The 1974 Corvette was part of a dismal year for motorists in general and auto enthusiasts in particular. This was the year the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the Middle East turned off its pipelines and touched off a global energy crisis. Gas prices soared as dwindling supplies had motorists waiting in long lines at the pumps; some areas even had to resort to rationing. Suddenly, big, heavy, and fuel-thirsty cars seemed out of step with the times. Fortunately, the oil embargo didn't last long, though its effects continue to be felt to this day.

1974 Corvette
Though the 1974 Corvette was much less fiery than it had been,
sales kept climbing back toward the '69 record, this year totaling 37,502.

Providing instant identification for the 1974 Corvette was a new body-color rear-end treatment made to comply with a new five-mph rear-impact standard. Sheathed in urethane like last year's front-bumper revision, the new ensemble conferred a smoother, more integrated look, and though it tapered downward instead of upward like the previous Kammtype tail, it didn't seem to harm aerodynamics. The bumper was a two-piece affair with a visible seam in the middle of its plastic cover; a seamless one-piece unit would be substituted from the 1975 Corvette on.

In many ways, 1974 was the end of an era for the Corvette. Engines, for example, would henceforth be tuned to run only on unleaded gas -- aided by the industry's wholesale switch to catalytic converters for 1975. Genuine dual exhausts would give way to separate manifolds routed to a single catalytic converter, then on to separate pipes and mufflers. What's more, this was also the last year for the Corvette's big-block V-8.

Elsewhere, it was the same old story: detail changes, most for the better. The market's growing preference for performance automatic transmissions yielded a sturdier Turbo-Hydra-Matic designated M40. Shoulder belts, a fixture since the 1971 Corvette, were combined with the lap belts into a single three-point harness, and the inertia-reel setup was changed somewhat. The rearview mirror became wider; radiator efficiency improved; the burglar alarm switch was moved from the rear of the car to the left front fender; and the power steering pump was made more durable via the use of magnets, added to attract fluid debris.

New for 1974 was one of the all-time bargains in Corvette performance packages: the RPO FE7 Gymkhana Suspension, which cost a mere seven bucks. FE7 was little more than higher-rate springs and firmer, specially calibrated shocks -- the tried-and-true formula used since the mid-Sixties in Chevy's popular F41 package -- but it improved handling all out of proportion to its paltry price. The F41 itself, which had begun with the Z06 racing option back in 1963, was still around in RPO Z07 and included heavy-duty brakes.

1974 Corvette
The Feds decreed rear "five-mph" bumpers on all 1974 cars. Corvette complied
with a smart new rear-end cap covered in the same body-color plastic as the nose.

While the Shark never seemed as nimble as the Sting Ray, and the mid-Seventies small-block cars were nowhere near as brutal as the big-block Corvettes that came before them, the '74 remained satisfyingly quick. The 250-bhp L82 could take you from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds and on to 125 mph while averaging about 14-15 mpg. The 1974 Corvette also marked a new high for luxury, which by that point was no longer the contradiction in terms it once was. If still a bit noisy, the Corvette had evolved into a very refined grand touring car with plenty of creature comforts and far greater reliability than most of its more-exotic competition.

The 1974 Corvette defied industry sales trends by selling at or near its best-ever levels at a time when it should have done anything but, given the higher cost of gasoline and insurance, the sagging economy, and emasculated powertrains. Sales were up again on the year, hitting 37,502 units. Though the energy crisis would put a temporary damper on racing activities in 1974, things were more or less back to normal on the nation's tracks the following year, and the Corvette would continue to shine in SCCA competition throughout the remainder of the Seventies.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1968 Corvette
1969 Corvette 1970 Corvette
1971 Corvette 1972 Corvette 1973 Corvette
1974 Corvette 1975 Corvette 1976 Corvette
1977 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

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  • Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.