1976 Chevrolet Corvette - Silver Salute

The Spirit Of '76

John Nelson Dec 1, 2001 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0112_05_z 1976_chevrolet_corvette Rear_side_shot 2/7

One other exterior change had a bearing on the "Plenty of comfort and convenience" area. With the addition of "Astro Ventilation," a power system that circulated air even when the car was at rest, the vents on the rear deck were deemed no longer necessary. An optional rear window defogger (as opposed to the previous "defroster") kept things clear. The interior was basically unchanged from '75, though one change-the sport steering wheel-was an unwelcome change, due to the fact that this part was also used on another Chevrolet offering, namely the Vega. Almost all who bought a '76 added the Custom Interior Trim and RPO N37, the Tilt-Telescopic Steering Column.

This shift in emphasis was also seen in the powertrain offerings. Although a wide-ratio four-speed was included in the '76's base price, and the M21 close-ratio box was still an option, a whopping 79 percent of the cars sold that year came with a Turbo 350 automatic, which was a no-cost option. The hot tip for performance was an L82 with the M21 tranny and optional 3.70:1 rearend (you couldn't get A/C with this setup). Even with a slushbox, though, and with the "High Altitude" 3.55:1 differential, the L82 option was stout enough to run a 14.96 quarter-mile at 92 mph for that first issue of VETTE (although the writer also referred to this powerplant as "sort of a castrated LT-1 or old 350/350").

One thing that stayed almost exactly the same was the Stingray's chassis. The '76 sat a little higher to meet Federal standards, and a new steel underbody section improved rigidity, reduced weight, and blocked out more heat. But these were fairly small changes to a car that could still outhandle just about anything else on the road at the time. Just before saying that Corvette's four-wheel discs were the best in the country, that old VETTE article goes on to say that the car is "nimble, agile, and offers enough stock performance to satisfy anyone's daily needs."

The public agreed. A record 46,558 '76 Corvettes were sold, making it the best-selling Corvette at the time. Even now, the '76 is fourth-best selling edition in the marque's long history. On an interesting note, the writers of that long-ago article in VETTE believed that the '76 would be the Shark-bodied Corvette's swan song: "It is quite evident that regardless of what restrictions the government or our econmical (sic) conditions place on us, the Corvette will come through with flying colors. A mid-engined model is on its way and if Dave McLellan can get through to the Ivory Tower corporate bean counters, it'll be available sometime in 1977." That, of course, was not to be. In fact, the then nine-year-old platform lasted, with cosmetic and interior changes, until 1982.

How can it be, then, that when things seemed to be at their worst for Corvette, the marque had its best-selling year ever? Although advertising, in general, tends to be heavy on exaggeration and propaganda, there's a part of that '76 sales brochure we think hits it pretty much on the head: "...you can look at the purchase of a '76 Corvette in many ways. As an immediate source of some of the most enjoyable driving you'll ever experience. As an automotive investment instead of a purchase. Or even as a valued legacy. What other car offers so much?" And that's the answer. In those tough times for car makers, no other car offered as much as a Corvette.




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