5 Best Corvettes in History

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Chevrolet Corvette, and the folks at auto-buying site Edmunds.com recently honored the iconic sports car's birthday by naming the greatest Corvettes ever produced.

"The Corvette has always been one of the fastest cars you can buy, yet it costs less than the Jaguars and Ferraris that can run with it," Edmunds Editor-in-Chief Scott Oldham says. "It offers a lot of performance per dollar and it's sexy looking -- that's been its formula for success for the past 60 years."

Oldham says he and a panel of other Edmunds editors and outside experts picked the best 'Vettes ever by focusing on models that moved the auto industry forward.

"We wanted to choose Corvettes that advanced vehicle technology or set new standards for automobile design," he says.

The expert adds that judges also focused on models "that have stood the test of time" among Corvette fans, in some cases trading for $1 million or more among collectors. "Some Corvettes are even more desirable now than when they were new," Oldham says.

Here's a look at the five models that Edmunds' panel chose as the "Best Corvettes of All Time."

Fifth-best Corvette ever: 1997 Corvette C5

This model gets the nod mostly because at the time of its introduction, it was the first completely redesigned Corvette that Chevrolet parent General Motors ( GM) had rolled out in more than a decade.

"The Corvette had sort of gotten a lot of gray around the temples by 1996, but then the '97 Corvette came out and suddenly the line was relevant again -- in a grand way," Oldham says.

The 1997 Corvette featured a more comfortable ride than the brand had offered, as well as a revolutionary new LS1 V-8 engine. Oldham says the 345-horsepower LS1 was the first all-aluminum V-8 that GM had used in the Corvette, as well as the first new "small-block" engine the automaker had rolled out since 1955.

"Corvettes still benefit today from some of the choices Chevrolet made for the 1997 model," Oldham says. "It just reinvigorated the brand as a desirable car for a whole new generation of people."

Fourth-best Corvette ever: 1955 Corvette

The 1955 Corvette was the first version of the car to come with a small-block V-8 engine -- a power plant Oldham says is "as iconic as the Corvette at this point, if not more so."

"The small-block V-8 is arguably the most-popular and best-selling performance engine of all time, and every single Corvette made since 1955 has had one," he says. "So you can say that the 1955 Corvette was in some ways a prototype for the brand for the next 58 years and beyond."

The original small-block V-8s offered only 195 horsepower and around a 120 mph top speed -- low by today's standards. But Oldham says that in 1955, "that was a lot of power."

Third-best Corvette ever: 2009 Corvette ZR1

This car, which is still available as a 2013 model, is "the most powerful, fastest, most expensive and most technically advanced Corvette up to this point," Oldham says.

The ZR1's supercharged V-8 engine boasts 638 horsepower, a 205 mph top-rated speed and the ability to go from 0-60 mph in less than four seconds.

The car also features lots of carbon-fiber parts to reduce weight, as well as available Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, Michelin Pilot zero-pressure tires and other racing-quality features.

Of course, all of that high performance costs big bucks. The 2013 ZR1 starts at $111,600, but Oldham calls the model "the ultimate Corvette. It's one of my personal favorite cars, and it's without a doubt one of the best vehicles in the world."

Second-best Corvette ever: 1990 Corvette ZR-1

The 1990 Corvette ZR-1 places near the top of Edmunds' list because the car was the first Corvette ever to come with a double-overhead-cam engine instead of the older push-rod valve-train engines the brand had used.

Oldham says that gave the 1990 ZR-1 375 horsepower, "which was an incredible amount at the time. It was like having a nuclear power plant under your car's hood."

But at the same time, the ZR-1 cost only round $75,000 in 1990 -- well below what Porsches, Lamborghinis and other super-fast vehicles of the day sold for.

"That's what makes this a standout car in the history of Corvettes," Oldham says.

Best Corvette ever: 1963 Corvette Fuel-Injected Coupe

This vehicle is top dog among the 'Vette set primarily because of great exterior styling.

"We feel this is the most beautiful Corvette of all time," Oldham says.

The model boasts the first use of Corvette's legendary "Stingray" design, as well as the only split rear windshield the brand has ever offered.

The '63 Corvette also had cutting-edge mechanical features such as optional fuel injection, a system virtually unheard of at the time because most cars used carburetors.

"Fuel-injected Corvettes were the quickest and most-powerful cars ever from GM at the time," Oldham says. "They ruled the street in 1963."

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