With the Chevrolet Corvette making its big leap to an all-new mid-engine platform for 2020, it makes sense to take a moment and consider just how far we’ve come since the first-generation Vette debuted in the early ‘50s. While we could look at things like engine options or 0-to-60 mph times, a much better visual representation of the Vette’s evolution can be found inside the cabin with a direct comparison of the iconic sports car’s steering wheels over the years.
Unsurprisingly, the steering wheel in the first-generation Vette is the simplest of the nameplate’s eight generations, and in many ways, it’s the best-looking wheel of the bunch. This particular example is shown with some aftermarket padding and a few other instrument panel modifications, but the three-spoke design is as it was out of the factory, with bored-out metal and a crossed-flag emblem in the center.
In addition to the introduction of the Sting Ray, the C2 also brought with it a new steering wheel design. Compared to the previous generation, the new wheel offered a bottom-heavy three-spoke look with long cutouts added in place of the previous model’s trio of bored-out holes. Chevrolet also offered a teakwood option for the ’65 and ’66 model years.
While the steering wheel on the third-generation Chevrolet Corvette offered a similar positioning for the three spokes (3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock), the spokes themselves were solid strips of metal, rather than the bored-out design of the first-gen models or the cutout design of the C2. Later in the C3’s lifecycle, the steering wheel was padded to match the upholstery.
With the introduction of the fourth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, the interior design changed dramatically, moving towards a more digitized, futuristic aesthetic. The steering wheel also changed, arriving with a two-spoke design and a flat crossed-flag center logo.
The fifth-generation Chevrolet Corvette is where we start to see a modernized approach to interior design, encapsulating the driver with buttons and various readouts. As such, the steering wheel is also modern, boasting a four-spoke look and a familiar crossed-flag logo.
The sixth-gen Chevrolet Corvette marked a return to the previous T-shaped, three-spoke design of previous model generations. What’s more, the wheel also included new multi-function controls along the right-most spoke, evidence of the increasing number of infotainment features on offer.
With the seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette, the steering wheel became much more intricate. Not only was the rim wrapped in leather or suede, and finished with brushed trim and carbon fiber, but the lower section was flattened, similar to that of other modern sports cars. Also notice the sizable hand grips at the 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions, not to mention the plethora of infotainment buttons at thumb’s length.
We already talked about the new mid-engine C8 Corvette’s steering wheel, examining the design and various extraneous controls. Much like the C8’s departure from a traditional front-engine layout, the new eighth-generation vehicle’s steering wheel looks totally different from those of previous generations, with two downturned spokes in the sides, a sharp crossed-flag badge in the middle, and a flattened bottom and top section, creating an almost square shape.