Corvette: Year by Year1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965
1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978
1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Designed by Zora Arkus-Duntov, a independent rear suspension (IRS) was part of the new chassis. This was a bold move on the part of GM. To put it into perspective, consider this. It wasn't until 1992 - 29 years - after the introduction of the 1963 'vette that a car with an IRS designed by Chrysler (the 1992 Viper) was available to the public.
Almost all cars of the time, including the C1 Corvettes, used a live rear axle as the major part of the rear suspension. It's a simple and economical solution that works well in most cases. But the live axle has two problems when used in high performance handling applications.
- It is heavy. When designing a performance handling car, engineers will go to great lengths to reduce unsprung weight; that is the weight of the wheels and the associated suspension parts that they are connected to. Less weight means that it is easier to control the wheels which means that the tires contact the road surface more consistently. A live rear axle has the heavy differential connected to the wheels. With an IRS the differential is bolted to the frame and not part of the unsprung weight.
- The IRS deals with rough surfaces better. When a bump or surface irregularity is encountered by a wheel, it does not affect the other wheel. The result is that the tire on the side that did not hit the bump maintains a consistent contact with the road.
The extra complexity adds to the manufacturing costs, so keeping it simple was a necessity. An ingenious single multi-leaf transverse spring accommodated both wheels, kept costs under control and featured low unsprung weight. Overall weight was down by about 100 lbs. when compared to the previous straight axle design.
1963 Corvette For Sale
1963 Split Window 327-340 hp
Price: $69,995 (Trades Considered)
Location: Napoleon, Ohio
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1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe, 327-340 hp, 4 speed, numbers match. Also has factory original body/trim tag (more)
The IRS was a radical move and positioned the Corvette as a serious road car. The improvement was dramatic and car enthusiasts from all backgrounds took notice. Overall, the handling was much better and so was the feel. The new Corvette was not only faster on the race track, it also felt better. By comparison, the earlier Corvettes felt more cumbersome. The steering feel, agility, responsiveness and "fun to drive" factor was such that even foreign car aficionados took notice.
Before the Viper was introduced, the 1989 Ford T-Bird/Cougar was designed and built with an IRS setup. This IRS design was used until the T-Bird/Cougar MN12 platform went out of production in 1997.
The Lincoln Mark VIII sport coupe used a similar IRS setup until 1998.The 1997 T-birds could be had with IRS, 4-wheel disk brakes, and a fuel-injected V8 (SOHC no less).