleashed as a Chevrolet show car to test the market’s feelings towards the radically styled “futuristic” Corvette. The response was thunderous and the all-new body design and interior was fast-tracked into production. But making a show car into a real car is no easy task. The C3 was supposed to be introduced as a ‘67 model but wasn’t ready in time. The basic chassis and drive train was a carry-over from the ‘63 – ‘67 Sting Ray, which puts the suspension design date in the early ‘60s. At the time, no one imagined that the C3 would have a 15 year production run. Along the way, Corvette stylists kept the car fresh-looking with bumper cover, hood, fender vents, and wheels updates.

Despite the aging hardware, buyers made the Corvette a runaway success with a best-ever sales year in ‘79 with 53,807 units sold. The only other year that broke the 50K production figure was the ‘84 model with 51,547 units.
(To see larger versions of all of the below images, just click the image.)

Your Basic, Slightly Wider Stamped Steel Wheel

The arrival of the ‘68 Corvette represented the most dramatic styling change in the history of the car. The change between the ‘67 and ‘68 Corvette was even more radical than the ‘62 to ‘63 styling change. Simply put, the new C3 was unlike anything else on the road. There were some comparisons to a few Ferrari and Maseratti cars, but those similarities were restricted to the sensuous fender curves and attitude.

Tailoring the Mako Shark II’s show car lines was not an easy task. It was reported that the biggest challenge was trimming down the Mako Shark II’s large front fender humps so that the driver could have a relatively clear view forward. Nearly the entire chassis and running gear was a carry-over from the ‘67 Corvette, including the base car’s wheel design. The 5-slotted, stamped steel Rally Wheel, with beauty rings and caps was a carry-over from the ‘67 design, but was one-inch wider. The new 15” x 7” wheel was the widest wheel to that date for the Corvette. The tire size was bumped up as well. The ‘67 wheel set road on 7.75” x 15” tires on 15” x 6” wheels. Beginning in ‘68, tires sizes were measures in “series” which represented the Continue reading “Corvette Wheels Pt 2 of 3 – 1968 to 1996”

Corvette Wheels Pt. 1 of 3 – 1953 to 1967

A Historical Look Back at the Wheels Vettes Ride On

After the characteristics of body shape and color, wheels are arguably the most definitive aspect of a car’s personality. A great looking set of wheels can make an average car (such as a Chevy Nova) look like a hot car with just a set of Cragar wheels. Having good looking wheels is the fastest way to get people to tell you, “Hey man, nice wheels”

Looking back at Corvette wheel designs, it’s amazing to realize that the first three generation base Corvettes road on stamped steel wheels. It wasn’t until Corvette’s 11th season that buyers had any wheel option at all. The ‘63 to ‘67 knock-off and knock-off-styled wheels were quite the ticket. Then from ‘68 to ‘72, it was back to stamped steel wheels only. They were beautifully styled wheels but due to their growing width and larger tires, were adding a lot of unsprung weight. Corvette buyers finally got a wheel option again in ‘73 with the very nice looking aluminum alloy wheels that definitely enhanced the Mako Shark looks of the C3 cars.

Corvette buyers saw the last of the stamped steel wheels at the close of the ‘82 model year. With the introduction of the C4 in ‘84, its been alloy wheels all the way, providing Corvette buyers with some of the most beautiful automotive wheel designs made. Continue reading “Corvette Wheels Pt. 1 of 3 – 1953 to 1967”