Sunday, May 10, 2020

C3 Corvettes, And Why We Love Them

Why a Corvette?

It's America's Sports Car! That's why. 

 
Why a C3?

For me, it all started with Corvette Summer, the 1978 movie starring Mark Hamill and Annie Potts.

Hamill plays Kenny Dantley, a Southern California high school senior who—as a shop class project—builds a right-hand-driven custom Corvette Stingray. The car is stolen and Kenny tracks the Vette to Las Vegas, starting his quest to find and reclaim his car.

Looking back, the movie plot and most of the scenes are pretty silly, and the car's custom work is way over the top with all the excessive, even cartoonish bodywork and metal-flake paint of the era. But back in 1978, it was an awesome machine in the eyes of a young guy.



I saw that movie many, many times, and a few months later, I purchased my first C3 Corvette: a 1968 model with a 327 motor. The rest, as they say, is history.

Corvettes of that era, are far from perfect. Just like pretty much everything else invented by humankind. There's always room for improvement, and subsequent models are proof of that.


However, I happen to think that modern cars lack the personality that can only be found in a classic vehicle, and to me, that's not only important but priceless.

My '76 Stingray is like having a time machine that instantly takes me to a better time and place. Not that the 1970s were necessarily better, but maybe I was in a better "place" then.

But honestly, I fell in love with the beautiful lines of the C3 Corvette the moment I laid eyes on them. It was love at first sight!

The big bulging fenders, T-Tops, the "sugar scoop" rear deck, not to mention that long hood with a V8 engine stuffed under it. In my opinion, nothing screams AMERICA louder than a Corvette!

But don't take my rambling as dogma.

Instead, see what other C3 Corvette owners have to say...




Andrew. Ft. Riley, Kansas.
@80_vette_

Why did I pick a 1980 corvette to be my project?

I’ve had that question asked of me many times by my friends, who frankly, see the thing as ugly, slow, and call it the worst years for Corvettes.

Although I cannot disagree that in their stock form these cars disappoint in terms of horsepower, the body style of a C3 corvette is, in my humble opinion, the best looking car of all time. It has perfect curves and a fast look that I personally don’t believe any other car has managed to capture.

To me, 1980-82 models perfected the look with the newer front bumper style, curved glass design, and a ducktail spoiler, which is why I chose the '80 sacrificing those awesome chrome bumpers of the earliest c3’s which I also love.

A C3 Corvette has been my dream car since I was 10.

As someone with little to no experience working on cars, (my job is working on aircraft, however), it has been extremely rewarding to be able to swap the 1980 Vette from a wimpy 350 SBC, 3-speed auto, to a powerful 383 SBC stroker with a 5-speed manual mostly by myself, learning something new every day as I slowly but surely repaired and restored the car to all its glory.

This car was becoming everything I wanted it to be and more.

The pride I felt while driving it down the road and showing it off to my friends was something I had never felt before and I loved it.

This is why it hurt so badly when I got overly cocky showing it one day and caused a minor accident.

In the end, everything I had done to the car was okay, and only the front bumper, fender, and my pride were really damaged.

However that was too much for the insurance company who decided to total out my dream car for a price that was far too little, and unfortunately, I was forced to buy it back from them with a salvage title or have no money to repair it.

The light at the end of my tunnel, however, comes in the form of a 1981 corvette roller that I was able to buy with the money from the insurance company.

With a near-identical set up as my 1980, I can take everything good that I have done to my blue '80, such as the new motor and tranny, and simply drop them into this new red 1981.

However, since I now have nothing but time as I work to rebuild this 1981 into my dream car, I am taking as much as I can to begin restoration as well.

I'm not sure how long it will take but in the end, I plan to have a better car than I did before the accident, only now I will be more careful and really take my time doing everything right. I don’t plan to fully restore it at this stage in my life, but I will do what I can afford and what is easy with the engine out of the car. I love this car and I am not afraid to rebuild one from the ground up.

I love the looks I get, the heads I turn, and the pride I feel knowing I built this car, knowing it's my car. I can only imagine how it'll feel knowing I’ve built the '81 from the ground-up and cannot wait to be on the road again. —Andrew




Brenda. Ft. Myers, Florida.
@brendalchristensen

— WHY A C3 VETTE?

They say you fall in love with your favorite when you are around age 14, and 1976 was that year for me, and the C3 body is so distinctive.

My brother owns a C2 and it was my first experience riding in a Corvette. How could I not fall in love?

Much later, I dated Indy/Stock racer Johnny O'Connell and occasionally he would pick me up in his owner's C1, more of a roadster, but still, what's not to love?


WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF OWNING A C3 CORVETTE?

