In its April 1967 issue, Motor Trend pitted the “Kings of Speed,” a 427 Vette and a Shelby G.T. 500, in a big-block head-to-head shootout. A month later, MT revisited the Vette vs. Shelby rivalry, adding small-block versions to the mix.
Steve Kelly’s story included a lot of data from the previous issue’s big-block test, along with track times and driving impressions from a 300hp 327-powered Sting Ray coupe and a G.T. 350 with a 306hp 289.
While Shelby provided automatic and manual transmission versions of the G.T. 350, the Vette came in one flavor: Powerglide. Kelly admitted the ’Glide “is a long way from being as snappy a shifter as a Turbo-Hydramatic or the Ford C6,” but in general he preferred the automatic versions to the stick-shift models. “The longer we drove both the GT and Sting Ray with an automatic, the less we thought of the loud-engine four-speed versions. It’s not that we don’t like four-speeds, but just that like most people, we don’t live where only one gear change is required between home and work. Most of us don’t get to the race track often enough to receive full value out of a four-speed ...”
As the track times showed, even with the Powerglide the Vette was right in the hunt with the Shelbys. Its 16.1 quarter-mile e.t. was just a tick slower than the 16.0 run made by the automatic G.T. 350, and not far off the 15.9 turned in with the four-speed. Some of the difference could be blamed on the tires; Kelly complained about how “Chevy engineers just couldn’t find enough room under the fenderwells for 70-Series tires.” It should be noted, too, that the Vette’s 91-mph trap speed was faster than either Shelby (89 mph for the auto, 90 for the stick).
The Vette’s under-tired condition also “detracts quite a lot from the Corvette’s handling prowess,” Kelly complained, “but if tires comparable to the GT’s standard equipment—Goodyear ‘Speedways’—are fitted, the contest is over.” He went on to warn that the “four-wheel independent suspension, especially on the 427 Sting Ray, isn’t the thing for the novice to try his first time out, but a practiced handler can put the car through turns in front of the pack without difficulty.”
The Corvette took some hits for its only-seats-two capacity and small luggage compartment compared with the Mustang-based Shelby, though Kelly pointed out that passengers were forced to crawl around the Shelby’s rollbar to arrive in a rear seat that wasn’t “overly comfortable.” The Shelby also enjoyed a lower price, which created a “mellow buy now atmosphere” for the car. The MSRP listed for the Corvette coupe was $4,495, compared to $3,995 for the G.T 350, though you also had to pay $264.77 for “mandatory options” on the Shelby, like power steering and brakes, shoulder harnesses, and a fold-down rear seat.
On the other hand, the Corvette scored points for its build quality. “Chevrolet has had over 15 years to learn about working with fiberglass,” Kelly pointed out, “and it shows in the almost flawless workmanship of the body. The add-on fiberglass pieces of the GT aren’t nearly as well finished or mated as any part of the Sting Ray body.” Kelly also believed the engines in the Corvette, “throughout the line, exhibit much more potential” than the engines in the Shelby.
In sum, Kelly said “anyone not desiring to haul a load of lumber or kids wherever he goes can get a full measure of enjoyment out of either one. They offer exciting styling and combinations for all types of driving, whether it be highway cruising or ‘power on’ runs at the track.” But, he said, “the Corvette in particular can be titled granddaddy of the sport-personal cars,” especially since the Vette’s other longtime rival, the Thunderbird, “has grown into the luxury category.”
Photography by Gerry Stiles & Petersen Publishing Co. Archive