The Chevrolet Corvette (C3) is a sports car that was produced by Chevrolet for the 1968 through 1982 model years. Engines and chassis components were mostly carried over from the previous generation, but the body and interior were new. It set new sales records with 53,807 produced for the 1979 model year. The C3 is the third generation of the Chevrolet Corvette, while the 1969 through 1976 models mark the second generation of the Corvette Stingray.
Enter the C3 generation, the longest of all runs for on generation a total of 15 years.
The 1968 Corvette coupe introduced the removable twin tops, commonly called T-tops.Although the body design was completely new, the rolling chassis was still the same as the C2 with a 98 inch wheel base. Also the engine packages remained the same as that of the ’67 with the 300 hp and the 350 hp 327 as well as the 427 L88 big block. Although this new model was derived from the Mako Shark the car was not list as a Stingray any longer, at least in 1968. The automatic transmission changed from the old two-speed Powerglide to the all new three-speed Turbo Hydro-Matic. The side vent windows were no longer used and the windshield wipers were hidden under a cowl panel that operated with vacuum. This was the last year to have the ignition switch in the dash (until the C5). The door handle no longer existed, the open latch was a spring loaded finger plate and a separate release button. Total production increased over the past year with 28,566 total Corvette’s produced of which 9,936 were coupes and 18,630 were convertibles.
In 1971 the federal government started enforcing the stricter emission laws and with that saw a drop in horsepower. The base engine dropped to 270 hp and the LT1 dropped down to 330 hp. The big block 454 LS5 was down to 365 hp, gone completely was the LS7 but there was an LS6 option 454 rated at 425 hp, which was not bad with all the new laws. The ’71 was basically the same care as the ’70 except for the drop in horsepower. Total production numbers were 21,801 with 14,680 being coupes and 7,121 convertibles.
In 1972 the power loss was even more noticeable with a switch from gross to net power ratings. The base 350 engine was a scant 200 hp and the once killer small block LT1 was now a mere 255 hp. There was only one big block offered and that was the LS5 454 now putting out a measly 270 hp. Although the appearance changes were small this ’72 model year would be the last year of both front and rear chrome bumpers. This was also the last year of the removable rear window. There was a total of 27,004 Corvette’s built in 1972 and 20,496 were coupes and 6,508 were convertibles.
With the introduction of the ’73 model, came more power reductions and also the chrome front bumper was gone replaced with the rubber crash impact bumper painted to match the body. The side vents were now a single opening and radial tires were standard on all models. For the first time a coolant recovery system was incorporated which direct or routed high temperature coolant into this tank and when cooled it returned to the radiator. The lifting panel for the windshield wipers was gone in ’73. This was the first year that radial tires were used on the Corvette. The base engine was now rated at only 190 hp and the new optional L-82 was rated at 250 hp. The once feared big block 454 was down to 275 hp. Production for 1973 was 30,464 although the VIN number show 34,464 and that is because there were 4,000 serial number not built. Those numbers were from 24,001 to 28,000. There were 25,521 coupes produced and 4,943 convertibles produced.
The 1976 model was the first Corvette in its 23 year history that did not offer a convertible. Again the Engine choices were the base 350 V8 rate at 180 hp and the L82 up to 210 hp. The aluminum wheels announced in 1973 were finally available in ’76. Astro ventilation was eliminated in 1976 and with that the vents at the rear windows were deleted. But still the general public was going to the Chevy dealers and buying this under powered sports cars. A total of 44,558 Corvette’s were produced in ’76 and of course these were all coupes.
The last year of the tunnel back or sometimes called the sugar scoop because of the way the roof lines came down and the flat rear window. Also the Stingray was no longer on the cars fenders and steel reinforcement was added to the hood. The console was new for ’77 and it held the A/C controls as well as the heater controls. The windshield wiper controls were installed in a stick attached to the steering column A roof rack system was designed to hold the roof panels on the rear rack allowing for more storage space in the rear. Around the mid-production the alarm activator was relocated from the fender to the door lock on the driver’s side. Leather seat were standard with a leather cloth combination available at no additional cost. The ’77 model had the engine painted in the normal GM orange until around September when it was changed to blue. Total production in 1977 was 49,213
The 1979 did not change much at all on the outside, but the high back seat style that was in the 1978 Pace Car was now standard in the ’79 model. The L48 received the duel snorkel air cleaner that was introduced in ’78 for the L82. This help increase the output to 195 hp and the L82 received a new cam package that included larger valves also the compression ratio was increased and a less restrictive exhaust to push the rating up to 225 hp. Again GM reached a milestone this time surpassing the 50,000 mark in production for a total of 53,807.
In 1981, the Corvette received a new light weight fiberglass rear leaf spring and the new L81 version of the 350 V8 producing 190 hp was the only engine package available to everyone, but this was good news to those in California. The biggest news to come out was the move of the Corvette assembly plant on St. Louis to the brand new facility in Bowling Green Kentucky. A few items that were part of the 1980 California Corvette became standard on the ’81 model and one item was the stainless steel tubular exhaust manifolds as well as the computer command control which adjusted the ignition timing and air-fuel mixture automatically. For the first time a power seat was available in a Corvette for the driver only. Production was at 40,606
With the 1982 model year marking the end of the C3 era a special Collector Edition was offered for this occasion. The edition featured a special paint scheme of silver-beige paint, a special graphics package, special wheel styled after the ’67 knock offs, bronze colored glass roof panels and the rear glass was now a opening hatch. The production numbers were down to just 25,407, 18,648 of the base model coupe and 6,759 for the Special Collector’s Edition. Little did we know that even though this was the last of the C3 generation cars, it would another year (1984) until the C4 was introduced.