Greg's List: 1978 Chevrolet Corvette
By Greg Warner
The third generation Chevrolet Corvette (or C3, built from 1968 to 1982) went through many changes and technological advances during the 15 years of production. Even though the USA, and the rest of the world for that matter, was experiencing the first real "fuel shortage" crisis and facing continually restrictive EPA regulations throughout the entire series, the sales of the first true American Sportscar continued to increase by huge numbers. The C3 series was a "toned-down" version of the popular Mako Shark II concept vehicle (easily, one of the most famous and recognizable concept/show cars of all time), designed by Bill Mitchell and his team at Chevrolet, including the young Larry Shinoda. The Mako Shark II, concept/show car, was first shown at the Motorama show in 1965 to rave reviews and was a "newer" version of, the earlier designed, Mako Shark I from 1957. The "Stingray" fender scripts were used from 1969 through 1976 (however, even though everyone referred to all 1963 through 1982 Corvettes as Stingrays, the scripts were absent from all 1968 units and from 1977-1982).
There were two body styles of the newly-designed, "C3" Chevrolet Corvette, which included a Convertible model with a hinged hard cover to conceal the top when in the "down" position and the "T-Top" model, which was the first dual-panel, "removable" roof design to debut in the U.S. marketplace. In fact, it proved to be so popular, that the Convertible models were discontinued altogether after the 1975 production year and a Convertible model would not return until 1986. The T-Top design was unique, and actually became a secondary design choice, mainly due to the creaks and groans (due to body-flex) produced by the initially designed, "single-panel" removable roof, a design "flaw" the engineers could not seem to quiet. The chassis and engine offerings remained basically unchanged from the previous "C2" series Corvettes and horsepower only diminished over the years mainly due to strict EPA restrictions and the "Big-Block" engines were discontinued after 1974.
Of course, the usual upgrades to creature comforts (including leather seats and "cockpit" styled dashboard) and the technological advancements were continuously made over the years through the end of "C3" production. The Corvette went through a period of metamorphosis from raw-powered, street and racetrack "monster" to more of a mild, yet sexy, boulevard cruiser. The horsepower rating of the final year (1982) of the "C3" production run was a mere 200 hp. This meager horsepower rating actually increased over the previous years sickly, 190 hp rating and this was only due to the introduction of the first "Fuel Injected" (Chevrolet's, "Cross-Fire", electronic throttle-body system) Corvette since 1965. Keeping in mind, that in 1972 General Motors (and most other automobile manufacturers), changed to the SAE "Net" horsepower rating system, as opposed to the previously used SAE "Gross" horsepower rating system (270 hp gross = approx. 200 hp net), which resulted in lower, but more realistic horsepower ratings. This horsepower rating system is still in use today, as a global standard.
Some other "highlights", during the "C3" production run, were the introduction of rubberized front and rear bumpers after 1973 year model (which actually had the new "rubber" nose, but retained the chrome rear bumperettes) to meet government safety standards for slow speed impact, the addition of "catalytic converters" incorporated into all exhaust systems starting in 1975 which marked the end of a true dual exhaust system as we know it (thus,1974 was last year for true dual exhaust systems). This required the installation of steel floorboards, to replace the previous fiberglass units, due to the higher heat created by the catalytic converters. In 1978, the Corvette "fastback" styling returned, with an elongated, un-openable, rear glass area which included a larger storage area in the rear deck. The 1980 Corvettes were, once again, lighter in weight and introduced a more aerodynamically advanced "integrated" body design in order to reduce wind drag and improve performance. In mid-year of 1981 the new "Corvette" specific production facility was finally ready, and all Corvette production was moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky where it remains to this day.
Zora Arkus-Duntov, also known as the "Father of the Corvette", retired "officially" in 1975 and was replaced by Dave McLellan as Corvette's Chief Engineer. However, Mr. Duntov would always be "unofficially" involved with the Corvette until his death in 1996. He remains the most influential figure of the first, true American Sportscar in history and his unwavering input and support over the years, resulted in creating and refining the American Icon that is the Chevrolet Corvette!
What movie "musical", that featured many awesome cars of the movie's era, was the top grossing (nearly 160 million dollars) film in the USA for 1978?
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