30 January 2017

Seven Corvette features or models we don’t miss

Chevrolet often uses the Corvette to introduce new technology, features and marketing concepts. Here are a few attempts at breaking new ground that did not work out.

  1. Side Curtain Windows (1953-55)

    The original Corvette was supposedly rushed into production a scant six months after it was shown as a concept car at the 1953 General Motors Motorama. More likely, the actual decision was made at least a year or so earlier; still, this is a very short development period for a sports car. The side curtains were one of those concessions to a tight production schedule. To say the least, they leaked. Die-hard Corvette owners who tried driving their cars in the rain usually kept a coffee can nearby to bail out rain that gushed in even when the side curtains were in place.

    The curtains were actually a set of see-through plastic windows with chrome frames. Posts at the lower edge were inserted into holes at the top of the door panels. The problem was, they just didn’t fit very well. They were replaced by roll-up windows in the 1956 redesign.

  2. T-Tops (1968-82)

    They seem so 1968, but the original idea had merit. These were the invention of Gordon Buehrig, who designed the original Art Deco-influenced Cord 810/812. Buehrig’s idea was to provide a convertible-like feel without having to resort to a canvas top. And in fact, T-tops quickly became so popular that they might have hastened the demise of the convertible by the mid ’70s. But T-tops later became more famous for leaking or rattling. T-Tops were replaced with a removable roof panel on the Gen Four Corvettes, a weather-tight solution that stopped the rattles.

  3. Vega steering wheel (1976)

    Most Corvette enthusiasts agree that the mid-1970s were the car’s performance nadir, a result of new emissions laws that required unleaded gas. But perhaps the surest sign of the dire times was a cost-cutting move that Corvette drivers could look at every time they drove: the switch to a molded vinyl steering wheel in ‘76. Former Corvette chief engineer David McLellan wrote in his book, Corvette From the Inside, that the wheel came from the Chevy Vega compact and was ordered by a senior GM official to save money. Thankfully, the vinyl wheel lasted only one year.

  4. Corvette Collector Edition (1982)

    The C3 Corvette was in its 15th year of production in 1982, an excessively long time for any car. While everyone knew the C4 was coming, Chevrolet had to do something to help sell the lame-duck 1982 models. That something was the Corvette Collector Edition. In a halfhearted attempt to maintain interest, Chevy added Cross-Fire throttle-body fuel injection to the 5.7-liter small-block V-8, raising total output to an underwhelming 200 horsepower – and then eliminated the manual transmission option. The exterior featured a metallic beige color and finned wheels.

  5. Doug Nash 4+3 manual transmission (1984-88)

    By the early ‘80s, the venerable four-speed manual transmission was being supplanted by five-speed manuals, some with overdrive gears that offered better fuel economy. When the C4 Corvette debuted, a four-speed manual was standard, but later in the year, a 4+3 transmission built by Doug Nash, a supplier of racing components, with three overdrive gears became available. The gearbox was an evolution of the Borg Warner T-10 four-speed manual. The transmission was fine for normal driving, but was sensitive to the vigorous driving that Corvettes are subject to – and poor reliability and durability. According to one journalist, Hib Halverson, “The gearbox section was a pretty good piece, but the overdrive unit was a disaster.”

  6. Corvette ZR-1 (1990-95)

    The car was technologically sophisticated and its performance impressive. But is this the biggest bust ever for the collector car market? It would seem that way. The “King of the Hill” Corvette was rumored for years, and when it finally burst onto the scene in 1989 it owned virtually every car magazine cover in the world. It was a genuine supercar for the era, though its 385 horsepower (later 405) produced by its Lotus-designed LT5 32-valve V-8 pales in comparison with many cars today. The ZR-1 never caught on, though; the $30,000 the ZR-1 option cost may have been the reason. Production declined and price increased, and fewer people were willing to pay for an engine option that cost almost as much as a conventional Corvette alone. Some speculators bought new ZR-1s to put in storage, expecting to be rewarded years later with huge monetary appreciation. That never happened.

  7. 1995 and 1998 Corvette Pace Cars

    Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car replicas are a highly subjective thing, especially when it comes to whether you really want all the attention that parking one in your driveway might bring. The 1995 version, with its combination of a white lower body and a purple-maroon upper, was garish, but the 1998 C5 version may have topped it. Its purple-and-yellow exterior was accentuated by yellow wheels and yellow inserts in the seats. A few folks loved it, others not so much.