Feeling the sheer power as you drive it. They just don't make cars like that anymore.

I worked on the C5 with the WinCE onboard computer launch with Microsoft. By coincidence, my brother was on the Corvette team and was designing it at the time. And earlier, I launched the first GM assembly line robots. I guess you could say Corvette is in our family DNA.

Above: Brenda's dad, Neil, who worked on the Apollo Missions.
And no, he did not go to the moon.

DID I RESTORE MY C3?

I purchased the car a year ago. "I got a 'Vette and Ruby is her name," to malign the Donald Fagen song of the same name. Ruby is in excellent condition. Only had to have very few general items fixed or replaced. Alternator, new tires, battery, etc.

Eventually, I'd like to get her a new paint job. Her OEM color was forest green and she's currently a deep red. I'm going to keep the ruby red color.

I'm lucky that she's a completely native in the wild, OEM, numbers-matching 1976 Corvette, which is rare, or as they refer to them, a "survivor." —Brenda




Tomás. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
@tomvette77

Getting in a C3 Corvette is a unique sensation. It's like getting in a time machine that takes you back to that time.

Touching the steering wheel and looking at the gauges in the console gives you the feeling of being inside a fighter plane.

And sometimes I wonder what reaction people had at that time when they saw those body lines for the very first time.

It was not an average car. It was a Corvette! A two-seater, with removable roof panels and pop-up headlights, like cars in movies of the future.

I bought my 1977 Corvette because I was born that year and I wanted a collector car from the same year. I've always liked C3s but had already had one, so when I started my search for a new car, I didn't want another C3.


So I decided to search the American car market, but every time I was about to close on a deal, I kept going back to '68 through '77 Corvettes and their attractive body lines. It was difficult to consider other cars since Corvettes awaken something special in me and many others. Kids go crazy when they see one. People turn to have a look and many of them stop to snap a picture.

After a very long Internet search, I found one in Payson, Arizona. I fell in love with it and bought it sight-unseen (from Buenos Aires). I had it shipped in an enclosed truck to Miami, where it was transferred to a container for the boat journey to Argentina.


When it arrived, I was like a kid opening a Christmas present as I broke the lock on the container.

Seeing and touching it for the first time after many days of waiting, the anxiety was incredible.

But I didn't just purchase my yellow Corvette, I also bought a silver one for my brother.

We started them in the container and they fired up immediately! The yellow Corvette is manual, which is what I wanted, and my brother's Corvette is automatic.

Both have matching-number engines and both are '77s. —Tomás




Rob. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
@rob.7.7.7

Back in the 1980s, Miami was flooded with C3s.

I took a ride in my friend's just-bought 1980 corvette and I was hooked!

Sitting in one, to me, is like a capsule ready to take off even while standing still, regardless of horsepower. And the view of the fenders just adds to the experience.

So I bought a black-on-black 1980 Corvette in 1985.

I used it as a daily driver for a month until it got stolen. Unfortunately, it was never recovered.

Then, fiancé/wife came along followed by a house and kids. Life! But I never forgot the feeling of driving a Corvette, so 25 years later I bought a 1982 Corvette.


I didn’t particularly like that it had a Crossfire engine, but I did like it was the last-year body style.

Rebuilt engine, then had the tranny rebuilt, and learned the Crossfire injection system. Plus, I gave it a little kick with porting, cam, and headers.

Eventually, I will be painting it black, in honor of the one that got away! —Rob




Orkun. Amsterdam, Netherland.
@randythevette

— WHY A C3 VETTE?

I was looking for a fun car to drive and the design of the C3 is simply amazing.

Plus, with the all-fiberglass body and full-frame, it's a very good, easy, reliable platform with the front mid-engine.

My Corvette is a 1982 model.


— MODIFICATIONS INCLUDE...

  • 383 V8 with aluminum heads  
  • 750cfm carburetor
  • Serpentine belt kit
  • 700R4 tranny
  • LSD rear-end with composite single leaf spring


— WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF OWNING A C3 CORVETTE?

The design. The curves.



— DID I RESTORE MINE?

I am still partially restoring her, but mostly electric stuff

I did not want to get a classic, clean, nice Corvette partly because I want to drive her like she should be driven, not keep her stored. 

The world is changing fast and EVs are all around us, so the era of V8s, carburetors, and automobiles as we know it, is ending. Maybe in 10 years, we'll be limited to drive them only 500 km per year. Maybe we will not be able to drive them at all. Who knows? 

So I want to enjoy her while I can. —Orkun





Brian. Easton, Massachusetts.
@builtwright

I bought my car in 2000. It had 81k miles on it and was a good original car with no rust.

