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Vintage Road Test: Driving the Brutish 427-Powered 1966 Chevrolet Corvette—In the Rain!

From the Archives: It’s Got the Go—Now

Drew Hardin May 16, 2018
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Hot Rod magazine’s Eric Dahlquist summed up the ’66 Corvette pretty darn well in just two paragraphs as part of a new-model overview in the magazine’s Nov. 1965 issue:

“Pick a gear, any gear, and punch it; the effect is always sensational if not breathtaking. The 396 V-8 introduced last year has been bored an eighth, the compression upped to 11.0:1, and the neat NASCAR Holley three-barrel added for second wind. Grab a rearend ratio; 3.08, 3.36, 3.55, 3.70, 4.11 or 4.56, and the heavy-duty four-speed with the boss 2.20 low; click-click-click, and with the right combination you’re at a hundred and forty with no sweat. It’s frantic.

002 Archive 1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Driving Overhead Angle 2/5

“Brakes? It’s got ’em; 11.75-inch, vented caliper discs on all four wheels, vacuum assisted by Delco-Moraine to bring you back safely from orbit. You’ll know it anywhere as a ’66 when you see the bold, egg-crate grille and the cool hood bubble, with vents yet. You’ll be hard put to stay ahead, unless maybe you’ve got one with a 6-71 on it.”

A few months later in its March 1966 issue, Motor Trend tested a convertible powered by “the most brutish version of the biggest engine offered by a company that disclaims any interest in racing,” wrote associate editor Bob McVay. “The 427 has the kind of torque that made World War II fighter planes try to wrap themselves around their propeller on take-off. In the relatively light, front-end-heavy Corvette, this verve tends to pave the highway with your rear-tire treads.”

McVay had the car during a rainy December in 1965; he talks about the convertible being “completely weatherproof” but notes that, “on wet pavement, the power goes to the standard whitewalls but not to the road.” He recommends upgrading from the skinny, 7.75x15 factory bias-plies to “[Pirelli] Cinturato or Michelin-X (or their equivalent) tires, along with the optional, 6-inch-rim aluminum wheels—anything to further a closer association between the Vette and the road, wet or dry.”

003 Archive 1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Engine 3/5
005 Archive 1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Emblem 4/5

McVay’s Vette had a base price of $4,225.75 and an as-tested price of $5,259.20. The L72 427 added just $181.20 to the bill, while the four-speed was more at $184.35, and the AM/FM radio option a staggering $199.10! If you’ve got a 427 underhood and an open roof, who needs a radio?

At the track, the 427 logged a 5.6-second 0-60 time and went through the quarter in 13.4 seconds at 105 mph. Factory literature he got with the car indicated that with the optional 3.08 rearend gear (his tester had 4.11s) and at 6,700 rpm, the 427-powered Corvette would be going 170 mph. “…6,700 is only 200 rpm into the red-shaded warning area on the tach, so we will not argue with the chart. All we know is that at 6,500, we were doing about 135 on the back straight at Riverside and Turn 9 was coming up awfully fast.”

004 Archive 1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Interior 5/5

It’s interesting that, in a fairly short two-page write-up, McVay spent a lot of words warning potential buyers that the 427 isn’t for everyone. “For drivers who have the guts and skill to master it—and the maturity to recognize it for what it is and handle it accordingly—the 427 Turbo-Jet Corvette is a road king. The other 99 percent of the population is likely to be much happier and safer in either of the two 327 models.”

He ends the story on the same thought: “For those rare individuals who want, and can handle, its potential, the 427 Turbo-Jet is a red-hot machine, but if it gets away from you, don’t say we didn’t warn you.”

Sounds like the voice of experience talking, doesn’t it? Vette

Photos: Darryl Norenberg, Petersen Publishing Co. Archive

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