Top 10 Worst Corvettes of All Time

Chevrolet's Terrible and Turgid Two-Seaters


  • 1987 Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette

    1987 Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette

    10. 1987 Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette: The Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette at least looked mean. But it was a delicate, fragile flower. | January 09, 2013

11 Photos

By any reasonable standard the Chevrolet Corvette has been an astonishing success. Over 60 years and six generations there have been dozens of great Corvettes. But even batting .900 still means whiffing 10 percent of the time. And some Corvettes are swings and misses.

These are the 10 worst Corvettes of all time. Not one-off customs where some individual indulged his atrocious taste to a disastrous end. And not single cars that were recalled under the lemon laws so often they could be squeezed for their juice. These are production cars sold through Chevrolet dealers to people who thought they were getting something great.

Those people were wrong.

Keep this in perspective before raging at this list. If there was one long list of all the production Corvettes that started with the greatest ever at the top and finished with the least great at the bottom, this is just reading from the bottom up. And relatively speaking, almost any Corvette is better than almost any ordinary car.

Almost. To read about the 10 Best Corvettes of All Time, click here.

1987 Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette

10. 1987 Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette
Here's credit to both Chevrolet and Callaway for having the brass balls to build a twin-turbocharged and twin-intercooled version of the Corvette way back in 1987. And even 26 years later, the Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette's engine bay still looks seriously mean. But — and you knew that word was coming — these early Callaways simply didn't hold together when they were, well, driven.

Incidentally yes, the Callaway Twin Turbo was a production Chevrolet. It was available through Chevy dealers using the Regular Production Option (RPO) code B2K.

As a $19,999 option, B2K included new forged pistons and a secondary fuel injection system to keep the 382-horsepower turbo motor fed. That took the base C4 Corvette coupe from its $27,999 base price to $47,998.

That may look like a bargain price to 21st-century eyes, but the twin-turbo was notoriously fragile. Every element of the late-'80s Corvette was stressed by the additional output. So even though B2K was available through the 1991 model year, only about 500 were ordered.

1995 Corvette Pace Car

9. 1995 Corvette Pace Car
There was nothing mechanically awful about the 527 replicas built of the Corvette Convertible that paced the 1995 running of the Indianapolis 500. But they looked like white cars that a couple of lunatics in the GM design studio had drawn all over with Magic Markers.

Purple is a color that has never flattered the Corvette — or the top half of a Corvette. A total of 527 of these were made and that's not a lot of cars. But it is a lot of Magic Markers.

1958 Corvette

8. 1958 Corvette
Harley Earl was in his final months running the GM Design department when it was time to redecorate the Corvette for 1958. And he and his stylists decorated it and decorated it and then over-decorated it. Then they added fake louvers on the hood and more chrome.

This was the first Corvette with four headlights — and those were set in chrome frames. Then there were chrome strips that ran from those headlights across the top of the front fenders. And more chrome strips running down the trunk lid. And there was a big chrome toothy grille with smaller chrome openings on either side of it. And big wraparound chrome bumpers. And three chrome spears in the cove along the car's flanks. This thing was almost as much chrome as it was fiberglass.

Earl retired from GM in 1958 to be replaced by Bill Mitchell, who immediately started pulling chrome and louvers off the 1959 Corvette.

1988 Corvette Commemorative Edition

7. 1988 Corvette Commemorative Edition
The first 1953 Corvettes were all painted Polo White, so when it came time to celebrate the car's 35th anniversary, someone at GM decided a special white version of the C4 Corvette coupe was in order. Glaringly, blazingly, blindingly white.

While the roof was kept black, practically everything else on the Commemorative Edition was white. The leather upholstery was white. The steering wheel was wrapped in white leather. Even the lid on the center console was white. But worst of all, the wheels were white, too. White wheels are about as 1988 as you can get.

Incidentally, all the 1953 Corvettes had red interiors.

A quarter of a century after the Commemorative Edition Corvette went on sale, it looks a half century old.

