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New York Times: That ’70s ’Vette: Just Another Girly Car?

Rob

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<img src="/images/design/front/75nyt.jpg" width="200" height="119" border="1" alt="" hspace="5" vspace="5" align="left" />That ’70s ’Vette: Just Another Girly Car?

by Jeff Sebatini, New York Times

BY the time “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” arrived in movie theaters in 1978, it was clear that something evil had been sucking the mechanical soul out of sleek-skinned Corvettes for several years.

The third-generation Corvette made its debut as a 1968 model, based on the same mechanicals as the 1963-67 car, but with a new, outrageously styled body. It would become the longest-running Corvette body style, remaining in production through 1982, though undergoing extensive updates during this time. Over its long run, the C3, as enthusiasts refer to the entire run, would reach both the apex and nadir of Corvette performance.

The peak came early. In 1969, Chevrolet offered the most powerful Corvette to date, the ZL1. This was an optional engine package with an all-aluminum, 427-cubic-inch, big-block V-8. Listed at 430 horsepower, the engine’s true output has been reported at more than 550. Only two ZL1 Corvettes were built, as the steep price of the option ($4,718.35) nearly doubled that of the car itself.

Things went downhill quickly, as G.M. began detuning its high-performing V-8s in 1971, reducing the compression ratio so they would run on unleaded gasoline. Then, in 1972, the auto industry changed the way it reported horsepower, switching from gross horsepower to a net measurement that took into account losses from necessities like the alternator and water pump. Advertised horsepower dropped, even when there were no mechanical changes.

By 1975, the big-block engines had been dropped from the sports cars and the Corvette’s standard 350-cubic-inch V-8 was rated at just 165 horsepower. This was the lowest output in a Corvette since the first year of production in 1953, when all Corvettes were equipped with six-cylinder engines.

And the emasculated C3 faced another problem — poor assembly quality. In this era, defects were common and not limited to the Corvette’s chronically ill-fitting body panels. Engines often ran poorly, did not idle well, and were lacking in throttle response.

While this was far from the image of performance that the Corvette had cultivated, the rest of the auto industry wasn’t faring much better. Car and Driver magazine still crowned the Corvette the fastest American car in 1976. (Its reported 0-60 m.p.h. time of 7.1 seconds is just a tick slower than most of today’s midsize sedans.) And no matter how far its performance might have slipped as the decade wore on, the C3 still looked the part of a supercar.

Perhaps that explains why sales increased, even as power decreased. Production peaked in 1979, when Chevy sold 53,807 Corvettes — the most of any model year to date.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/05/automobiles/05SPIN.html
 
M

mvarga

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Great read. I hate to put down any Corvette, but I have to agree. I currently own 2 C5s. But when I was single(back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth)I owned a '75 coupe. Though the car was gorgeous, it had no power. It constantly had break problems, various annoying stupid little problems with the door handles and so on. But it was still the sweetest looking ride on the road. I sold her shortly after I got married 22 years ago because it wasn't the most practical car to have, then living in Queens NY with only the street to park it in. I was afraid it would get stolen, so I sold it and bought a new Monte Carlo. The Monte was stolen in 2 weeks!!!! We just recently moved to Atlanta. We're empty nester's because our son goes to college in NY and we each drive our own C5. How's that for going full circle???
 

Zippy

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I had a 1978 Indy Pace Car, and agree, it was not the quickest Vette, but the body style is still one exciting to me.

Part of the problem was the Government initiating emission regulations which forced the big 3 to comply.
 

Norseman

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Girl Car?

I don't get the Girly car part. My brother had a 73 and it was one sweet machine, special racing trany, dark blue, and ran real good except when you had the air on-then hoses tended to blow apart under the hood-not much room under that bonnet, got real hot in there!:)
 

chevy6673

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yes anyone that knowns anything about cars knows that in the 70s all sports cars lost a lot of horse power .the vettes still looked great and a trip to the local speed shop could fix the rest.
 

gameprop

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My 70 LT-1 was a Dec 1969 build date. I believe that and the fact that horsepower exceeded engine displacement officially leaves me out of the "70's...girly vette" category ;)
 

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