The 50 Best Chevrolet Models of All Time (No. 20 – 11)

Established in 1911 by brothers Louis and Arthur Chevrolet and General Motors co-founder William C. Durant, Chevrolet became GM's high-volume, entry-level car division in 1918. The brand quickly morphed into one of America's greatest automakers and then developed into a giant that builds anything from sports cars to large SUVs and trucks.
The 50 Best Chevrolet Models of All Time (No. 20 – 11) 20 photos
Photo: Chevrolet
1953 Chevrolet Corvette1953 Chevrolet Corvette1955 Chevrolet Nomad1955 Chevrolet Nomad1965 Chevrolet Impala1965 Chevrolet Impala1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL11971 Chevrolet Corvette ZR11971 Chevrolet Corvette ZR12019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL12019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL11967 Chevrolet Corvette L881967 Chevrolet Corvette L882015 Chevrolet Corvette Z062015 Chevrolet Corvette Z062009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR12009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR11994 Chevrolet Impala SS1994 Chevrolet Impala SS
The first U.S. carmaker to mass produce a sports car, the 1953 Corvette, Chevrolet also pioneered the proto-SUV market with the 1935 Suburban. But these are only two out of tens of iconic vehicles built by the Detroit-based division. To celebrate the company that gave us so many cool automobiles, we're looking at the 50 best Chevrolets of all time. Having already explored No. 50 to 21, here's part four, which includes numbers 20 to 11.

20. 1953 Corvette

1953 Chevrolet Corvette
Photo: Chevrolet
According to many Corvette enthusiasts, the first-year sports car wasn't the best iteration of the series. The quality of the fiberglass body and the fit and finish were lacking, the soft top was leaking, and Polo White was the only available color. On top of that, the six-cylinder "Blue Flame" engine was rather lackluster at 150 horsepower.

So what's it doing this high on my list? Well, despite all these issues, the 1953 Corvette is the legendary drop-top that kickstarted the Corvette legend we all adore. But it's also the first sports car built by the Big Three and one of the first U.S.-made vehicles with a fiberglass body.

Ultimately, because it was built in only 300 units, the 1953 version is now the rarest and one of the most desirable Corvettes out there.

19. 1955 Chevrolet Nomad

1955 Chevrolet Nomad
Photo: Chevrolet
A rather short-lived nameplate, the Nomad started life in 1954 as a GM Motorama "dream car." Introduced alongside the Pontiac Bonneville Special and the Oldsmobile F-88, the Nomad concept was a two-door wagon with a Corvette front end.

The badge was eventually applied to a production model the next year. Chevrolet retained the two-door station wagon body, but the Corvette fascia was dropped for a Tri-Five front end. The range-topping grocery getter of the full-size range, the Nomad arrived with flashy Bel Air chrome trim and upscale features inside the cabin.

While not quite as desirable as the Bel Air Sport Coupe, the Nomad is now regarded as a design icon of the 1950s and one of the hottest classic station wagons ever produced. It's also the rarest version of the 1955 Tri-Five, with only 8,530 units produced (out of a whopping 1.77 million).

18. 1965 Impala

1965 Chevrolet Impala
Photo: Chevrolet
Overshadowed by late-1950s and early-1960s iterations of the nameplate, the 1965 Impala was a game changer for both Chevrolet and the automobile industry as a whole. Redesigned from a clean sheet, the fourth-gen Impala arrived with a new full-width perimeter grille, a new body with curved glass, and a full-coil suspension.

1965 also saw Chevrolet introduce a new luxury package for the four-door hardtop version called the Caprice. Equipped with tufted upholstery, wood-grained trim, and some Impala SS goodies, the Caprice bundle reportedly gave customers a Cadillac-like experience.

The 1965 Impala was an instant hit and sold more than one million units (a feat it repeated in 1966), becoming the first U.S.-built car to do so since the 1922 Ford Model T. It's also worth noting that no other American vehicle moved a million examples until 2000, when the F-Series truck reached the magical benchmark.

17. 1969 Corvette ZL1

1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL1
Photo: RM Sotheby's
Before it became a Malaise Era sports car with detuned V8 engines, the third-generation Corvette was one of the most powerful vehicles in showrooms. And it also spawned three of the rarest 'Vettes ever made. The ZR1, for instance, was built in 53 units from 1970 to 1972, while the ZR2 saw daylight in just 12 examples in 1971. But none of them are as legendary as the ZL1.

Introduced in 1969, the Corvette ZL1 shared the all-aluminum, 427-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8 with the equally iconic COPO Camaro ZL1. Rated at 430 horsepower on paper, but actually good for 460 horses, the Corvette ZL1 was the fastest U.S. production car at the time of its introduction. But the ZL1 option was also as expensive as a base Corvette, so only three customers went with the all-aluminum upgrade.

Arguably one of the most desirable C3s out there, the 1969 Corvette ZL1 is a rare sight and worth more than $3 million as of 2023.

16. 1971 Corvette ZR2

1971 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Photo: Mecum Auctions
Well, of course the ZR2 is also on this list. I simply cannot ignore this LS6-powered monster that was conceived in great secrecy as a successor to the track-honed L88. Fitted with a 454-cubic-inch (7.4-liter) big-block good for 425 horsepower and an M22 close-ratio four-speed manual gearbox, the ZR2 was all about brute performance.

