Chevrolet Corvette C3

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Chevrolet Corvette C3
1971 Corvette LT1 coupe
Parent companyGeneral Motors
AssemblySt. Louis, Missouri
Bowling Green, Kentucky
PredecessorChevrolet Corvette C2
SuccessorChevrolet Corvette C4
ClassSports car
Body style(s)2-door coupé
2-door convertible
LayoutFR layout
ManualsService Manual
Base model
Chevrolet Corvette C3
Engine(s)350 cu in (5.7 L) Small-Block V8
Engine(s)427 cu in (7 L) V8
Engine(s)454 cu in (7.4 L) V8
For an outline of all the Chevrolet Corvette generations see
Main article: Chevrolet Corvette

The Chevrolet Corvette C3 is a sports car patterned after Chevrolet's "Mako Shark II" (designed by Larry Shinoda), produced between 1968 and 1982. It is the third and longest-running generation of Chevrolet Corvettes built and marketed by Chevrolet.

This generation has the distinction of being introduced to the motoring public in an unorthodox—and unintended—fashion. 1968 marked the introduction of Mattel's now-famous Hot Wheels line of 1/64-scale die cast toy cars. General Motors had tried their best to keep the appearance of the upcoming car a secret, but the release of the Hot Wheels line several weeks before the Corvette's unveiling had a certain version of particular interest to Corvette fans: the "Custom Corvette", a GM-authorized model of the 1968 Corvette.

In 1969, GM enlarged their small-block V8 again to 350 in³ (5.7 L) and the ZL1 option was offered, with an all aluminum 427 big-block engine listed at 430 horsepower (320 kW) but generally accepted as delivering at least one hundred horsepower (75 kW) more than that. This option cost $4,700 (the ZL1 was a $3,010 option that consisted of an assortment of aluminum cylinder block and heads on top of the $1,032.15 L88 race option.), and only 2 were ever built.[1]

In 1970 the 427 big-block V8 was enlarged to 454 in³ (7.4 L). Power peaked in the 1970 and 1971 models, with the 1970 LT-1 small-block putting out 370 hp (276 kW) and the 1971 454 big-block having its last year of big power with 425 hp (317 kW). In 1972, GM moved to the SAE Net measurement for power (away from the previous SAE Gross standard), which resulted in lower values expressed in reported horsepower. Along with the move to unleaded fuel which required lower compression ratios, emission controls, and catalytic converters, power continued to decline and bottomed out in 1975—the base L48 engine put out 165 hp (123 kW), and the optional L82 engine put out 205 hp (153 kW). This was the lowest power Corvette since the first year of production. Nevertheless, Car and Driver magazine found the Corvette to be the fastest accelerating American car for 1976, with a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds. Power remained fairly steady for the rest of the C3 generation, ending in 1982 with the 200 hp (149 kW) L83 engine. In 1980, all California-spec Corvettes received the smaller 305 cubic-inch V8 due to that state's more stringent emission regulations along with an automatic transmission for just that one year, while 49-state Corvettes continued with the 350 V8 and a choice of automatic or four-speed manual transmissions.

Styling changed subtly over the generation. In 1973, the Corvette dropped the front chrome bumpers for a urethane-compound "5 mph" bumper but kept the rear chrome bumpers. In 1974, The rear chrome bumpers became urethane, too, making 1973 the last Corvette model year with any chrome bumpers. 1975 was the last year for the convertible, and 1978 saw the introduction of a glass bubble rear window to "freshen" the car appearance for it's 25th Anniversary. Corvette production hit its peak in 1979, at 53,807.[2] In 1980, the Corvette got an integrated aerodynamic redesign that resulted in a significant reduction in drag. 1980 was also the introduction of many weight-saving components such as thinner body panels and an aluminum Dana 44 IRS differential (instead of the previously used but arguably stronger iron GM 10 bolt IRS diff).[2]

Special Editions

1975 Chevrolet Corvette convertible
St. Louis "Last Day" 1981 coupe

Collector Edition

The 1982 Collector Edition was the first Corvette hatchback, foreshadowing the C4 Corvette. It included a "cross-fire" TBI fuel injected engine good for 200 hp (149 kW). 6,759 Collector Edition Corvettes were produced that year, out of a total production of 25,407.

The Collector Edition also had special aluminum wheels designed to look like the bolt-on wheels of the 1967 car. A special color scheme was used inside and out along with Collector Edition badges. The Collector Edition had a "0" in the sixth digit of the VIN rather than the "8" found on standard Corvettes. This was the first Corvette to sell for more than $20,000, with a base price of $22,537.59.

Indianapolis 500 pace cars

The C3 Coupe was chosen as the pace car for the 1978 Indianapolis 500[3]. To celebrate this choice on its 25th year of production, Chevrolet intended to produce just over 300 replica pace cars. That number was increased later due to high demand, with Chevrolet deciding to produce one replica for every Chevrolet dealer in the United States at the time, 6,502 cars in total.

The replicas were equipped with a two toned color scheme (black on top and silver on bottom with a red line circumventing the car an inch below the intersection of the other two colors) with several sticker emblems on the door and behind the rear fender wells. The pace cars were equipped with otherwise optional tinted glass t-tops and rear spoiler.

