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Historic Road Test: 327 V-8 1965 Corvette is ‘Very Easy to Live With’

“Commuter” Corvette

Feb 7, 2019
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That’s the nickname Bob McVay, Motor Trend’s assistant technical editor, gave to the 1965 Sting Ray he tested for the magazine’s April 1965 issue. Its 300-horse 327 made it “a very easy car to live with—much more so than former fuel-injection models we’ve driven. It started easily, was completely docile in traffic, needed only first and fourth for most normal demands, and it was very quiet. On the other hand, it gave excellent performance for a 3,280-pound car when we used the 5,500-rpm red line and the four-speed gearbox to the fullest extent.”

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Two years into the second-generation model run, Chevrolet made some significant changes to the Vette. This would mark the final year (for a while, anyway) fuel injection was available as an engine option, but buyers had other new choices, including the 350hp L79 small-block and the brand-new 396ci, 425hp “porcupine” big-block.

This was also the year Chevrolet made four-wheel disc brakes standard equipment, which McVay discussed at length in his story. “After more than 1,500 miles behind the wheel (from slow city traffic to 124-mph speeds on the race track), we’ve formed a pretty good opinion of these stoppers. They’re just great; the final component that gives an already good sports car stopping power to match its go power.”

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On the track, McVay subjected the new 11.75-inch, ventilated, four-piston disc brakes (with the power-assist option) to the magazine’s regular brake-test procedures plus “five consecutive panic stops from 60 mph, without giving the brakes any chance to cool. All stops were swerve-free, fade-free, and the wheels didn’t lock up. Our shortest stop was 137 feet and the longest was 166 feet, for a 153.65-foot average stopping distance for our five stops. It felt as if the brakes could continue to perform this way all day long. “We also used the brakes hard on long, fast, winding, downhill mountain roads, in city traffic, and during one of Los Angeles’ infamous cloudbursts,” he continued. “After 1,500 miles, in our opinion, the 1965 Corvette has the finest, smoothest-acting, and strongest set of stoppers available on any American automobile.”

He acknowledged, though, that “brakes are only one component of many that go into building a sports car. Suspension is also very important, and here’s where the Corvette shines again.” He called the car’s ride “a bit choppy” at low speeds in town or on rough roads, “but the Corvette is far more comfortable and easy to live with than many other sports cars.” Its handling, he said, was “almost perfectly neutral in corners until pushed right to the limit. The Corvette could be drifted, skidded, or just driven very fast through any variety of turns with a high degree of safety and control. It’s a car that a good driver can really fall in love with, and one that a bad driver, or an over-enthusiastic one, can get himself into trouble with just as quickly.”

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Photos of the road test were taken over a period of several days in January 1965, and show McVay driving the car on streets, dirt roads, and at the track, with the convertible top up, top down, and an optional hardtop attached. One photo caption had nothing good to say about that hardtop: “Definitely not a one-man job, taking off top can be a chore. Once in place, it rattled and required lots of muscle to lift up in order to get into luggage compartment.”

Besides that top and the 300-horse V-8 (the 250hp 327 was still standard for 1965), other options on McVay’s tester included its four-speed manual transmission; power brakes, steering, and windows; Positraction with the standard 3.36 rear gears; AM/FM radio with power antenna; tinted glass; and whitewalls, taking its $4,106 base price to $5,279.35 as tested.

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Neither the 250 nor the 300hp versions of the 327 would make anyone “king at the local dragstrip,” McVay admitted. The spec chart showed the Vette took 7.5 seconds to go from 0 to 60 and ran the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds at 90 mph. “But you can rest assured that if you aren’t satisfied beating most of the people most of the time, you can always order a hotter version.”

The complaint about the hardtop aside, McVay flat loved this Vette. “A better all-around sports car would be hard to find at any price. Here’s a car a man can really enjoy driving and living with.” Vette

Photography by Pat Brollier; Petersen Publishing Co. Archive

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