1982 Corvette Collector Edition

6. 1982 Corvette Collector Edition
The C3 Corvette was amidst its death throes during the 1982 model year. In its 15th year of production, it had few fans left and open derision was the norm among enthusiasts. The C3 had overstayed its welcome by at least five years.

In a half-hearted attempt to maintain interest in the Corvette while the new C4 was being prepared, Chevy added "Cross-Fire" throttle body fuel injection to the 5.7-liter small-block V8 to bring total output up to an underwhelming 200 hp...and then eliminated the manual transmission option.

But the capper for '82 came in the form of the Collector Edition featuring silvery leather upholstery, turbine wheels, lift-up rear tail glass, silver-beige metallic paint and fade graphics atop the hood and along the sides. In sum, it was decorated like the boudoir of a Tatooine madam. And the Collector Edition was the first Corvette to cost more than $20,000.

1979 Corvette L48

5. 1979 Corvette L48
From the outside, the 1979 Corvette is almost indistinguishable from the 1978 edition. But in 1978 you could get the great-looking black-and-silver Indy 500 pace car or silver Silver Anniversary editions, and that made it easy to overlook how otherwise decrepit the C3 Corvette had become. But in 1979, the car was naked and the suck showed.

The base L48 version of the 1979 Corvette had a 5.7-liter V8 that made only 195 hp, barely enough to keep the 3,372-pound lump moving. Meanwhile the interior was a relentless, hideous monochrome that extended the disco-era upholstery colors onto the door panels and dashboard.

But here's the most frustrating thing about the 1979 Corvette. Despite being a pitiable pile of loosely associated plastic, it sold like crazy. Chevy sold a scandalous 53,807 Corvettes during the 1979 model year. So this is the best-selling Corvette ever made. That does not say good things about the state of 1979 America.

1998 Corvette Pace Car

4. 1998 Corvette Pace Car
There's only one thing that makes the 1995 Corvette pace car less hideous — and that is the 1998 Corvette Pace Car. It was painted an even more repulsive shade of purple and then it got worse.

Since the designers had used all their Magic Markers on the '95 model, they stole some highlighters from accounting to finish off the stripes, upholstery and wheels on the '98 model. Whoever signed off on this rolling monument to bad taste should have been hanged, or better yet, forced to drive one. It would have been more painful.

1980 Corvette 305

3. 1980 Corvette 305
In general, 1980 was a lousy year. Inflation was rampant, the economy was in the doldrums and the Corvette was awful. But in California it was doubly awful, as Chevrolet that year gave up trying to certify the Corvette's 350-cubic-inch V8 for that state's more stringent emissions requirements. So if you wanted a new Corvette that year in Los Angeles or San Francisco or Sacramento, you had to settle for one with a 305-cubic-inch V8 and a three-speed automatic transmission. That's right: a lousy, lazy 180-hp, 5.0-liter lump of small-block agony. It couldn't pull out a dangling baby tooth.

The rest of the country wasn't getting anything special in '80 either. After all, the base "L48" 350 was only rated at 190 hp and opting for the "L82" high-performance version only netted 230 hp. It was a year that sucked.

1953 Corvette

2. 1953 Corvette
Yes, this is the first Corvette. And yes, it's also on our 10 Greatest Corvettes list. Consistency, after all, is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Corners were cut to get the '53 Corvette into production. While the frame was new and positioned the engine low and rearward, the suspension was made up of modified parts from Chevy's super-dowdy sedan and never worked right. The engine was the old Blue Flame six with mechanical lifters and a compression ratio boost to 8.0:1 to produce a modest 150 hp. And, notoriously, the only transmission available was a two-speed Powerglide automatic.

The big problems, though, came in actually building those first Corvettes. The production of the fiberglass 108-piece bodies was something no one anywhere had done before on such a large scale — and only rarely did everything fit together. The initial run of cars was built in a small Flint, Michigan, garage that wasn't built for car production. The first Corvettes were, simply and comprehensively, crude.

So the first Corvette was both great and lousy: a rolling contradiction. That is, when it decided to roll at all.

