1968 brought radical new styling to the Corvette line. The sensuously flared fenders and narrow door area was often referred to as a Coke bottle shape. The blunt rear styling was called Kamm-back and had its origins with racecars. The new look was a big success and sales jumped considerably from 1967.
The new body was longer and lower although it rode on the same 98-inch wheelbase as the C2. The front and rear tracks were slightly wider. Removable T-top roof panels along with a removable rear window offered open-air ventilation when the weather cooperated.
Mechanically, the old 2-speed Powerglide automatic was replaced with the 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic. The 3-speed manual transmission was rapidly falling out of favor even with budget-conscious buyers. 1969 was the last year a 3-speed manual transmission could be had. 1968 was the last year of the 327 small-block. It was replaced by the 350 in 1969. The ’68-’69 427 grew to 454 ci in 1970 and remained at that displacement until the demise of Corvette big-blocks in 1975.
Before the 427 gave way to the 454, buyers could still order the ultra-potent L88 427 in 1968 and 1969. This street legal race engine was grossly underrated at 430 hp. Overall horsepower ratings started dropping in 1971 due to lower compression ratios that were designed to handle lower octane gas and unleaded gas (for upcoming catalytic converters). Horsepower ratings seemed to drop further in 1972 when measuring criteria were changed. The new method measured net horsepower compared to the previous gross horsepower ratings. The new ratings were much more realistic.
Producing new Corvettes with heavy concept car influences seems to be a Corvette thing. The radical new 1968 Corvette was obviously patterned after the Mako Shark show car. The narrow waist shape gave way to voluptuously curved fenders. The coupe featured removable T-Top roof panels thus providing the best of both coupes and roadsters. The rear window was also removable.
There wasn’t any trunk on the new body. This popular C3 shape lasted until 1982. Even though the body was new the underpinnings were little changed from the C2 Corvettes. The car looked longer than the previous generation (it was five inches longer) although the wheelbase was the same. The front and rear tracks were wider and the coupes such as this 1969 427 were two-inches lower.
The ’69 big-block displaced 427 ci and the small-block displacement was 350 ci. This is a base 390 hp 427.
In spite of all the attention being lavished on big-block Corvettes the small-block models were great cars, too. Probably the epitome (up until now) of carbureted small-block Corvettes was the 1970 LT-1. Its 350 V8 was rated at 370 hp. The ’70 body was changed slightly with the addition of fender flares to reduce paint damage from debris thrown by the wide tires.
The LT-1 option was continued for 1971, but horsepower dropped to 330, mostly due to lower compression ratios. Still, this was a very well rounded car that 1,949 customers chose.
The LS6 was the top Corvette big-block for 1971 with its horsepower rating of 425. The $1,200 option only found 188 buyers.
1972 Corvettes were very similar to 1971 models. This was the last year of chrome bumpers at both ends. It was also the last of the coupes with removable rear windows. A 270 hp big-block 454 was still available in 49 states. California was already putting the squeeze on performance cars by not allowing the 454 Corvette to be sold there.
BY THE NUMBERS
Legend: cp=coupe, cv=convertible, T=total, TH=Turbo Hydra-Matic