The Turbo Corvette That Never Was

Did Someone Say Turbo?


1965 Chevrolet Corsa TurboCharged

Amazing as it may sound, Chevrolet made some strides in experimental engines in the early 1960s with 1962 Corvair Monza. These options would be an attempt to develop more horsepower into the smaller engines build for these smaller vehicles. GM also optioned the 1962 Cutlass as well as the 1965 Corvair Corsa with turbocharged options. After running these for a couple of years, it was learned that more cubic inches was the way to more power and turbocharged engines became a thing of the past.

As muscle was ramping up and power wars were raging, Chevrolet was producing more horsepower in their small block engines then ever before. By the late 1960s, the famous 427 engine was know to push out up to 500 horsepower in some race production models. Then in 1970, Chevrolet raised the bar one level higher by building a 454 V-8 engine mainly produced for high performance cars like the Camaro, Corvette, and the Chevelle. These were muscle cars to own! Unfortunately, timing as it was, the gas wars were just around the corner.

The Oil Embargo

In late 1970, the production of oil in the US had peaked and by 1971 shortages became widespread. By 1973 the world was facing substantial petroleum shortages, or not, and pricing was on its way up as well as supply was on its way down. We suddenly found ourselves in an oil crisis and waiting in long lines for gasoline. This encouraged the major players in the auto industry to reduce their high output fire breathing horsepower giants down to a much more reasonable level.

As horsepower was climbing in the late 1960s, so was insurance rates. The combination of this plus the higher gasoline prices along with tighter exhaust emissions, starting in 1971, all but crushed the high horsepower output motors. It seemed it was time to think economy in automobiles. Corvette found itself with a very strong following and was still selling better than ever. Performance was tuned down during the mid 70s, however the designers and engineers were still setting their goals on higher performance.

News Of A TurboCharged Corvette

Our first news of a turbocharged Corvette came in 1978. Produced by Gib Hufstader, it used a Holley carburetor that was in all sealed in a pressurized box. This was to prevent gasoline from sprewing out all over and when it worked, it was very powerful. Unfortunately for Hufstader, a setback in that the car caught fire and was destroyed. It was never shown to the public.


1979 Chevrolet Turbo Charged Corvette

In 1979, Chevrolet took a second stab at creating a turbo Corvette by using a modified 195 horsepower L82 and an AIResearch turbocharger that pushed the horsepower up around 290. It became evident to Chief Engineer Dave McLellan that the new design just was not going to work out. The turbo Corvette just would not run right due to a serious lack of spark and poor fuel management system. The engine just seemed too thirsty for very octane fuel.

In terms of its looks, the Turbo Corvette still was a beauty to the Corvette enthusiust. From light pinstriping on the hood domes where air vents were located to a lower front spoiler, the new look was definitely more sporty than recent Corvettes had looked. Another version showed off a special graphic look. It had a burgundy raised dome on the hood which swooped down to the door tops, the B-pillar, and around to the rear of the car. The interior was furnished with Recaro seats lined with black, yellow, red, burgundy orange, and red stripes. Special wheels and larger Goodyear Eagle GT tires were used.  Despite the new look and with 290 hp under the raised dome hood, many thought the car was too slow. The car was definitely over weight and the extra horsepower just did do it for the car!

#3?, Can We Get It Right Boys!

A third, more refined version began with the engineers at Chevrolet using an all aluminum 350 engine with an AIResearch turbocharger. It was married with a throttle-body fuel-injection system that made this key move. The  racing intake manifold with two simple injectors replaced the carburetors. The electronics and computer control technology of its time produced about thirty percent more performance in power.  For the 1981 L81, stock horsepower was 190 and with the turbo boost, it could max out at up to 250 horsepower.

1980 Chevrolet Corvette Turbo Charged

1980 Chevrolet Corvette Turbo Charged

She was pretty, pretty different that is! On the exterior of the Corvette, a pearlescent white paint theme with blue stripe graphics, and aftermarket large wheels. Roaring out of the side vents came a medium-dark blue stripe, trimmed in light blue, with a “Turbo” lettering in light blue. The raised dome of the 1981’s hood was the same pearl white as the body color and around the top surface of the hood was medium-dark blue with an outer band of light blue that rolled down along the top edges of the doors and back across the rear of the car. The medium-dark blue on the rear of the car and the medium-dark blue that covered the right and left side was also splashed upon the B-pillars as well as the roof of the car. This left a wide pearl white section in the middle of the roof.  A sweet feature of this Corvette, the hatchback rear glass, would be carried over and be featured on0 the 1982 Collectors Edition Corvette.

The C3 Ending

1982 Chevrolet Collectors Edition Corvette Rear Window

1982 Chevrolet Collectors Edition Corvette Rear Window

The 1982 model Corvette marked the end of the C3s and there would not be a mass produced 1983 Corvette. In fact, the new C4 was already in development, skipping the model year for 1983 because the Corvette would have a complete make over and the factory had to be retuned. A few years down the road, the effort to get the Callaway turbo as an official Corvette option would be on the drawing board. The engineers of the Corvette group, Lotus, and Mercury Marine were busy getting a 385 horsepower LT5 ready the the upcoming ZR1.







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