Little Known Facts of the C3 Corvette Stingray

When it comes to American sports car icons, the  C3 Corvette Stingray has long been one of the top breeds! The distinctive shape of the Stingray continues to turn heads long after its production ended. It is the intention of the author to enlighten you on some of the most interesting information available for the C3 Corvette Stingray. And weather you already own a Corvette or you just want to read interesting facts about the Stingray, your in the right place!

C3 Corvette Convertible

C3 Corvette Or Third Generation

Let’s start by offering a short description about what the term “C3” stands for. This refers to the third generation of Corvettes, that is to say, the third time the production line had a complete change from its previous year’s model. The Corvette Stingrays were produced from 1968 to 1982. The Mako Shark II concept car is where the general design of the Stingray originates from. For C3, the engine and chassis was working just fine for the C2 generation, so little changes were apparent from the start. The body and interior designs were completely changed which thrusted the Corvette into its third generation.

With the introduction of the new Stingray body style came another different look for C3 Corvettes. The “T-top” sprung its appearance for the first time mainly because it would allow drivers and passengers to enjoy a more open top feel to their cruise. These were two removable panels that would open the roof line in just the flip of a few levers. Once the tops were removed, they were typically stored in protective covers and placed in the small storage behind the seats. This was a unique concept at the time, however it was not the original design plan for the Corvette. Designers intended to suit the Corvette with a new “Targa” top, which is a single panel that is removable to open up the entire roof of the vehicle. It turns out that the Targa top would make Corvette structurally insufficient without the support of the middle brace. With a fiberglass body, this was just too much risk for the Stingray to handle especially with the powerful V-8s that were thrusting these beasts!

1970-chevrolet-corvette-cortez-silver

A Rotary Engine Corvette?

Would you believe that General Motors also got into the Wankel rotary engine arena? In 1970, Chevrolet licensed the Wankel rotary engine (similar to the type used in the Mazda RX7) and began building a two-rotor and a four-rotor Stingray in their experimental department. By June 1971, the executives of GM approved a mockup rotary engine Corvette. Then in September 1973, a 266 cubic inch two-rotor Corvette was displayed in Frankfurt, Germany. And less than a month later the four-rotor 390 cubic inch Corvette was put on display in Paris, France. A year later, in September 1974, GM President Ed Cole postponed the completed project of the Wankel engine Corvette because of issues due to emissions and the fact that this engine used too much gas and oil. The experimental rotary engine Corvette never went into production, however Chevrolet began to understand the limitations of the Stingray and ventured forward into other areas of exploration.

It would appear that GM was not through experimenting with a good thing they had created in the C3 Corvette Stingray. An attempt to produce a mid-engine Stingray was on the drawing board. This would allow GM to compete with the mid-engine sports car giants of Italy. In 1970, a 400 cubic inch small block V-8 was transversely mounted behind the seats and was shown at the New York Auto Show where it was a hit! It was labeled the XP-882! At the time two prototype vehicles were built for testing, a new general manager named John DeLorean started at Chevrolet. He cancelled the mid-engine program calling it too expensive and impractical for the Stingray.

mid-engine-corvette

A Look At Rare Models

If you like your steak and your C3 Corvettes rare than hang out for a 1970 model. Due to productions issues stemming from labor strikes at General Motors, only 17,316 Stingrays were produced in this year’s model. This was the lowest production number since 1962, and quality examples in good shape are getting harder and harder to find. By the way, over 190,000 Mustangs were produced by Ford for 1970, this is why our beloved Stingray for 1970 is becoming a rare Corvette to own.

Well, speaking of rare Corvettes, here’s one that is very rare and most desirable of all the production C3 Corvettes. The 1969 ZL1 package required these options:

  •  $1,032 – Special L88 427 cubic inch 430 hp all aluminum block engine
  • $81 – K66 transistor ignition system
  • $37 – F41 Special frond and rear suspension
  • $384 – J56 Special heavy duty brakes
  • $46 – G81 Posi-Trac rear axle
  • Air conditioning and radio were not available

There were only two out of 38,762 Stingrays made with the ZL1 package for 1969 making this Corvette extremely rare! The total package price of this car new was approximately $11,000, including the base price of $4781.

The Most Popular Generation

I’ll bet you didn’t know that over a million and a half Corvettes were built between 1953 and 2010. Of these gems, over 540,000 third generation Corvettes were built between 1968 and 1992 making the C3 generation the most production Corvette ever and the most popular for the collector. The 500,000th Corvette Stingray was produced in white and was driven off the assembly line on March 15, 1977. This also becomes an extremely rare Corvette as it celebrates the half a million mark in Chevrolet Corvette production!

1977-chevrolet-corvette-white

Bowling Green, Kentucky has been the Corvette factory since 1981, however obviously Corvettes were made elsewhere prior to 1981. The Corvette was given birth in 1953 at a plant in Flint, Michigan where only 300 Corvettes were produced. Each of these brand new Corvettes were hand built! The following year production of the Corvette moved to a facility in St. Louis, Missouri. The very last Corvette built in St. Louis was white and has a build date of July 31, 1981. A unique plaque was installed in the car’s right front fender well to identify it as the last car down the production line. This assisted in authenticating this last survivor for a full restoration to exactly as it was originally built including all the frame and chassis markings ensuring all details are exactly as it left the factory in 1981. This last special Corvette produced at St. Louis was equipped with Chevrolet’s 350 cubit inch V-8 sporting 190 hp and a 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission. This car was eventually sold at the Barrett Jackson auto auction in Las Vegas in September, 2010 for $150,000!

Buy any other sports car and all you get is today’s car. Buy a Corvette and you buy a piece of tomorrow! And that’s why we call this Corvette Dreamer!

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