The 1968 Corvette would prove to be nearly as controversial as the times themselves. The so-called "Shark" generation was a very different sort of sports car than its predecessors -- what was a dual-purpose race-and-ride machine had evolved into more of a plush and powerful boulevard cruiser. Critics would blast the initial C3 offering for its excessive styling, increased bulk, and carryover platform -- it certainly was not the substantial leap forward Corvette fans had hoped for.
The third-generation Corvette suffered from development
problems and introduction was postponed from 1967 to 1968. It was probably just
as well. Although the government's first safety and emissions standards took
effect nationwide with the '68 model year, Chevy would doubtless have seen to
it that the engineering of an all-new 1967 model reflected the new standards. As
it was, the delay took some of the pressure off of harried engineers.
The redesigned 1968 Corvette was received with mixed reviews.
As was the case with the first Sting Ray, powertrains for the new 1968 model were largely retained from the previous generation. The one significant exception was substitution of GM's new three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission for the old two-speed Powerglide automatic. Elsewhere, the car's battery was relocated behind the seats to improve weight distribution and to provide added under-hood room. Side vent windows were eliminated in favor of a new fresh-air "Astro Ventilation" system. Shoulder belts, previously an added-cost option, were included at no charge on coupes. Other new features for 1968 accentuated the Corvette's GT leanings, and included an electric rear-window defroster, speed warning indicator, AM/FM stereo radio, and a futuristic fiber-optic light monitoring system.
Higher spring rates were calculated to reduce fore/aft pitching, especially under hard acceleration. This also served to lower the rear roll center and was nicely complemented by newly standard seven-inch-wide wheels, an inch broader than before, wearing low-profile F70 × 15 tires. With these modifications and the resulting wider track dimensions (now 58.7/59.4 inches front/rear), the 1968 Corvette hugged the pavement even better than the Sting Ray, though at the expense of a perceptibly harsher ride.
To many, the 1968 Corvette's styling was excessive and bloated (its weight had ballooned by some 150 pounds), and the car was criticized for abandoning its sports-car purity. The car was also given low marks in the press for its scarce luggage space, awkward ingress/egress, and poor instrument placement, and reviewers found the car's new interior ventilation system to be lacking. The Corvette's fit and finish and overall build quality were judged to be abysmal, and even the new T-top was greeted with lukewarm response.
Still, the motoring press thought highly of the latest Corvette's straight-line performance, though some felt the big 435-horsepower 427 was too brutish a beast, though the 300- and 350-bhp small-blocks impressed as much as ever. The Muncie four-speed manual transmission and the new Turbo Hydra-Matic also garnered praise. As for handling, the press seemed to like the skidpad and slalom numbers they got but not the way the car felt generating them. Several complaints were made about the harder ride, and nobody much liked the power steering and brakes.
Despite its flaws, the 1968 Corvette remained an exhilarating
ride. It had plenty of power even in small-block form, and its all-independent
suspension, if not exactly state-of-the-art, was certainly more than adequate.
Testing a 350-bhp 327 roadster with the four-speed and 3.70:1 final drive, Road & Track reported a top speed of
128 mph, a standing quarter-mile of 15.6 seconds at 92 mph, and 0-60-mph
acceleration of 7.7 seconds. Fuel economy, however, was pegged at 11-15 mpg for
a cruising range of only 220-300 miles from the 20-gallon tank. Big-block cars
were even thirstier -- but faster, of course. Car and Driver, running a 400-bhp 427 coupe, hit 60 mph in 5.7
seconds and posted a 14.1-second quarter mile at a blazing 102 mph.
For the 1968 Corvette, the optional automatic transmission switched from
elderly two-speed Powerglide to the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic.
The car's paltry cruising range couldn't really be considered as much of a liability, however, since with only 6.7 cubic feet of cargo space available, the car wasn't exactly outfitted for long-distance driving. Further, a newly tighter cabin included accordingly tighter seats with fixed backrests raked much farther back than in the Sting Ray to accommodate the Shark's two-inch lower roofline. The resulting laidback stance conspired with a high cowl to give the impression of being in a bathtub. A long, low nose that disappeared somewhere near the horizon made parallel parking an adventure.
Yet for all the problems and poor reviews, more people bought Corvettes than ever before; model-year sales set a new record at 28,566 units, some 5,000 up on the final Sting Ray. Part of this was due to prices that remained competitive at $4,320 for the ragtop and $4,663 for the coupe.
Reflecting its popularity, the new Corvette was chosen Best All-Around Car in Car and Driver's annual reader's poll (the 1967 Sting Ray had been likewise honored), as well as Best Sports/GT Car Over 3000cc.
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||1978 Corvette||1979 Corvette|
|1980 Corvette||1981 Corvette||1982 Corvette|
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