1975 Corvette Base

1. 1975 Corvette Base
In 1974 it was still possible to get a Corvette with a big block, 270-hp, "LS4" 454-cubic-inch V8. And even the base 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) small-block V8 was still gross rated at 250 hp. But when the 1975 Corvette came along, the big block was gone and the base "ZQ3" 350 had lost a half point of compression and gained a catalytic converter, which dropped its output to a paltry 165 hp.

That's right. Most 1975 Corvettes had engines that made only 165 hp. That's 32 less than the base 2.5-liter four in a 2013 Malibu sedan. It's only 15 hp more than the Blue Flame six in the '53 Corvette — and the '53 Corvette was 827 pounds lighter.

Car and Driver ran the '75 Corvette off against the ignoble Bricklin SV1 in its May 1975 issue and found Chevy's plastic car with the base 350 and three-speed automatic transmission took a brutal 7.7 seconds to waltz from zero to 60 mph and needed 16.1 seconds to run the quarter-mile at a lugubrious 87.4 mph. Slow. Slow. Slow. At least the Bricklin was even slower.

Yes, there was an upgraded L82 engine option in '75, but it didn't enter production until deep into the model year and was strangled by an exhaust system that used a single catalytic converter. So even the L82 version of the 350 was rated at a miserable 205 hp — down 35 from '74 (net rating to net rating).

This is the Corvette at its lowest and yet Chevy managed to sell 38,665 of them anyhow. That's 1,164 more than it did of the '74 and, up until that time, the most Corvettes Chevy had ever sold during a model year. Go figure.

Comments

  • saintviper saintviper Posts:

    While 165hp is pathetic for a Corvette, 7.7 seconds 0-60 actually seems pretty good for such a small amount of power and probably quite good in it's day.

  • ahightower ahightower Posts:

    Have to disagree on the all white '88... of course I may be biased because I was nine years old and in love.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    You could free up room to add more C3s by making a second "Ten Worst Corvettes - Pace Car edition" list. It would only be a challenge to narrow it down to the 10 worst pace car editions.

  • zr1man zr1man Posts:

    Well I guess IL is finally gone. I went to their site and was bounced over here to Edmund's. As far as the 10 worst Vettes are concerned, I do not believe there can be a "worst Corvette." True that some are better than others, like my 2010 ZR1 is the best of all. But to say some are worst is not accurate. Some just are not good as others, but all Vettes are good cars. Three days to the new C7! Isn't life grand.

  • ttopjohn ttopjohn Posts:

    It's a tribute to the Corvette that 3 of John Pearley Huffman's "10 Worst" are on my personal wish list - the B2K (not fragile after the running fixes and updates that they all have had for 20 years now), the 98 Pace Car (purple and yellow = ultimate LSU tailgating Corvette), the 88 Anniversary (love the period white on white on white, and the blacked out roof gives the jet fighter canopy look)

  • usa1 usa1 Posts:

    I find it funny that four of the cars only sin to get your list was the paint job.

  • drivinrt drivinrt Posts:

    JPH, If I could and had the money back then, I still would have a '74-'80 Corvette. When I was a little kid these were cool cars. That's why people bought these cars. My fav post-smog C3 was the 1978 pace car replica.

  • lgaff lgaff Posts:

    John, While I am not sure how the 87 Callaway TT fits. I own 3 90s ZR-1s and I added a Callaway to my collection due to its special place in history. The Callway is far from fragile; and I don't know of many that are not on the road due to mech failure. The stock TPI block was tough and easily ran over 100K miles. Callaway Reworked this block to be stronger with better internals. The turbo system is similiar to todays cars...so I am not sure where you arrived at your conclusion. Talk to any person who worked in that era and the Callaway TT is considered an engineering marvel. Lets not forget Callaway was going 250+ MPH in a street can lonmg before Bugatti. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8dI-47Z2hI

  • surfnsun1 surfnsun1 Posts:

    Im guessing the author of this article actually knows very little about the Callaway or the 88 35th Anniversary car. The Callaways are fast even by today's standards and a low mile 88 anniversary car with manual transmission will sell in the mid $20k range.

