• Stingray Corvette

A car that stunned, for good and bad

The new Stingray for 1968 was a dazzling vehicle and a show piece, but not everyone agreed

Avatar By: Wheels July 4, 2021

It’s often said that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Well, when the third-generation Corvette made its debut in the fall of 1967, the world was speechless.

The tricked-out fibreglass-bodied two-seater with its bulging fenders, removable roof panels and elongated snout garnered a collected gasp of disbelief from just about anyone with a pulse. Some loved it; however, the new Stingray was received with mixed emotions by true Corvette fanatics.

After all, the previous-generation five-year-old Sting Ray (two words until 1968) had been far and away the most popular Corvette. Penned by General Motors styling guru Bill Mitchell, the earlier coupe and roadster had offered more power, panache and high style than anything else in Chevy’s stable. The purists, however, regarded the forthcoming 1968 version as nothing more than the outcome of GM’s misguided allegiance to planned obsolescence (a concept the company virtually invented back in the 1930s).

As part of the Corvette’s continuing evolution, the list of standard and optional features continued to expand. By that time, air conditioning, power windows, tilt and telescoping steering and AM/FM radios were becoming commonplace on sports cars, not just on more traditional modes of transportation.

Although the new Corvette’s interior was as space-age as its swoopy exterior, there were still a few bugs to be worked out. For one, the cockpit tended to trap an uncomfortable amount of engine heat, especially if a 454 engine resided under the reverse-tilt hood. Also, the Coke-bottle shape of the Corvette’s Ferrari-inspired design meant less hip and shoulder room compared to the previous car.

Corvette Stingray

There were also complaints that the new Stingray was rougher riding and that it had pronounced understeer (tendency for the front wheels to plow in a turn). True, the new model was a tad harsher over the rough stuff but made up for it by being more agile in the corners. As for the understeer, Chevrolet revised the suspension for better control in hard cornering.

One of the more interesting observations regarding the new Corvette was rapid turnaround in the model’s convertible sales. Before 1968, ragtop versions outsold hardtops by a large margin. By 1969, this trend had been reversed. The hardtop’s removable T-roof panels had something to do with this. The hardtop was also far less shake and rattle-prone, providing better handling and ride when compared to the convertible. By 1976, Corvette roadsters were no longer offered.

Despite the new Corvette’s questionable practicality (there wasn’t even a glovebox), the 1968 through 1972 versions with raw power undiluted by emission controls, represented the pinnacle of sports-car performance combined with show-stopping looks.

For four glorious and unbridled years, the Stingray completely ruled the road and induced mass automotive hysteria the world over.