More than 20 years after its debut, it’s easy to think of the C5 Corvette as simply a used car. That does it a disservice. Yes, it’s a hell of a performance bargain today, but it’s also one of the most important Corvettes in the model’s history. This period MotorWeek review is a good reminder of what the C5 represented back in 1997.
The C5 was the first all-new Corvette in more than a decade, and it set the template used to this day. Its hydro-formed steel space frame was lighter and stiffer than the C4’s chassis, and its new rear transaxle improved weight distribution and interior room. Even the floorpan had clever engineering—made of balsa wood sandwiched between fiberglass, a lightweight, stiff combination.
But as good as the C5’s chassis was, it’s not the star of the show. That would be the engine, the now-legendary LS1 small-block V8. With 350 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, it was powerful, and thanks to an aluminum block it was lightweight too. Most importantly, the LS1 provided Chevy a great V8 platform to build on, and it gave enthusiasts everywhere an excellent base engine to hot-rod and swap into nearly anything.
So, when you’re scrolling through Cragislist and happen to come across a choice C5 for $10,000, give it a second look. The C5 doesn’t just represent cheap speed—it’s an incredibly important car in Corvette history.