Special VINs

The VINs of the replicas differed from the standard Corvette. An example VIN is 1Z8748S420001. The 1Z87 was the code for all models, the first 4 was the engine (in this case the L-82), the last 5 digits signify the actual number the car had. The pace car last five VINs began with 9 (example 900189)


The ZR1 option is an $1,221.00 option available exclusively with the LT-1 engine option. It was a special racing package that included the solid-lifter small-block engine, heavy-duty four-speed transmission, power brakes, aluminum radiator, and a revised suspension with special springs, shocks, stabilizer bar, and spindle-strut shafts. Since it was competition equipment, the ZR1 could not be ordered with power windows, power steering, air conditioning, a rear-window defogger, wheel covers, or a radio.[4]


It is a 1-year option originally planned for 1970[5], but officially released in 1971 for $1,747.00. It included the racing equipment options in ZR1, but it is an option for the LS-6 engine. Per GM policy, 1971 Corvette engines were detuned to run on low-lead fuel, except for the LS-6 454, which was rated at 425 bhp (317 kW) on premium gas. 188 cars in the 1971 model included LS-6 engine, with 12 cars including the ZR-2 package.[6]

Production notes

Year Production Base Price Notes
1968 28,566 $4,663 First C3; 2-piece T-tops are new; three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic replaces two-speed Powerglide as automatic transmission option
1969 38,462 $4,780 First year of the 350 in³ Small-Block; longer model year extended to December, 1969 due to delay in introduction of 1970 model; "Stingray" emblem added
1970 17,316 $5,192 First year for the LT-1 Small-Block and 454 in³ Big-Block; three-speed manual transmission dropped and four-speed manual became standard with Turbo Hydra-matic available as no-cost option with all engines except LT-1 350; posi-traction also made standard equipment; introduced along with all-new second-generation Chevrolet Camaro on Feb. 26, 1970
1971 21,801 $5,496 Significant horsepower drops due to reduced compression ratios to meet GM corporate edict requiring all engines to run low-octane unleaded gasoline; horsepower ratings based on both "gross" and "net" figures with the former based on engine hooked to dynometer while "net" ratings were based on horsepower as installed in vehicle with accessories and emission controls hooked up
1972 27,004 $5,533 Last year for front chrome bumpers, the LT-1, and the optional removable rear window; horsepower ratings now advertised in SAE net figures only
1973 30,464 $5,561 Only year with chrome rear and plastic front bumpers; radial tires made standard equipment
1974 37,502 $6,001 Plastic bumpers all around (rear with a center split); last year of the 454
1975 38,645 $6,810 Catalytic converters are new; last year of the convertible until 1986; new (simulated) pads stick out of the bumpers. One piece rear bumper
1976 46,558 $7,604 Alloy wheels an option. Last year of "Stingray" emblem.
1977 49,213 $8,647 New interior console.
1978 46,776 $9,750 Silver Anniversary and Indy 500 Pace Car versions; new fastback rear and redesigned instruments & interior.
1979 53,807 $10,220 New interior comfort features; highest Corvette sales year to date
1980 40,614 $13,140 Lightened materials and bumper-cap spoilers; Federal government required 85 mph (137 km/h) speedometer; California cars powered by 305 V8 and automatic transmission for this year only
1981 40,606 $16,258 Production is switched from St. Louis to new Bowling Green plant; 350 V8 returns in California cars
1982 25,407 $18,290 No manual transmission offered; new cross-fire fuel-injected L83 engine; Collectors Edition hatchback is ¼ of total sales
Total 542,741


Engine Year Power
305 in³ "Calif. Only" LG4 V8 1980 180 hp (134 kW) net
327 in³ Small-Block V8 1968 300 hp (224 kW)
1968–1969 350 hp (261 kW)
350 in³ Small-Block V8 1969 300 hp (224 kW)
1970 350 hp (261 kW)
1970–1971 370 hp (276 kW)
1971 270 hp (201 kW)
1971 330 hp (246 kW)
1972 200 hp (149 kW) net
1972 255 hp (190 kW) net
1973 190 hp (142 kW) net
1973–1974 250 hp (186 kW) net
1974 195 hp (145 kW) net
1975 165 hp (123 kW) net
1975 205 hp (153 kW) net
1976–1977 180 hp (134 kW) net
1976–1977 210 hp (157 kW) net
1978 185 hp (138 kW) net
1978 220 hp (164 kW) net
1979 195 hp (145 kW) net
1979 249 hp (168 kW) net
1980–1981 190 hp (142 kW) net
1980 230 hp (172 kW) net
1982 200 hp (149 kW)
427 in³ Big-Block V8 1968–1969 390 hp (291 kW)
1968–1969 400 hp (298 kW)
427 in³ Big-Block Tri-Power V8 1968–1969 435 hp (324 kW)
427 in³ ZL1 aluminum V8 1969 550-680 hp (410-507 kW) estimated
454 in³ Big-Block V8 1970 390 hp (291 kW)
1971 365 hp (272 kW) gross, 285 hp (213 kW) net
1971 425 hp (317 kW)
1972, 1974 270 hp (201 kW) net
1973 275 hp (205 kW) net


See also

External links