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1997-2004 Chevrolet Corvette: What You Should Know Before Buying

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Tommy Flanagan December 2014

When the 1997-2004 Chevrolet Corvette made its debut, it was the first new Corvette in over a decade. The fifth-generation Corvette featured a new LS1 V8 engine, a rear-mounted transaxle and underbody structure. Gone was the previous generation's boxy styling, replaced with a design that featured a rounder shape and a swooping rear-end design. Today, the 1997-2004 Corvette is still sought out by collectors and aficionados. Its styling is still somewhat fresh and isn't plagued with as many problems as Corvette models from 1984-1996.

Yearly Updates

1997: In its inaugural year, the Corvette was only available as a coupe.

1998: A convertible returned to the lineup this year. A new magnesium-wheel option was offered that featured a bronze tone.

1999: A fixed roof was introduced that had no removable roof panels. New options included a head-up display for the coupe and convertible, Twilight Sentinel delayed headlamp shutoff and a power telescopic steering column.

2000: A new polished aluminum 5-spoke was made available for 2000. An upgraded version of the Z51 Performance package was offered on the hardtop.

2001: The 385-horsepower Z06 debuted. It was offered only with a 6-speed manual transmission.

2002: The Z06 was increased to 405 hp. Corvettes with the Z51 Performance package and the Z06 featured an aluminum front stabilizer bar that reduced weight.

2003: A 50th Anniversary model was introduced, which featured a burgundy paint color. Magnetic Selective Ride Control was an optional feature for the coupe and convertible.

2004: A Commemorative Edition Z06 with LeMans Blue paint was available for 2004.

Powertrains & Fuel Economy

The base 1997-2004 Corvette was powered by a Chevrolet LS1 V8 engine. It produced 345 hp, which was upgraded to 350 hp in 2001. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this engine achieved 16 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway with the 6-speed manual transmission. With the 4-speed automatic transmission, this engine maintained 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.

The sportier 2001-2004 Z06 was rated at 385 hp in 2001, but leaped to 405 hp for the 2002-2004 model years. This version of the Chevrolet LS6 V8 engine was only offered with a 6-speed manual transmission. 

Body Styles & Yearly Updates

When introduced in 1997, the Corvette was only available as a coupe with a removable roof. In 1998, a convertible joined the lineup. This was the first time since 1962 that a Corvette convertible was equipped with a trunk. In 1999, a new hardtop was the third body style made available for the Corvette. It was only available with a 6-speed manual transmission and the Z51 sport suspension. Optional across all body styles was Active Handling control, which used the car's brakes to help the car corner better. For the 2000 model year, the hardtop was available with an optional head-up display, dual-zone temperature control, fog lamps and magnesium wheels. 2001 greeted the Corvette enthusiast with a Z06 coupe. In 2002, Z06 increased to 405 hp, and a CD player replaced the standard cassette player. In 2003, a special 50th Anniversary Edition featured red paint and special anniversary badging. 2004 also featured a Commemorative Edition Z06, with paint mimicking the Corvette LeMans race car.

Thinking About Buying?

Purchasing a 1997-2004 Chevrolet Corvette can be nerve-racking if you don't do some advance research before you spend your hard-earned cash. Let's face it: Sports cars are expensive and sometimes subject to hard driving by their previous owners. While the car may look bright and shiny on the outside, many problem areas could be lurking underneath.

One important tool to consider in your search is a vehicle-history report. Carfax and AutoCheck offer downloadable apps that can be downloaded to your phone or other mobile device. This is perfect for getting reports while you are walking the dealer's lot checking out Corvettes. You should also take along another set of eyes with you when car shopping. Ask a friend or relative to tag along with you while you're kicking the tires. They will be a little more objective and won't be as emotional about the purchase as you.

Which Corvette Is Right For You?

Since 1997-2004 Chevrolet Corvettes come in several body styles, the hard choice is deciding which one to buy. Prices range from around $13,000 for high-mileage examples to around $37,000 for a Corvette with low miles and Z06 models.

By doing your homework and a little research, finding a great 1997-2004 Chevrolet Corvette shouldn't be that complicated. We hope these tips give you an idea of where to start and what to look out for when shopping for a great used fifth-generation Corvette.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
1997-2004 Chevrolet Corvette: What You Should Know Before Buying - Autotrader