When thinking about the Corvette’s place in automotive history let yourself begin with this fact: Since 1953, Chevrolet has produced 1.5 million of America’s first and most popular sports car and continues to do so. Chevrolet has manufactured Corvettes for 66-plus years, making the Corvette one of the most popular sports cars of all time. Pretty heady stuff.
In the world of collectible cars there are many to choose from and it doesn’t matter whether you love a General Motors product, Ford, Chrysler or any number of other hood ornaments. The fact remains that Corvettes have always been at the forefront of collectible material.
It all started with what we Corvette types refer to as the C1 and C2 … 1953-’62 and then 1963-’67. But why were (are) these Corvettes and other of different generations so collectible. Here are some facts to remember.
It’s been said that all Corvettes from 1953-’62 were convertibles, there were no coupes. While on the surface that is true some would argue (and I might be in that group) the first of the 1953-’55 cars with side curtains were true roadsters. (Remember their windshields would also unbolt as not an integral part of the body hence meeting the criteria for a roadster … no roll up windows and a removable windshield!)
The first coupe was the 1963 split-window coupe “Sting Ray,” spelled as two words from 1963-’67. There were 10,594 coupes made during the 1963 production year. The C2 (1963-’67) was also the first with IRS, independent rear suspension.
For all but the true C2 and C3 Corvette aficionado sometimes the spelling of the word “Sing Ray or “Stingray” can lead to some confusion. Chevrolet from the beginning (C2, 1963-’67) liked the treatment of the word “Sting Ray” as two words. Along comes the next generation (C3, 1968-’82) and apparently there was a change of heart within the walnut paneled offices. While the 1968 Stingray was treated as a single word the fact remains that Stingray doesn’t appear anywhere on the car but does appear in literature as one word. It wasn’t until 1969 that the emblem was now back on the car’s front fender and would remain so until 1976 when it “fell off” again. (Although nowadays we have our Stingray back … as one word!)
Fuel injection, while a common occurrence on modern day cars, was a big deal back in the mid-’50s. The first Corvette to feature Rochester Ramjet mechanical fuel injection was in 1957 resting atop the new 283 V-8. I should point out that it was the first time a Chevrolet V-8 produced one horsepower per one cubic inch … another benchmark. Fuel injection picked up the moniker “fuelie” equipped and that meant something in the day.
In the world of power there’s no getting around the most exciting cars of their day, and possibly even today, were the big-block Corvettes. If there was such a thing as brute horsepower it had to be the first big-blocks. Introduced in 1965, the L78 396-inch 425hp big-block was a monster of which there were only 2,157 produced. (Also introduced in the Chevelle at the same time.) Aside from the L88 cars, these may be the most powerful Corvettes for some time. It was clearly underrated for horsepower and it was only produced for half a year (L78 package came out in January while the ’65 Corvette was introduced back in the September ’64 timeframe.)
Induction systems are always a fascination for car owners regardless of the emblem or the engine. What sits on top “rules.” While fuel injection and dual fours (1956-’61) were always an attention grabber it turns out that there was nothing quite like the Corvette Tri-power to mesmerize one. Interestingly, one didn’t have to wait long for Tri-power as the first Corvette back in ’53 had three, one-barrel carbs. This option turned the six-cylinder into a 155hp rating as opposed to the stock 150. But the Tri-power Corvette owners lust over is the three, two-barrel set up beginning in 1967. Sold under the RPO #L68 (2,101 units) and #L71 (3,754 units) their horsepower ratings were 400 and 435 respectively. Today, these are highly sought after and highly collectible bringing well into the six figures at auction.
I could go on and on about Corvette facts and anecdotal tidbits but you get the idea. The Corvette is our true automotive passion and has been for decades and will probably be so for more decades to come. In the meantime, find your favorite Corvette facts and stories and be at the ready to entertain your fellow two-seaters while sitting around the barbeque. Vette