The iconic shape of a Corvette Stingray can turn heads even today, 30 years after the last Stingray was created. This report is meant to provide information regarding the Corvette Stingray to all Corvette lovers, whether you already own a Corvette, are considering purchasing a Corvette, or just like interesting facts and figures regarding classic Corvettes.
The C3 Corvette Stingrays will be the generation of Corvettes produced between 1968 and 1982. The overall design idea for the Corvette Stingray was modeled after the Mako Shark II concept car. When the term”C3″ is used, it refers to the fact they are the 3rd generation of Corvettes. Each generation of Corvette has been given a designation as such. The recent Corvettes (as of 2011) are known as C6, or 6th generation Corvette. Each generation refers to any major changes that are made, for example body design, drivetrain, etc.. Naturally, each year version within one generation varies slightly from one year to the next, yet they still maintain the same general look and feel like the rest of their generation. In the case of C3 Corvettes, the engine and chassis components were largely carried over from the last generation, however the body and interior were new, thus the new generation designation. This can be very useful when searching for information regarding a specific year Corvette, as most Corvette enthusiasts refer to the creation more often than a particular year or range of years.
Among the most obvious facts that stands out about the C3 Corvette is that it was the first use of T-top removable roof panels in a Corvette. Lots of the 3rd generation Corvettes had detachable glass or fiberglass tops that allow the driver or passengers to remove the roof panels, therefore allowing a more open top.This was a rather novel concept at the moment, and it wasn’t the originally intended design. The designers originally wanted to make the automobile a Targa Top, which means the entire roof panel is removable, therefore the shortened name T-Top. After testing, the engineers determined that the absence of a support brace in the middle proved structurally inadequate for the potent V-8 engines. This combined with the fact that the body was made of fiberglass made for a potential design flaw that could cause the body to flex under acceleration, resulting in cracked windshields, chipped paint, and other complications. As such, the designers included the brace in the middle, which seemed to resemble the letter . The name remained”T-Top” even though the layout was changed substantially from the first and the name was meant to reflect the previous design.
During the C3 years, GM made many efforts to further the evolution of the Corvette, which ultimately has led to the current design. 1 such attempt, which is also a comparatively little known fact, is that there was once a Rotary Engine Corvette. In 1970, Chevrolet licensed the Wankel rotary engine (similar to the type used in the famed Mazda RX7 and RX8) and started building a two-rotor and a four-rotor Corvette in its testing and experimental department. A fiberglass mockup was approved in June 1971 by then GM President Ed Cole. On September 13, 1973 a 266 cubic inch two-rotor Corvette was exhibited in Frankfurt, Germany. The four-rotor 390 cubic inch Corvette was put on display in Paris, France on Oct. 4, 1973, as well as the two-rotor. The 2-rotor motor GM developed was a fuel and petroleum hungry engine, and wasn’t practical for production. On September 24, 1974, GM President Ed Cole postponed the introduction of the Wankel engine, probably because of emissions difficulties together with fuel and oil concerns. The rotary engine Corvette never made it to production. This venture did prove useful, however. It helped GM comprehend the limitations of the automobile, and venture forward into other areas of exploration.
Another of those innovative ideas was taking shape around the same time. GM attempted to produce a mid-engine Corvette, to rival the mid-engine sports cars of Italy. The engine was a 400 cubic inch small block V-8 mounted behind the seats, transversely (like the majority of today’s front wheel drive cars, with the engine sitting sideways). Soon after the 2 were constructed, John DeLorean, the man who later started the company bearing his name behind the famous DeLorean cars of Back To The Future fame, became Chevrolet general manager. John cancelled the program, as it was expensive and impractical to build. It was the hit of the car show, but GM never produced or sold the XP-882 Corvette. At least one, if not both, of these extremely rare Corvettes is still known to exist.
If you’re a collector, or wish to find a rare and valuable piece of history, look for a 1970 Corvette. 1970 Corvettes are regarded by many among the most desirable of the C3 generation, as just 17,316 were produced that year because of production issues stemming from labor strikes. To give you an idea why that amount is relevant, the Ford Mustang production for the same year was 190,727, over 10 times the volume! This was the lowest production number since 1962, and quality illustrations in good shape are becoming harder and harder to find.
If you are looking for rarity, among the rarest and most desirable of all production C3 Corvette Stingrays is the 1969 ZL1 Corvette. The $4,718 ZL1 bundle required many other options, including $1,032 L88 Special L88 (all aluminum block) 427 cu. in. Radio and air conditioning were not available with the ZL1 package, and only 2 out of the 38,762 Corvettes made that year had the ZL1 package. The complete package price of the car new was approximately $11,000, including the base price of $4781. To put that number in perspective, $11,000 was the price of some small 3 bedroom homes, or a new Ferrari at the time! The same year, a buyer could find a well equipped Pontiac Firebird Trans Am for around $4,300, making this a really rare and unique vehicle.
The C3 Stingray production are to date the largest generation of Corvettes ever produced, and therefore are the most popular today with collectors. Of the over 1.5 million Corvettes built between 1953 and 2010, over 540,000 were made during the C3 generation, between 1968 and 1982. These are the well-known”Stingray” design, although the slightly different name”Sting Ray” was used as far back as 1963. It rolled off the assembly line to major fanfare on March 15, 1977.
It’s a well-known fact that all Corvettes today are produced in only 1 place, that’s that the Corvette factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky. However, this was not always true. Up until 1981, Corvettes were made in St. Louis, Missouri. The last St. Louis Corvettes ever constructed left the factory on June 1981 and July 1981. Are you curious as to why they only produced one each month? Bowling Green production was already in effect, and for several months both factories worked in tandem, allowing the St. Louis factory to assemble as many cars as they could with the parts still left in their inventory. This allowed them to save on shipping and labor costs, as moving large parts for automobiles is a rather costly and labor-intensive undertaking. After these two cars left the factory, Bowling Green, Kentucky, became the only factory to make Corvettes. This is the only time when Corvettes were produced simultaneously in two factories. Producing the cars in only one factory allows much tighter quality controls, providing quality over quantity, so that has remained the norm for Corvettes. The very last one built in St. Louis was white and has a build date of July 31, 1981. Somehow, the car was able to survive for 30 years, and is now restored exactly as it was originally built, with the frame and chassis markers, and every detail exactly as it was when it left the factory. A hidden plaque was originally installed by the plant workers in the cars right front fenderwell to designate the last car down the production line, which helped authenticate the vehicle. The car sported a 350 Cubic inch engine at 190 horsepower and a 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 350 automatic transmission.The car was offered in the Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas auction in September, 2010 for $150,000.
I hope that these details about Corvette Stingrays has shown both interesting and useful. The Corvette has truly been an iconic car, capturing the hearts of generations, both old and young.