1973 Corvette

The 1973 Corvette featured the first major appearance change since the 1968 Corvette redesign -- a new nose treatment for both the coupe and the convertible. The coupe also exchanged its removable backlight for fixed glass.

In styling at least, technology was beginning to find answers to federal mandates, and the Corvette had an ingenious solution for the new five-mile-per-hour front-impact protection rule applied to all automobiles that year. A steel bumper was covered by deformable urethane plastic that was matched to the body color. It added only about two inches to overall length and 35 pounds to curb weight. Even better, it would bounce back to its intended shape after most any kind of parking-lot bump. Better still, it looked terrific.

Another mandated safety feature was the addition a longitudinal steel beam in each door to help protect occupants in side impacts. Standard radial-ply tires weren't yet federally mandated, but they were nevertheless included for the 1973 Corvette. While tests showed the new model demonstrating longer stopping distances despite unchanged brakes, lower lateral-G figures on the skidpad, and carried a maximum speed rating of "only" 120 mph versus 140 for the bias-belteds, radials did offer some real advantages for the Corvette. These included longer tread wear, better wet-weather grip, and added stability at speed.

Once again, federal regulations emasculated the Corvette a bit more for 1973. A mechanical-lifter engine was missing from the line for the first time since 1956. This left a choice of the three hydraulic-lifter units: the base 350, RPO L48, at a rated 190 bhp; an uprated L82 small block with 250 bhp; and a solitary 454 called LS4, which was advertised at 270 bhp. Though down on power compared to previous models, the '73 Corvette could run the quarter-mile in the mid-15-second range, virtually the same as cars costing nearly twice as much, such as the Porsche 911E or De Tomaso Pantera.

Still, if the 1973 Corvette wasn't as fast and didn't handle quite as well as previous models, it was notably more civilized. Engine noise was reduced by adding extra insulation at strategic points. Body mounts were changed to a rubber/steel type that helped eliminate annoying vibrations. The problem-prone pop-up wiper panel was replaced by a simple rear-hood extension. The coupe's fixed rear window added a few inches to trunk space, since there was no longer a need for the removable panel's stowage receptacle. Handsome aluminum wheels were a new option that served both form and function, though structural problems forced a recall of the first 800 sets. A later aluminum wheel employed similar styling.

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

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