Anyone reading Vette understands it’s a forgone conclusion that the Corvette is #1, can do no wrong and it’s blasphemy to think otherwise. In our more mundane moments we also realize that not every Corvette was a styling or performance legend. Let’s face it, there were years that just flat didn’t make the emotions jump or our blood rush with excitement as we pressed down on the throttle.
In the interim, let us take a look at some of the misses that are weaved throughout the history of the Corvette. Since Corvettes have always been associated with performance let’s start at the beginning and say … not necessarily. The original Corvette, at least the first two years (1953-’54), found their primary (and only) source of power was an inclined six. Nowadays, that sounds “kool” and maybe a bit nostalgic, but let’s face it, 150 hp—or 155 hp in the late ’54—was nothing to get all that excited about. So this to us is one of the early downfalls to the Corvette making its mark. (A good thing the Ford T-bird was kicking its ass as this helped the brass at Chevrolet keep moving forward with the Corvette.)
It’s pretty hard to find fault with any of the C2 Corvettes (1963-’67), although the “split” in the split-window did lead to many a “disagreement” inside and outside of General Motors. While there can be no denying that the “split” was a disaster from the driver’s rearview perspective (I can attest to that having driven a ’63 coupe), the reality is it has made for one heck of an iconic car!
When it comes to the C3s there is room for several head scratchers. The ’68 just wasn’t a good car and there are plenty of stories about the internal struggle with making it a good car. (Full disclosure: I have a ’68 and love it … after I made a handful of modern changes to improve the overall driveability and performance.) Chevrolet finally made the ’68 a better car by coming out with the ’69.
The last of the steel bumper Corvettes came about in ’72 with the ’73 having a steel rear bumper but the injected-molded urethane front bumper. So, just because of the steel rear and plastic front bumper system the ’73 is on our list of “mistakes.” While you could still get a 454-cubic-inch V-8, the smog race was in full swing and the horsepower numbers were really dropping. Down to 275 hp, well below the 1hp per cubic inch plateau that was achieved back in ’57.
The first of the C4, 1984, was truly an all-new car with many innovations and many breakthroughs. But alas … the cross-fire injected engine did not survive the test of time. Additionally, horsepower continued to plummet (205 hp was it!) and the big-block was all but forgotten, having vanished from the option list in ’75. It was 1984 when the first all-new Corvette surfaced in many a year … 1968-’82 represent the C3. One of the truly notable features of the ’84 was the digital dash. It’s been reported that there was an assembly line all-ready to go with analog gauges should the digital dashboards have proven not to be what was hoped for … but they made it. Today, restoring one of the digital dashes can be a challenge, but it does represent the ushering in of a new era for America’s sports car. So, the ’84 is another Corvette that meant well but to us falls short … primarily because of the cross-fire injected engine.
We are sure you have your favorite not-so favorite Corvettes … we all do. But the fact is that by the time the C5 (1997-’04) came around, Chevrolet was really getting the Corvette “right.” Styling, handling and engine/trans performance was all knocking on the door of world class. For the past 10 years there can be no doubt that the C6 (2005-’13) and C7 (2014-present) Corvettes are truly world class cars and about as good a value for your performance car dollar that exists anywhere in the world.
Let us not dwell on the Corvettes that missed the mark but it is always a good idea to see where the mark was missed and what about these cars made it so. Don’t want to repeat bad history! Vette