1960 Corvette

The 1960 Corvette was virtually indistinguishable from the 1959, but there were some power increases made to the top two engines. Solid lifters and higher 11.0:1 compression boosted the most potent 283 fuelie to 315 bhp at 6200; a second version with hydraulic lifters for easier maintenance pumped out 275 bhp at 5200 rpm. Because of these gains, the Powerglide automatic transmission was no longer available with the fuel injected engines -- it simply couldn't handle the torque. Carbureted engines remained much the same as before. The tamest was still the 230-bhp unit with single four-barrel carburetor, followed by a dual-quad 245-bhp hydraulic-lifter version and the solid-lifter 270-bhp engine with twin four-barrel carbs.

The 1960 Corvette broke model-year sales records with 10,261 units.
The 1960 Corvette broke model-year sales records with 10,261 units.

Route 66

Also noteworthy for 1960 was the fall premiere of a TV show that would help boost the Corvette's cache -- an hour-long CBS series called Route 66. The premise was simple: Two guys in a sports car traversed the highways of America looking for adventure. Chevrolet sponsored the program, of course. (It was common at the time for an automaker to sponsor a show and, in the process, ensure that all the characters drove that particular brand of car.)

Actors Martin Milner and George Maharis (later replaced by Glenn Corbett) co-starred each week with a shiny new Corvette. This was initially a 1960 model, but with each new season the boys got a new model just like the ones at local Chevy dealerships. The car was revealed to be a bequest from Milner's character's late father, but how the duo managed to trade it in with each successive season for what would have been one of the first new models out of the factory was anyone's guess.

Though well received, the series lasted only through the 1963-64 season before running out of gas. Still, four years of weekly exposure in a successful prime-time TV series helped enhance the Corvette's image as a freewheeling vehicle for those with an innate sense of freedom and adventure.

Mechanical refinements for 1960 included new aluminum clutch housings for manual transmissions, which allowed the car to shed 18 pounds, and aluminum radiators for cars running the Duntov cam. A power-saving thermostatically controlled cooling fan was a new option, as was a long-range, 24-gallon fuel tank. A larger-diameter front anti-roll bar, matched by a new rear bar were made standard. These changes, plus an extra inch of rear-wheel travel in rebound, yielded a smoother ride and more neutral handling.

Despite the shift away from racing in favor of promoting the Corvette as a smooth, no-fuss touring car, there were still plenty of reasonably priced performance options available for 1960. Aside from the 315-bhp engine at $484.20, you could still order Positraction ($43.05) and the four-speed gearbox ($188.30). The metallic brake linings (RPO 687) returned as a $26.90 option. A set of blackwall 6.70 X 15 nylon tires cost only $15.75 (5.50 X 15 whitewalls remained standard).

Early in the 1960 model year, Chevy offered cylinder heads cast from a high silicon aluminum alloy as an option for the two fuelie engines. Based on a design that was first tried with the Corvette SS prototype racer from Sebring in 1957, they maintained the stock 11.0:1 compression but featured improved intake and exhaust. The high silicon content prefigured the block construction of the four-cylinder Vega engine of a decade later, which proved to be just as troublesome. The aluminum heads were fine in theory but tended to warp if the engine overheated, and Chevy had quality-control hassles with the castings and the option was quickly withdrawn.

Lending credence to the rumors of an all-new Corvette in the offing was the track debut of a dramatic special called Stingray that was being "privately" campaigned by GM design chief Bill Mitchell. The fact that Mitchell had succeeded to that position upon Harley Earl's retirement in 1958 convinced many Corvette watchers that the Stingray was the shape of things to come for America's sports car. In some ways, it was.

The top
The top "fuelie" V-8 for the 1960 Corvette went to a thumping 315 bhp.

Meanwhile, Bill Mitchell had been working diligently to breathe new life into the existing Corvette styling, which had been around in its basic form since 1956. But though his studios had no shortage of ideas, the Corvette would see relatively few changes through 1962. Chevrolet had other priorities, among them the Corvair. Once more, the Corvette would have to soldier on with relatively minor changes.

Even so, the 1961-62 models are regarded as the best Corvettes since the "classic" 1957. Mitchell executed a tasteful exterior makeover that took a welcome step back from the chrome-laden 1958-60 models. Accompanying this body redesign were assorted mechanical modifications aimed at improved efficiency and higher performance. The result was two years worth of vintage Corvettes that stand as the ultimate expression of the original 1953 concept.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1953 Corvette
1954 Corvette
1955 Corvette
1956 Corvette
1957 Corvette
1958 Corvette
1959 Corvette
1960 Corvette
1961 Corvette
1962 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.