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Chevrolet: 1968 Corvette
The 1960s was certainly a time to be a young driver in the good old USA. It was the time of the Pony Car wars which began so mundanely from "secretary's car" – the Ford Mustang -- and then jumping across town to the big rival Chevy whose unchallenged Corvette was "Detroit's answer" to Europe's sports car.
One of the highlights of his era was Chevy's concept "Mako Shark," based on the Corvette chassis. It was a highly stylized version of the Corvette that made the car show circuit of the mid-1960s and by 1968, its pieces began showing up in production Corvettes. These changes – flared fenders and quarter panels, a midlevel beltline that carried from bumper to bumper, highly refined and defined fender lines that carried from the sloping front end, through the doors and then on through the short quarter panels to the dual-taillight rear panel – as well as 7-inch medium aspect ratio tires and deeply dished sports wheels and tires. These changes had the purists screaming that didn't stop Chevy from hitting a sales record in 1968 with nearly 29,000.
The purists, of course, didn't like the larger size of the new Corvette, which sported a wider track and better handling, as well as 150 pounds more in curb weight, but those changes brought about a new personality in the Corvette that made it a hit with buyers who – although they may not have known or cared that the spring rates were increased for better fore and aft handling – did notice that the Corvette could handle turns and corners with ease.
No, the Corvette wasn't becoming a "boulevardier" -- a car that was all flash and nothing else. The Corvette, available as a Convertible coupe and Hardtop with a rather large reversed sail panels and vertical backlight, moved where you aimed it and the 435-horsepower, big block 427 gave you more than enough stump-pulling power to handle any situation.
The auto mages of the day – and drivers too -- liked the small block 300 and 350 which gave better, more balanced handling, although they did sacrifice 2 seconds from 0 to 60. The small block seemed to handle the Muncie four-speed better.
Other key changes 1968 included:
- The move of the battery to behind the seats for more even handling
- And the addition of two three-speed Turbo-Hydromantic automatics
About the only real criticisms one could level at the 1968 Corvette was that the fit and finish left a lot to be desired. It's not that the designers started out with quarter-inch gaps that just floated into half-inch gaps as the cars proceeded through the build process; it's just that it happened that way.
One of the changes that you couldn't help but note, though, was the fact that Chevy was getting serious about its seat design and while the interior was roundly criticized for poor placement of controls and gauges and the like, one could say of the front bucket seats that they were getting better.
The changes couldn't have happened at a better time because the 1968 Corvette was the first of the modern era Chevy two-seaters to have to have to face increased federal safety oversight.