C3 Corvette Stingray – 1974–1982

An Instant Classic : The C3 Corvette Stingray

The 1973 Corvette developed a long rubber nose while retaining its trim rear chrome bumper.

1973 Corvette Stingray

1973 Corvette Stingray

As new government bumper regulations persisted (a federal five-mph impact test), Corvette for 1974, lost its rear chrome to the rubber world painted to match the color of the body and an unsightly seam down the middle. Also, ‘Gone…But not forgotten’, would be the now famous Chevy big block V8 engine as horse power ratings would now take a dive!

For now, the engine options would simply be a coin toss. There were only two choices for a 1975 Corvette. The first, or stock choice, was simplified down to a 350 V8 making a whopping 165 horse power. The only available option, the L82, cranked out a roaring 205 horse power. New emission designs enhanced the exhaust system by adding a catalytic converter to the plan. A slight cosmetic enhancement was the removal of the ‘seam’ in the rear bumper of the 1975 Corvette. Despite the loss in horse power, 1975 Corvette Stingray was still selling record numbers at 33,836 coupes and 4,629 convertibles for a total of 38,465 vehicles.

Corvette No Longer Topless

Well if you were in the market for a Corvette Stingray Convertible in 1976, you were not going to get one. Chevrolet made a drastic move by stopping production of the convertible Corvette this year. Also for 1976 the base 350 engine now turned out 180 horse power and the L82 option bumped up horse power by 5! In either case, Corvette was armed with a 4-barrel carburetor.

Stingray Emblem on side fender

Stingray Emblem

If a vote were taken by all Corvette Dreamers, the vote would have been to leave the ‘Stingray’ lettering on the fenders. Since no vote was taken, Chevrolet elected to remove this icon from the 1977 Corvette’s fenders. Added were steel reinforcements to the hood structure.

Now in 1978, for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Corvette, a major cosmetic change occurred redesigning the tail of the Corvette with a huge bubble like rear window. However, while the large window did increase luggage capacity, it didn’t open, so loading was still a matter of working around the seats. Also new for ’78 was the instrumentation panel and a lockable glovebox for all the valuable gloves we wear. The windshield wiper controls got its own stick poking out of the steering column.

Two Special Edition Corvettes For 1978

The first of two special editions for 1978 was a “Silver Anniversary” with a two tone silver and charcoal designer paint theme. Next was the limited edition “Indy Pace Car” also sporting a two tone paint theme with black on top and silver on the bottom. Each of these special edition Corvettes became collector cars almost instantly! The Indy Pace car was the first time Corvette hit the track as a pace car and Chevrolet produced 6,500 of them. Loads of these special edition Corvettes immediately went into storage providing recent auctions with many low mileage specimens of this collector car. Once again, Corvette set record sales, selling 40,725 units, smashing the 40,000 unit milestone for the first time!

1978 Corvette Special Edition "Pace Car"

1978 Corvette Special Edition “Pace Car”

Virtually not much on the way of outside appearance changed for Corvette on the 1979 model. The glass roof panels as well as the front and rear spoiler packages were now incorporated for ’79, a carry over from the very popular ’78 ‘Indy Pace Car’ edition. Inside the high back seats were also made standard equipment. This seat made access to the rear storage simpler as well as making Corvette 24 pounds lighter! Engine compartment changes included a dual-snorkel air cleaner, a new cam, larger valves, a higher compression ratio and a more efficient exhaust system, which combined delivered 225 hp. Less than 20% of this model year Corvette were delivered with manual gearboxes. Production jumped to 53,807 during the model year and the Corvette’s first production milestone beyond 50,000.

Corvette Goes On A Diet

Corvette for 1980 was forced on a diet, shedding 250 pounds due to an extensive design update. Both front and rear bumpers were tweaked and the hood was restyled as well. The iconic crossed flag emblems were revised on the hood and the fuel door. The last of the L-82 produced 230 horse power but could only be matched with the automatic transmission. The 4-speed option was only available with the base engine. Speedometers were reduced to a maximum of 85 mph, mandated by a new federal law. Standard features included a/c, power windows, tilt-telescopic steering column, and sport mirrors. Sales of the ’80 Corvette slumped to 40,506 units.

Automatic and 4-speed now available on a 190 hp “L81” version of the 350 V8 which was the only engine available for 1981 Corvette. A much lighter fiberglass transverse rear leaf spring became standard and chrome air cleaner lids and cast magnesium valve covers dressed up all engines compartments. Available options for 1981 included cast aluminum wheels, power adjustable driver’s seat, and power remote outside mirrors. In June of that year, Corvette production moved from St. Louis to a brand-new facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“Cross-Fire” Injection

Cross-Fire Injection engine option

Cross-Fire Injection

“Cross-fire” injection fuel delivery for 1982 was cutting edge technology for Corvette. It bought back the long awaited reappearance of fuel injection after Corvette drivers had to wait a whopping 17 years! This electronic throttle body system known as “Cross-Fire” injection gave Corvette a boosted output of the L81 350 to 200 horse power with much better drivability.

Also offered during ’82 was the “Collector Edition” Corvette that featured silver-beige paint, special graphics, multivaned wheels, bronze-colored glass roof panels and a rear glass window that opened hydraulically for easier storage access. Sales dropped down to 25,407 units for the ’82 model year which became obvious the “Macho Shark” Corvettes had seen their last days!


  1. […] most beloved Corvettes of all time. This is highly due to the sleek and unique body style of the C3 generation Corvette. The 1970 Corvette sits right smack in the middle of the C3 “chrome” generation running […]

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