16 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Joe Schenck AZ February 3, 2017 at 16:15
    T-tops in '68 were not the only bad mistake for that year! Got hold of a TSB for my '68 Coupe that identified the 23 places on the coupe that could leak. Holes in the carpet near the gas pedal after 6k miles (I bought the car new). Seams on both seats failing at 8k. was a 327 350hp version. Blue smoke pouring out of both pipes any time I took it past 4400rpm! Worst piece of GM junk I ever owned! My prior Vette was a 365hp 327 roadster close ratio Muncie, 4:11 gears. That was a beautiful car for sure! The '68? pure junk!
  • 2
    John Oakland, NJ February 3, 2017 at 17:10
    How about a piece on the best Corvette features, models or editions?
  • 3
    Ernie McCay Canada February 3, 2017 at 17:39
    Ouch about the T-Tops. I have a 78 I've owned since new and never had leaks or rattles. Also re car is warmer in Spring and Fall with T-Tops over soft top.
  • 4
    Terry Riley New York City February 3, 2017 at 19:21
    I had a'77 with a t-top. Never rattled and never leaked. I loved it.
  • 5
    Mary Arizona February 4, 2017 at 09:43
    Then again, the 1978 Pace car was on of the top notch paint schemes they put on the road, BUT, the silver interior ruined it. Should have been red or black. Changed my to red, and is beautiful now. 16K original miles, and will own it forever.
  • 6
    Dennis Los ANgeles February 4, 2017 at 00:02
    I have a mint '74 which I've owned since 1978. Yes, a little leakage, and occasional rattle (there's a piece floating around in there) but with them off it's exotic as hell and I'm glad to have it.
  • 7
    John Earth February 4, 2017 at 12:49
    T-Tops? you dont like T-tops? my 69' has T-Tops and removable rear glass and everyone loves em. I think they may have made it into other GM cars as well... You need to take that off your list. PS Firsties!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 8
    Dennis L Greene Pennsylvania February 5, 2017 at 14:37
    I presently own a 96 with the removable targa top. This is my 4th corvette having owned a 63 splitwindow in 1965, a 65 coupe in 1968 and a 77 with tee tops. I wish I had the 63 back that was a beast, but I'm headed to 72 years old and the 96 is comfortable to drive
  • 9
    Tom Norton Tennessee February 6, 2017 at 15:51
    You don't miss the ZR-1? Wow. I know it was an expensive option but it brought performance back to Corvette in 1990. The ZR-1 with 11 to 1 compression (how long had it been since we had seen that) could do 175 mph and run the quarter mile in the high 12's at about 110 mph. It had been along time since Corvette fans had that kind of power to cheer about. I don't think Plymouth Superbirds sold well in 1970, but have you looked lately? The ZR-1's day may come some day because you would have to go back a loooong time, to the L88's, 435's, and the like to find the kind of performance the ZR-1 offered.
  • 10
    Keith Crozier Montreal February 6, 2017 at 21:26
    I had a 72 454 coupe with T-tops and removable rear window. No leaks and that rear window was a great idea.
  • 11
    Rick Roberts Ottawa, Canada February 6, 2017 at 12:18
    Have to echo other comments here from other T top owners. I have a 1978 L82 with both the fiberglass and clear t tops (owned since 2000). No leaks or rattles with either set of roofs on.
  • 12
    Carl Peyser Cold Spring Harbor, NY February 7, 2017 at 13:31
    The Doug Nash 4+3 is not that bad. I have 1 1985, and it works well. The secret to it is to make sure when going to use the OD, you depress the clutch, it takes some of the street off the drive line, and the OD shifts fine. I never switch under power, even a down shift I clutch.
  • 13
    RICK ROSEVILLE,MI February 7, 2017 at 21:58
    The Corvette t tops were the only good ones back in the day, never had a problem with even 15 year old ones on my 1968 in 1993. also my 77,79.80,81. cant say the same for the Cars and Concepts versions on GM and Fords from the same period .Leaked when they were 3 months old.
  • 14
    Chris Macomb, Mi February 9, 2017 at 11:32
    I've owned my '82 Vette for over 33 years, no T top leaks or rattles.
  • 15
    Bdubya Music City February 10, 2017 at 12:50
    T Tops were the BEST invention ever! '72, no leaks, no noise. Love it! Displayed here in this music video
  • 16
    Jeff Ca February 17, 2017 at 20:46
    This article is total BS. The 82 CE is one of the most prized late model C3s on the market. The ZR-1 was introduced in 1990,not 1989 and the H.P. rating on the ZR-1 was 375,not 385. Jerry Burton,I would think a veteran AUTOMOTIVE writer would have check his facts better before putting pen to paper. I didn't read much of the article but in sure most of it had other blaring inaccuracies.

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