The fifth generation Chevrolet Corvette started in 1997 and ended with the 2004 model year. The C5 was a radical change from the previous generation. The car now had a hydroformed box frame, the transmission was moved to the rear of the car to form an integrated rear-mounted transaxle assembly and is connected to the engine via a torque tube. The 4L60E automatic transmission carried on, but the manual was replaced by the Borg-Warner T-56. Gone were the squeaks and rattles of the C4, and in replacement was an incredibly strong frame that would last for at least two more generations. The new C5 was better in every aspect than the C4 it replaced.
A 50th Anniversary model was built in 2004 to celebrate a half century of Corvette production. Available as a coupe or convertible, the 50th anniversary came with 50th Anniversary Red metallic paint and shale two-tone leather trim. Special aluminum wheels, trim, and badges completed the look. It included the LS1 engine and all of the convenience options offered on the upscale Corvette models.
- The 1997 Corvette features several first-time high tech innovations, such as black lights for the instrument panel and a "plastic" (composite) intake manifold.
- The first 200 production C5 Corvettes were painted red, not the traditional white color for the first production run.
- The 1997 Corvette is the first one designed from the ground up as a Corvette, with very little borrowing of parts from other cars. One of the few "Off the Shelf" parts are the exterior door handles which are the same ones used on the Oldsmobile Aurora.
- The first use of a transaxle in a production Corvette occurred in the '97. However, the first plans for one were in the Q-Corvette in 1958, planned for the 1960 model. Transaxles showed up in Corvette prototypes in the mid '60s in running models.
- The first 4 speed in a Corvette was built by Borg Warner in 1957. The first transaxle in a production Corvette was also built by Borg Warner, forty years later in 1997. Both were introduced late in the model year.
- Borg Warner has produced a transmission for each generation of Corvette: C1 - 1957 to 1962, C2 - 1963, C3 - 1980 to 1981, C4 - 1984 to 1988, and C5 - 1997 to 1998.
- The 1997 Corvette is the first Corvette to have windshield wipers that sweep in the same direction instead of opposing directions.
- The 1998 Corvette convertible is the first to offer the same sport suspension package as the coupe. Since the C5 was designed from the start as a convertible model, the ragtop is nearly identical in structural rigidity to the coupe.
- The first Corvette to sport a real trunk since 1962 again appeared with the 1998 Corvette convertible.
- November 4, 1997 - The 9752nd 1998 Corvette rolled down the assembly matching the total 1997 Model production run.
- The last "Fairway Green" C5 came down the assembly line as a '98 model on November 10, 1997. The color was discontinued due to poor sales.
- It takes 55 hours to build the new C5 Corvette, down from 70 hours for the previous C4 model.
- For the first time in history, the 1999 Corvette is available in three distinct body styles... Coupe, Convertible, and Hardtop (aka, "Fixed Roof Coupe").
- The performance axle ratio for C5 Corvettes with automatic transmission is 3.15:1 (the standard ratio is 2.73:1).
- The 2000 Corvette featured new color choices to celebrate Y2K... Millennium Yellow and Dark Bowling Green Metallic... plus a new Torch Red interior option.
- 2001 will forever be remembered as the year the Z06 performance hardtop was introduced with its 385HP LS6 engine and 6 speed manual transmission.
- Corvette's use of a titanium exhaust for the Z06 was the first ever for a mass production automobile.
- Active Handling became standard equipment in 2001.
- The 2002 Corvette featured a new color, Electron Blue Metallic, and an upgraded 405HP LS6 engine for the Z06.
- The 2002 Z06 windshield was thinner than that used in the coupe models, shaving 2.65 pounds per car. The lighter windshield was shared with convertibles equipped with the Heads Up Display (HUD) option, which was standard on 2002 Z06 models.
- The 2003 Corvette heralds the 50th anniversary with a special edition in Anniversary Red with Shale interior and a new, high-tech magnetic suspension option for all models but the Z06, which continues essentially unchanged from the 2002 model year.
- In addition to Anniversary Red, Medium Spiral Gray Metallic was a new color in 2003.
- The Magnetic Ride Option offered in 2003 uses a magnetic fluid which adjusts shock damping 1,000 times per second, roughly equivalent to reacting to each inch of road surface at 60 mph.
- 2004 marks the last of the extremely successful fifth generation Corvette and was celebrated with the special Commemorative Edition Corvettes in Lemans Blue with special badging, graphics and interior appointments.
||LS1 engine is new; no convertible C5s were built in 1997
||Convertible C5 debuts with the first conventional trunk in a Corvette since 1962
||Less-expensive hardtop coupe is new
||New alloy wheels
||Hardtop body style becomes high-performance Z06; active handling package becomes standard equipment
||20 hp more for the Z06
||50th Anniversary Edition; Magnaride suspension is new