  • 1969gtx 1969gtx Posts:

    writer is just a corvette hater & a moron just some troll that wises he could afford a vette but never will

  • Even the worst Corvette is still a good car and holds value well. What other classic muscle car (that's been around a while) can make the same claim

  • anemerikan anemerikan Posts:

    These criticisms of the Corvettes seem based on nothing more than personal preferences by someone who does not like Corvettes. Some of the items mentioned have some warrant but most of them are simply a matter of personal taste. Who says everyone agrees with John Huffmans superior insight just because he says it? So it is just silliness to read this and take seriously.

  • jbh30319 jbh30319 Posts:

    I'm getting a little sick of reading articles that reference Corvettes and Porsches of the 1980s with 200-hp as anemic. You have to remember that this was during the time when a Honda Accord had 85 - 110 hp -- or even the small block V8s in a full size Chevy, Olds or Lincoln were 140-150 hp. In the context of their time, these were fast cars (I know because I drove my fathers 1984 Corvette with 205 hp). I suppose my frustration lies in a lack of research or an ability to understand something in the context of its time -- and appreciate it for what it is, versus compare it to something modern. It's kind of ignorant.

  • frizzle_fry frizzle_fry Posts:

    I know this article is a little dated, but it was just forwarded to me by a friend because it features one of my cars - he thought I'd find it interesting. I have to say, as the owner of an '82 Collectors Edition I think its description in this article isn't very accurate. I won't deny that my car probably belongs on this list, but it doesn't belong here for the listed reasons. The pinstriping, fade graphics, wheels and interior get me compliments from 'vette guys and casual observers alike. Even people who don't care for C3s (or "disco vettes") have said that the decals and drag-spoiler rear bumper really make the lines of the body pop more than others, helped by the metallic flake silver beige paintjob. It's also the only 'vette to ever have leather door and central panels which are far nicer than the plastic and carpet found in those which came before and after. If you want to take a jab at the '82 you're not wrong that 200hp is on the low side, and that the lack of manual models was probably a mistake, but the real issue lies in the Crossfire fuel injection system. These things are a pain... I don't believe there's a factory crossfire car out there that isn't finicky, be it a 'vette, camaro or firebird. Maybe 1 in 10 is reliable enough to be a daily driver. This isn't because it's an inherently bad system, more because it wasn't around long enough for anyone to really get familiar with it, and because people think of it more like a modern injected vehicle than a carbureted vehicle in terms of reliability and maintenance. A few things the 82 CE had going for it... Exceptional fuel efficiency due to the transmission and injection system, built "gasohol friendly" meaning todays 10-20% ethanol and methanol fuel is not a problem, back hatch makes the 'trunk' space useable unlike most C3s, every amenity of modern vehicles (power seats/windows/mirrors/locks, AC and heat, leather everything) Just a few thoughts, otherwise a great read.

  • v8vette84 v8vette84 Posts:

    Sounds like this article was written by a Ford fanboy who got his butt kicked by a Corvette while out driving his cool foxbody mustang..... This is a pointless article that shows how ignorant the writer is. Most of the reasons you use to call these cars terrible are terrible! The Callaway didn't hold together well? HA! There were how many ordered again? About 500? 99% of them were probably put into collections and not even driven! How can you call them unreliable? That's ignorance at its best! Try getting a little more information about a topic before you write a stupid article. I'm not even going to touch the rest of the article... I'm sure it's plagued with your opinions too.....

  • bigblockc3 bigblockc3 Posts:

    To make critical reviews and commentary based on the cultural design and automotive technology of today is perfectly justified. However, to use the biased of the 21rst Century to evaluate and critique the automotive design and production of the previous century is short of complete incompetence. Any such critique of any era classic must include a commentary to address the era and all factors which led to its production. I know nothing of this J. P. Huffman; However, I do question his motives? Does he seek to manipulate this segment of classic car market for self gain? In his top ten Corvettes, he shows the money potential of the Barrett-Jackson Auction? Does he seek to temporarily depreciate this segment of “lesser” more attainable classics to allow him to purchase at reduced price for profit? It’s hard to say… However, the 1953 Corvette added to “both” his list has one of the strongest demands at auction? A 1953 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster (Chassis Num: E53F001005), sold at RM Auction in 2012 for $445,000. According to Huffman, the “first” production C1 Corvettes were the most problematic and least desired? In Huffman’s own words, “The first Corvettes were, simply and comprehensively, crude…” However, a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette '#003' (the oldest surviving production Corvette) sold at Barrett-Jackson for 1.1 Million dollars in 2006! Hmmmm… The plot thickens Huffman!

