What is it about certain years of Corvettes that make them more appealing to more people than some other years? Sometimes there are distinct mechanical upgrades from year to year on cars that look the same.
The '56 and '57 models are a good example-essentially identical looking, but the V-8 engine grew from 265 cid to 283 in '57, a four-speed gearbox became optional, and the '57 was the first to offer the now-legendary Rochester fuel injection. There were a lot more '57s produced than '56s, yet even when comparably equipped and in comparable condition, '57s are worth substantially more than '56s.
Sometimes one model year is more sought after than another, even though the differences may be very minor and, in some cases, strictly cosmetic. It seems as though almost everyone likes '67s better than '66s, but they are almost identical in alot of respects. There's just something about the detail differences, the "look" of the '67, that sets it apart and above the '66 in the eyes of many Corvette zealots.
At first glance the '61 and '62 Corvettes appear to be virtually the same, unique unto themselves because of their completely restyled rear as well as being separated from their earlier siblings by virtue of no longer having a "toothy" smile up front. The '61 and '62 Vettes were the only ones with exposed headlights that weren't framed by some sort of chromed bezels. But when you compare a '61 with a '62, some significant visual differences pop up.
The most notable is the coves. From '56-61, Corvettes had front fender coves that were adorned with bright metal trim, and contrasting colors (for a two-toned effect) were offered as RPO 440 for those six model years. The cove remained on the '62s, but was surrounded with a raised, formed lip rather than bright trim strips. And with no trim strips to separate the contrasting colors, the two-tone paint option was dropped. The simulated vent within the cove was changed from the '61s triple spear look to a single faux louver. And, for the first time, rocker panel moldings were part of the '62 design package. The moldings were purely decorative on the '62s, from '63 through the last of the '82s, the rocker moldings covered the sides of the frame and hid the otherwise unfinished lower body.
However, the major and significant differences between '61 and '62 Corvettes was in the mechanical arena. The small-block, then entering its eighth year, grew from 283 to 327 cubes, thanks to a factory take on the old hot rodders' tricks of both a bigger bore (from 3.75 to an even 4 inches) and increasing the stroke from the 283's (and 265's) 3.00 inches to a full 3.25. Naturally, that displacement boost brought about a commensurate, across the board, increase in power. The base engine picked up 20 horsepower, to 250, while at the high end of the scale, the fuelie jumped from 315 to 360hp. The lesser output fuelie (275hp in '61) was dropped, and 1961 was the last year that dual-four barrel carbs were offered on Corvettes.
Sales of the "Last Solid-Axle" jumped from 10,939 in 1961 to 14,531 in '62, a gain of nearly 33 percent. Prices, for equivalent condition and as close as possible equipment seem to be almost identical for the two model years, yet, at least by our observations at Corvette events all around the country, '62s are all over the place and '61s are rarely seen.
John Marsico of Arvada, Colorado, has his own every specific rationales for favoring '62 Corvettes over all others, and those date back to 1962. A much-younger Marsico was starting his junior year of high school when the '62s went on sale. We'll let John take it from here.
"The major topic of discussion centered on the new Corvette with the higher-horsepower 327 engine. All of the gearheads talked about how fast it was and how it would clean up at the local dragstrip in the coming summer. Of course every red-blooded male at the school wanted one. I was no exception. I knew, however, that as a stockboy at the local shoe store I would be lucky if I got to stand near one. To make matters worse, one of my best friends' grandmothers presented him with the keys to a brand new '62 four-speed, Anniversary Gold Impala Super Sport. Riding around town that winter was a lot more fun since I didn't have the money for a car, and my friend and his SS were my transportation. All winter we planned how we were going to drag race the Impala that coming summer.
"The summer drag race plans were not pipe dreams. We arrived at the strip as 'race-prepared' as we knew how to be for nave 17-year olds. I will never forget the first time I saw that white '62 fuelie roar down the strip. I had read practically all that had been written about the wonders of the '62, but it was another thing to personally see it. All summer we watched that Corvette clean up everything in its path.
"It was that summer, the summer of 1962, that I vowed I was going to own a '62 Corvette. My friends laughed; no one believed me, but I knew. So what if it took me another 27 years. I am laughing hardest now. That's why I own a '62."
John purchased his long-awaited '62 on February 26, 1989. It was solid and essentially stock, but in need of a thorough restoration. While not a fuelie, it was still equipped with its original and just slightly-less potent 340hp 327, linked to a four-speed manual gearbox and a 4.11:1 Posi rearend. The fact that the old solid-axle was originally Roman Red with a red vinyl interior and still had both tops made it all the more desirable to a much older, but entirely smitten, Marsico. And considering that the car was not missing a great many hard-to-find original parts was the final determining factor in its getting a treated to a complete and wholly authentic restoration.
Once Marsico got into the project, he went whole hog, joining the National Corvette Restorers Society, Denver-based Looking Glass Corvette Association, and the Rocky Mountain chapter of the NCRS. He also invested many hundreds of hours of his own time as well as around 20 grand over and above the purchase price of the '62 in his quest for a near-perfect Corvette. John credits Corvette Attention (in Denver) for restoring the body to better-than-new condition and Bill Pfiefer (of Corvette Attention) for applying the gorgeous Roman Red finish. Auto Weave, in Lakewood, Colorado, prepared and installed the interior. Caprioti Racing, in Golden, Colorado, handled all of the machining chores on the original and numbers-matching 327 block, while good friend Bill Bruhn helped out when it came time to reassemble the 340hp small-block.
The now-retired high school counselor (and part-time DJ known as "Wolfman") told us that it took three years to bring the '62 back and up to show condition, and that most of the work was completed by 1996. He then said, "Is any car ever done?" It may not ever be done, but the Marsico's '62 has done quite well, having been accorded an NCRS Top Flight and First Place awards nearly every time it has been shown.
Best of all, at least in Team VETTE's opinion, is that this beauty is not a trailer queen or a piece of garage furniture that's sealed away in a bubble. John and his wife, Flora, have driven the 4.11-geared roadster on trips as far as to Spearfish, South Dakota, and John states that the '62 racks up a minimum of 1,000 to 2,000 miles of road use per year. Needless to say, the car gets plenty of attention and compliments wherever it goes. The Wolfman told us that he gets inquiries about selling the '62 on a regular basis but, "I turn down all offers. It's not for sale. I'm having way too much fun, and this old Corvette is much cheaper than a psychiatrist's couch."
Makes sense to us!