And it also came with a heavy-duty aluminum radiator, heavy-duty power disc brakes, and a special suspension package with bespoke springs, shocks, and sway bars. But much like the ZL1, the ZR2 was pretty expensive and Chevrolet received only 12 orders during the single 1971 model year. Ten were ordered as coupes and only two left the factory with the convertible layout.

The ZR2 was the last Corvette-based monster that Chevrolet built before the Clean Air Act turned the sports car into a mundane 200-horsepower rig.

15. 2017 Camaro ZL1

2019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Photo: Chevrolet
We're back to the "ZL1" badge with this one, but it has nothing to do with the all-aluminum V8 that powered the Corvette and the Camaro in the late 1960s. This time around, we're looking at the most menacing Chevy wearing this emblem: the sixth-generation ZL1.

Introduced in 2017 and equipped with the supercharged, 6.2-liter LT4 V8 also found in the Corvette Z06, the ZL1 hit the pavement with a whopping 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet (881 Nm) of torque. While not quite as powerful as the contemporary Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, the modern ZL1 remains the most potent and aggressive iteration of the Camaro.

It's also impressively quick, needing only 3.5 seconds to hit 60 mph (97 kph) from a standing start toward a top speed of 198 mph (319 kph). The ZL1 covers the quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds. With the Camaro set to go into the history books in 2024, the sixth-gen ZL1 will most likely remain the most powerful ICE-powered iteration of the nameplate.

14. 1967 Corvette L88

1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88
Photo: Barrett-Jackson
Oh, look, yet another Corvette on this list. Well, Chevrolet made quite a few cool ones, and the L88 is the last one I would ignore. Introduced in 1967, as the second-generation model was about to be replaced, the L88 was the ultimate Corvette engine. A race-spec unit with loads of internals honed at the track, the 427-cubic-inch V8 was officially rated at 435 horsepower, but many claimed that the mill was good for more than 500 horses.

Like most beefed-up Corvettes from the era, the 1967 L88 was sold in very limited quantities. With only 20 units delivered before Chevrolet introduced the C3, the 1967 L88 remains one of the rarest and most sought-after second-gen Corvettes.

But even though the C2 went into the history books, the L88 option survived in the C3 for the 1968 and 1969 model year. The option became a bit more popular in the third-gen sports car, moving 80 units in 1968 and 116 examples in 1969.

13. 2015 Corvette Z06

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Photo: Chevrolet
First introduced in 1963 by Zora Arkus-Duntov, the "Z06" badge was revived for the first time in 2001. And it has since returned on every generation of the American sports car. While the C8-based model is currently the most powerful, at 670 horsepower, it's the C7 version that stands out. Because it's the most potent iteration that still has its engine in the front. Just like the original 1963 Z06 had.

Launched for the 2015 model year, the Corvette Z06 got the then-new LT4 V8 under the hood. A supercharged and intercooled, 6.2-liter mill with aluminum cylinder heads, and a 1.7-liter Eaton blow, the V8 sent 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through either a seven-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic.

The most powerful Corvette at the time, the C7 Z06 was also the first of its kind to hit 60 mph in less than three seconds (2.95 clicks). Likewise, it was the first Corvette to cover the quarter-mile in less than 11 seconds. Come 2023 and it's only three-tenths slower than its successor to 60 mph.

12. 2009 Corvette ZR1

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Photo: Chevrolet
Developed under the internal codename Blue Devil, the C6-based ZR1 arrived in 2009, a full 14 years after Chevrolet discontinued the previous iteration. That's because there was no ZR1 version of the C5. As a result, the horsepower gap was quite huge. While the C4 ZR-1 came with 405 horsepower on tap, the C6 ZR1 boasted a monstrous 638 horsepower. Yup, that's only 12 horses less than the Z06 that Chevy launched in 2015.

All that oomph came from a supercharged, 6.2-liter LS9 mill, which also generated 604 pound-feet (819 Nm) of torque at 3,800 rpm. Loaded with carbon-fiber components and fitted with carbon-ceramic brakes, the C6 ZR1 was capable of speeds over 200 mph (330 kph).

As of March 2023, the C6 ZR1 is the third-quickest Chevrolet on the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Its 7:19-minute lap puts it above the Ferrari 488 GTB, the Dodge Viper ACR, and the Maserati MC12.

11. 1996 Impala SS

1994 Chevrolet Impala SS
Photo: Chevrolet
First introduced in 1958, the Impala remained in continuous production until 1985. That's when Chevy decided to put all its full-size car eggs in the Caprice basket. The Impala did not make a full comeback until 2000, but Chevrolet did produce a limited-edition SS model from 1994 to 1996. And, boy, what a legendary sedan it is!

First showcased as a concept car in 1992, the Impala SS went into production for the 1994 model year. The factory version was almost identical to the show car design-wise, but Chevy replaced the experimental 8.2-liter V8 engine with a more down-to-earth 5.7-liter unit. Sourced from the C4 Corvette, the small-block delivered 260 horsepower and 330 pound-feet (447 Nm) of twist.

Essentially a high-performance Caprice based on the 9C1 police package, the SS needed seven seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start and 15.3 clicks to cover the quarter mile. Quicker than any other full-size sedan at the time and a worthy successor to the early-1960s Impala SS, the four-door immediately developed a cult status among Chevy gearheads.
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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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