  • wuznmee wuznmee Posts:

    This “author” lost all credibility by the time I finished reading his title.

  • raltbob raltbob Posts:

    A weak engine does not make a bad car. It was not GM's fault that the government had recalculated horsepower ratings. The same thing happened to all cars being sold in this country. However instead of the writer concentrating on how many problem areas were being reported (which would be actual problem areas as reported by owners) they decide to blast a historical piece of moving art! Yes the '53s had problems but then it was also a GM experiment, and yet they do fetch a healthy sum of cash (similar to Porsche's Speedster, a bad car that is now commanding close to a million dollars at auction). Definitely a very well misinformed writer!

  • QUOTE: - ".....the base 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) small-block V8 was still gross rated at 250 hp. But when the 1975 Corvette came along, the big block was gone and the base "ZQ3" 350 had lost a half point of compression and gained a catalytic converter, which dropped its output to a paltry 165 hp." That 165 is a net figure. Half a point of CR and a cat doesn't take 85hp out. Not even close. Just like all those pre-'71 "muscle cars" never cam close to producing the claimed 350-400hp, not once the engines were in the cars anyway.

  • fl_799 fl_799 Posts:

    Everything needs to be placed into perspective. All manufacturers who sold cars in the US after 1975 ran into the same horsepower drops as the Corvette. It was an agonizing time. When the Corvette L98 hit 240-245HP and the 5.0 Mustangs were hitting 225HP, it was indeed big news since both of these cars ran as well as their 60's counterparts. These Corvettes need to be celebrated because the model survived tough times.

  • mikeyoung00 mikeyoung00 Posts:

    No. Many of these were either ugly versions of decent models or made during that period in the mid to late 70s and early 80s when pretty much every car sold in America was underpowered junk, strangled by emissions regs that the industry was still trying to figure out. You don't have to compare them to "modern" cars. Compare them to their counterparts from the late 80s on or from the sixties to early seventies and they will clearly look pitiful. The good news is most of the problems, including lack of power, are easy to fix on many 80s slow-mobiles. But the writer isn't talking about modified versions. He is talking about the weak sauce that came from the factory.

  • drjjjj drjjjj Posts:

    1975-82 vettes are still good looking, but only as fast as todays honda civic.

  • drjjjj drjjjj Posts:

    Appears to be an accurate assessment of the 10 worst! Either too complicated and unreliable or too underpowered and primitive comfort. The new rig sure is a monster for the standard config-probably gets 30 mpg too at 75!

  • will_t will_t Posts:

    To back the writer up a little bit (and I love Corvettes), a long time ago in a galaxy far away, I had a 71 Rally Sport Camaro with 245 hp that was quick but not super quick. So yea, those Corvette numbers are kinda bad.

  • I know this article is a little old... But to jbh30319: be fair to the writer. The 1975 Porsche 911 base model had over 230 HP. Pathetic by today's standards, certainly, your point is well made there. But in 1975, all GM could squeeze out of 5.7 liters was 165 HP? That IS pathetic. The cars are beautiful, and today, you can swap in some aluminum heads, and intake, and dual exhausts and be significantly north of 300 HP. GM's response to governmental controls was to strangle and choke existing technology to reduce emissions, and not to do any significant R&D into new technologies. The boat sailed without them on it and it took them 30 years and a bankruptcy to figure it out. So blame the government, blame the UAW, or blame anyone else that makes you feel better. But in my estimation, the blame lies squarely with GM. They saw the regulations coming, took the cheap way out, and paid the price for it. Dearly.

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