THIRD GENERATION CORVETTES, THE MIDDLE AGES
The 1973 Corvette was the first in several years to see notable aesthetic changes. Corvette’s tagline for 1973 was “We gave it radials, a quieter ride, and a nose job.” The nose job Chevrolet so wittingly referred to was in regards to the well-received front bumper redesign. The steel bumpers were changed to urethane, making 1973 the first year for a “rubber bumper”. The redesign was in response to a federal mandate for all cars to have a 5 mph impact-absorbing bumper.
Also introduced in 1973 were radial tires which offered longer tread wear, better wet-weather grip, and added stability when operating at common Vette speeds. Extra sound-dampening insulation was strategically added throughout the car to decrease inside noise levels by 40%.
While 1973 saw the first rubber bumper, the 1974 Corvette was the first to have both a front and rear urethane bumper. An easy way to distinguish a 1974 Vette, is by the rear fascia, as it was made in two pieces and had a notable split down the middle. The 1974 Coupe now had an integrated shoulder belt/lap belt combo.
Overall preference was growing for performance automatic transmissions, so engineers took to enhancing the durability of the turbo hydra-matic. This transmission was a no-cost upgrade and installed in nearly two-thirds of the 1974 models.
1974 was also the last year for the big block 454 ci V-8 engine.
There was little notable aesthetic difference between the 1974 Vette and the 1975 Vette. On the front and rear bumper, extra padding was added for additional protection for varying impacts. The rear fascia was redesigned to be one, seamless whole piece.
1975 was the last year for the convertible option, as sales had been declining.
The 1975 Corvette was tagged a “more efficient Corvette”, utilizing more electrical pieces and introducing the catalytic convertor. The 1975 model had limited engine options, with only the base 350 ci 165 hp and the optional L82 350 ci 205 hp. All L82 equipped Corvettes held a hood emblem labeling them as such.
It is popular opinion that the 1976 Corvette Stingray was the best looking Vette up to this point. The cowl flap was removed and in its place was a new modified cowl induction. The air-extractor vents and astro-ventilation system were removed from the rear deck.
1976 Corvettes also saw the welcomed introduction of aluminum wheels which had been proposed and designed for the 1973 model. A design not well received in 1976, was the use of the Chevy Vega GT steering wheel. This wheel was being used in the Chevy Vega GT and other vehicles, so it was not specific to the Corvette.
Engineers added a partial steel subsection between the floor and the catalytic convertor to enhance the sturdiness of the Corvette and act as an insulator between the convertor and the cockpit. The 1976 Corvette was the first to include GM’s freedom battery and the last year for the Stingray emblems.
The 1976 Corvette L48 engine saw a 15 hp increase, bringing it to 180 hp output, and the L82 offered 210 hp.
The 1977 Corvette was nearly identical to the 1976. Added new, was a luggage and roof panel rack. In place of the Stingray emblems were the Corvette crossed flags insignia. 1977 was the first year to have an 8 track player as a option. The shift and gauge consoles were changed to plastic and the steering column was shortened by 2 inches. Additionally, the previously orange engines were now painted blue.