* Seventh-generation Corvette at Detroit auto show
* Sales begin next summer
* New exterior and interior
By Paul Lienert
DETROIT, Oct 17 (Reuters) - An all-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette, the seventh generation of the uniquely American sports car in six decades, will make its debut January 13 on the eve of the North American International Auto Show, General Motors’ Chevrolet brand said on Thursday.
Eagerly awaited by auto enthusiasts, the new Corvette - dubbed C7 by the faithful but known to GM and its suppliers by the development code Y1XX - is widely expected to have a radically restyled exterior, a more upscale interior, a lighter chassis, and a more efficient engine and transmission.
There will be a 6-month gap between the 2014 Corvette new C7 and the current C6 version, a Chevrolet spokesman said in an email. GM will stop building the 2013 model in early February, and is due to start producing the 2014 model in volume in July.
The first of the new C7 Corvettes is expected to roll off the line in Bowling Green on June 30 - 60 years to the day that the first 1953 model was produced, according to two suppliers familiar with the automaker’s plans but are not authorized to speak on behalf of GM.
The C7’s formal unveiling in mid-January also marks the anniversary of the Corvette’s debut in January 1953 as a GM Motorama “dream car” concept in New York. Since then, GM has built and sold more than 1.5 million Corvettes, although annual sales have slowed in recent years as higher vehicle prices, rising fuel and insurance costs, and growing competition from Europe and Asia have eroded its once fiercely loyal owner base.
To rekindle interest in the Corvette, especially among younger, affluent buyers who tend to favor imported brands, Chevrolet has completely overhauled the car for the first time since the sixth-generation model was launched in July 2004.
The result, according to chief engineer Tadge Juechter, is “a truly all-new Corvette. There are only two carryover parts from the C6 used in the C7 - the cabin air filter and the rear latch for the removable roof panel.”
Chevrolet even has redesigned the Corvette’s familiar crossed-flags emblem for the 2014 model.
Other significant upgrades, according to the supplier sources, include a smaller, lighter aluminum V8 engine displacing around 5.5 liters, advanced features such as direction injection, cylinder cutoff and variable valve timing, and a new seven-speed manual transmission for improved fuel economy.
Prices, due to be announced next summer, are expected to range from just under $55,000 for the base model to nearly $120,000 for the top-of-the-line Corvette ZR1.
Chevrolet said dealers will continue to take orders for the current model until December.