Longest Running Generation of Corvette Brings Innovations and Inspirations Even today
The 1968 Corvette was the first model that set off a 15 year run for the C3 ‘Shark’ generation of the Corvette, a record that still stands today. Running until 1982, the C3 generation would prove to be the most stubborn of all the Corvette generations selling record numbers in the late 60’s, huge numbers in the 70’s despite a gas crunch, and holding its ground respectably in the early 80’s. This longevity all started with the 1968 Corvette which brought a new design that would eventually be the inspiration of the Corvettes that are driven today (C6 Generation 2005 – Present).
The 1968 Corvette actually got its start design in early 1964 by designer Larry Shinoda under the watchful direction of Bill Mitchell. By 1965 the Mako Shark II Concept Car was brought to the public eye by way of car shows and the 1968 Corvette would be an almost identical product by way of looks.
After all the auto shows were over the Shinoda/Mitchell design was then sent to Chevrolet styling under David Hollis. The mid-engine design of the Mako Shark II was dropped and design began to take shape using the existing Sting Ray chassis. As the 1968 Corvette began to form there were obvious overtones from the Mako Shark II design and the 1968 Corvette was basically the same car from the beltline down, just with softer contours.
Some of the new innovations to the 1968 Corvette included:
- Total redesign of the body.
- Removable T-Top roof panels and back window on the coupe model.
- Redesigned interior.
- Optional three-speed Hydra-matic transmission to replace the previous two-speed Powerglide.
With the many new features to the 1968 Corvette, the engine remained the same and was a carryover from the previous year. This is not to say that the new Vette was at any lack of power, in fact quite the contrary. Road & Track conducted several speed tests with the 1968 Corvette and found that the small-block 327 V-8 put out 350-bhp and had a reported top speed of 128 miles per hour. Even beefier, the big-block put out a whopping 400-bhp and could go 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds.
New to the 1968 Corvette was actually something that was lacking. For the first time in awhile there was no Sting Ray name attached to the Chevrolet muscle machine, though it was advertised using the Sting Ray name. Just one year later however the ‘Stingray’ nameplate would find its way back onto the Corvette.
As much as General Motors tried to keep the new design of the 1968 Corvette a secret, the unveiling of the new body style actually took place a few weeks before the car was officially unveiled. Just before the 1968 Corvette was to be revealed t the public, toy maker Mattel released its new line of Hot Wheels and much to the surprise of General Motors Executives there was an unauthorized version of a car called the ‘Custom Corvette.’
The 1968 Corvette came out to much acclaim among Corvette fans but got very poor reviews from the critics. Still, this didn’t seem to bother the masses and at the end of the year it would be Chevrolet and the new Corvette that would have the last laugh as a record number of 28,566 units were sold, which was an increase of about 5,000 from the last year of the Sting Ray.