Welcome back to Hobby Car Corvettes, located in Martinsburg Pennsylvania. You’re here today because you want to know more about the move from chrome bumpers to rubber bumpers. We are here to share with you everything we know and love about Corvettes. Our beloved Corvette has been around for over 60 years, and with that much time on the market, it has seen many changes. The change we will be discussing today, is the switch from chrome bumpers to rubber bumpers.
Let’s get into it.
WHEN & WHY
The 1970-1972 C3 Corvettes were the last to feature both a front and rear chrome bumper. In 1973, due to front impact legislation requirements, the front bumper was changed to a body-colored malleable polyurethane. This was referred to as a rubber bumper. In 1974, the remaining rear chrome bumper would be replaced with the same.
Bumpers were added to vehicles in 1915. They were created with the sole purpose to protect both the vehicle and its passengers upon any impact. Prior to the change from chrome to rubber, there were little to no regulations regarding exactly how effective vehicle bumpers had to be.
Due to the lack of regulations, many vehicle manufacturers opted to make their bumpers an aesthetic statement piece, rather than a functional safety feature. As long as it had a bumper, it was good to go. Once it was realized that some of these bumpers were not making the cut and keeping drivers and vehicles safe, stricter legislations were enforced.
Because of this, the United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 215 mandated that 1973 model bumpers had to be effective enough to prevent headlights, tail lights, fuel system components, and other safety items from damage after a 5 MPH frontal impact and a 2.5 MPH rear impact.
THE “GOOD OL’ DAYS” CHROME BUMPER
Before the bumper conversion, Corvette enthusiasts were familiar with and fond of, the classic chrome bumper. In 1953, when the first Corvette was introduced to the public, it was fitted with a chrome bumper, and would be for 20 years to come. Chrome bumpers weren’t just sleek, shiny, and classic, they had functional benefits as well.
The chrome bumper was known to be resistant to corrosion, making it perfect for extreme weather conditions. Because of their overall durability, chrome bumpers, when cared for properly, could last for years.
Chrome, although heavy, was still lighter than the rubber bumper version to come. Weight on a vehicle directly impacts speed and fuel efficiency, and so the lighter the better.
The chrome bumper yielded a hefty price tag for vehicle manufacturers, and so directly impacted the price for consumers.
Although chrome appeared sturdy and strong, it was not the most durable material to be using for a bumper. This is why chrome was ultimately not the best choice for a bumper, a feature designed for protection and safety.
CORVETTE GETS A ‘NOSE JOB’ – THE RUBBER BUMPER
Alas, it was time to find a better bumper for the Corvette, and this change in 1973 was comically referred to as a ‘nose job’ for the Corvette. This most likely only became the thing to say because in 1973, only the front bumper or the ‘nose’, would get a makeover.
Chevrolet bid farewell to the classic chrome bumper and introduced the rubber bumper. When first introduced in 1973, the now steel, as opposed to chrome, bumper had an outer protective cover, the same color as the body, and was made of polyurethane. This outer cover aided in dent and rust prevention. It was this polyurethane cover that earned the name of a rubber bumper. This Corvette cosmetic surgery resulted in the addition of 35 pounds to the overall weight of the car, and 2 inches in length.
The first pro of the rubber bumper is of course the reason it was changed in the first place, safety. Vehicles and their drivers could not feel more at ease on the roads knowing that their Corvette was in compliance with black and white, mandated regulations.
The new rubber bumper was more affordable than the chrome bumpers. This perk for Chevrolet of course trickled down to its buyers.
The new rubber bumpers made of polyurethane also had extensive abilities to reduce wear. This material is known to resist abrasion and also reduce noise levels, resulting in a better experience for drivers.
Even today, many people refer to the chrome bumper as the bumper of the “good ol’ days”. The chrome bumper was sheek, shiny, and classic. The removal of the chrome bumper was a loss for the Corvette community.
Additionally, while the polyurethane was made useful in dent and rust prevention, it was still prone to deterioration over time. Almost all of these bumpers would eventually rot, crack, and fall off or possibly warp. Chrome bumpers had greater longevity when cared for.
FIBERGLASS, OUR PERSONAL FAVORITE
Today, your options for your non-chrome, rubber bumper, are varied. While the first Corvette rubber bumper was made of polyurethane, it is a common option these days to choose fiberglass. A common discussion in the Corvette community is weighing the pros and cons of both the original polyurethane bumper and the more modern fiberglass option. Here at Hobby Car Corvettes, we are big advocates for fiberglass.
The biggest advantage of the fiberglass bumper is that it fits to the Corvette better. This allows for easier bodywork. Fiberglass also does not warp over time, as polyurethane does.
It is also a common consensus in the Corvette community that fiberglass bumpers are more aesthetically pleasing. It might not be chrome, but in our opinion, it is the next best thing.
Additionally, there is a notable price difference. Polyurethane will cost more. Fiberglass is going to be cheaper, because the parts are far easier to produce.
One final perk is that fiberglass is lighter than polyurethane bumpers, which can increase speed and fuel efficiency.
Overall, the switch from the Corvette chrome bumper to rubber, was for the best. But it was not without a loss. We certainly cherish our C3 Corvettes in our warehouse and showroom that still bear the classic chrome bumper of the good ol’ days.
As always, thank you for stopping by, and we hope we were able to share with you something you did not know about our mutual interest, the Corvette. Should you find yourself in the market for a beautiful and classic used Corvette, do reach out to us at Hobby Car Corvettes. We take great joy in providing Corvette enthusiasts with the car of their dreams, and we may just have yours in our warehouse.