It needed a paint job and an interior. I did the new buckskin interior and had the car painted the original arctic white.

In 2004 I started building a cottage in NH and was busy with that and decided to sell my car to pay the plumber. Regretted it and thought one day I’d get another one.

In 2015 I saw a white Corvette out back at a local repair shop. It sat there for a few weeks. I called the shop and asked about it, and it turns out it was my old car!

The owner of the shop said the guy I sold the car to was letting his kid drive it and he thinks he blew the engine. I asked if he wanted to sell the car and he agreed. The paint still looked good, minus the cracked paint on the nose from a hit. The interior still looked good in spite of being a little dirty.

I had the car towed to my house and discovered the kid threw a rod. I am guessing he over-revved it.

I decided by put a new engine in the car but wanted it to look original, so I put a Chevy performance crate engine with about 300 horsepower. Holly 650 double pumper and HEI distributor. I painted it Corporate Blue which is the 1977 engine color.


I had the transmission rebuilt (which was also destroyed by the kid) with a mild B&M shift kit.

Got it back together and discovered the rear end was messed up (ring and pinion) so changed gears from 3:08 to 3:36 with new rear spring. Also did all control arm bushings and ball joints and tie rods. New exhaust (dual exhaust with H pipe) no cat. New brakes and brake lines.

I’ve done everything on the car so it’s a new 1977 Corvette.

I got my car back!

It’s not the original engine but I think it’s better than it was. —Brian




Working on a sticky shifter lever, Sep. 2018
Brittany. Austin, Texas.
@charlenethestingray71

The classic Corvette Stingray is my dream car, since the first time I saw one when I was 16 years old.

My dad started my interest and education in cars; he’s had a ‘67 Chevy Camaro "project" car since I can remember.

When it comes to head-turning American muscle, it’s hard to beat the curves of a C3 Stingray.

My Corvette, named Charlene, was love at first sight and turned out to be so perfect for me.


She's a 1971 manual 4-speed with a 350 cu. in. small block engine. Working A/C (first offered in 1971 models) was a bonus that I wasn’t counting on, but I really appreciate it in Texas.


Above: Charlene the Stingray at Circuit of the Americas, Austin, TX in February 2020

To be honest, it was the color that sold the car. Mulsanne Blue, refinished to match the factory color, was the same color as my hair at the time I bought it. Gorgeous!

When I started looking for a Corvette, I narrowed my search to the early C3's, mostly based on body style: T-top, chrome bumpers (discontinued in 1972-73), and those sexy contoured fenders. I'm not a hands-on "car person" so I was looking for a car that was ready-to-drive with little to no major repairs needed.

The frame-off restoration by a previous owner took over a decade and was vastly stock, except for the addition of an L88-style hood with a big ol’ hood scoop.


I appreciate the stock restoration because it makes the subsequent maintenance a little more straight-forward for me. I'm learning classic car repair one part at a time, and the fewer surprises, the better.

The best part of owning a C3 Corvette? Driving it!


On one hand, the gas mileage is terrible (~10 mpg), and I joke that something breaks every time I pull out of the driveway. But I love hearing the sound of the V8; the smell of gas and oil reminds me of watching my dad work on cars when I was a kid.

Driving my Corvette makes me smile every single time. —Brittany


Above: Charlene the Stingray and owner Brittany in Austin, TX in February 2020


So there you have it.

As you can see, there are certain obvious commonalities when it comes to the love we all share about our Corvettes.

But if there's just ONE specific reason all of us will agree on, it has to be the body style, which even to this day is both significant and stunning.

It seems that every time I drive mine to the store or gas station, someone will say "Nice car!" or ask me "What year is it?" And I chuckle when many start guessing. Interestingly, most are pretty close with their guesses, while others seem to know a good deal about C3 Corvettes. Regardless, I truly enjoy talking with all of them.

But kids, some of them quite young as a matter of fact, just LOVE the look of the C3 Corvette. I've gotten so many smiles and thumbs-up from kids over the years which I consider a true testament to the vision of Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda's design.

Long Live the Corvette!

Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog.


Product Links... (#sponsored)

Corvette Summer | Mark Hammil, Annie Potts

• Corvette Black Book | 1953-2019
• 1976 Corvette Service & Overhaul Manual
• 1976 Corvette Service & Overhaul Manual CD-ROM





1 comment:

  1. love the site and all the cool cars and stories. My story started in 1981, when i got a brand new, red 1981, 4 speed camel leather Interior with smoke glass t-tops. My first love - it was stolen only 11 months later. Fast forward 40 yrs, i decide to get back behind the seat again. Found an all original 17,000 mile 1981 corvette, bronze metallic. having the time of my life

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