1967 Chevrolet Corvette – the Perfect Marriage of Beauty and Raw Performance

August 25, 2011

67corvette-s.jpgWhen a new generation release of the Corvette occurs it’s usually a large leap forward from the previous model year Corvette. Nowhere was this more true than when the first C2 (second generation) Corvette rolled off the assembly line back in fall of 1962. The shape was so exotic and ahead of every sports car of its time. And such features such as an independent rear suspension and optional fuel injection solidified the 1963 Corvette’s superiority. In the fall of 1962 when the 1963 Corvette was released JFK was in the White House – most Americans had not really heard of Vietnam and most of those who had could not find it on a map. Fall of 1962 was when the world almost came to brink of nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crises, the first GTO was a year away from being released. It was also fall of 1962 when The Beach Boys’ first album was released – Surfin’ Safari which featured the hit of the same name and the legendary car themed song  called "409" about a new Chevrolet equipped with the 409 CID V8.

A quick leap forward a few years to the Fall of 1966 when the 1967 Corvette first rolled off the assembly line, a lot had changed. American was up to its neck in the Vietnam War and LBJ was President. Just about all the American automotive brands by then had at least one muscle car model offering if not more. The Beach Boys had released a new psychedelic single called "Good Vibrations" which was so much different than their previous music and would before year’s end be a number one hit.

The mid-1960s was an era of rapid and radical change. However not for the Corvette, it had remained intact from 1963-1967 as virtually the same car. The reason was two-fold. First the 1963 Corvette had been so ahead of its time, it did not need any major changes to keep up with the competition since it was already leap years ahead – Chevrolet with the Corvette could just float year-to-year with very little changes. Second Chevrolet with the Corvette had a hot seller on its hands and it also felt why mess with success. The added benefit of no major changes was Chevrolet didn’t have to invest a lot of money on development costs from year-to-year.

Even though the body style was unchanged and most of the mechanical makeup of the 1963-1967 Corvette also known as the Corvette Sting Ray remained virtually unchanged, the 1967 Corvette overall was a more muscular brut than the 1963. The Corvette had since 1955 when it first received a V8 engine, 67corvette-5.jpgemphasized performance. By 1967 the Corvette was screaming performance. When the 1963 model was released its base engine was the Chevrolet small-block 327 CID V8 producing 250 horsepower and its top-of-line performance motor was the 360 horsepower L84 fuel-injected 327 CID V8. In other words the Corvette back in 1963 only came equipped with a small-block V8 under its hood. This didn’t change until Chevrolet’s 425 horsepower big-block 396 CID V8 first became a Corvette option in the middle of the 1965 model year. Chevrolet which had avoided in the past dropping the Chevrolet "W" big-block V8 into the Corvette, finally decided it was time when the Mark IV big-block 396 V8 debuted in 1965. From that point forward for 10 model years Chevrolet would make different iterations of its Mark IV big-block V8 the hottest performance motors available in the Corvette. The small-block V8 would still pack a powerful punch during many of these years however it would play second fiddle to the big-block. The Corvette’s base motor for 1967 was the 300 horsepower 327 V8, up 50 horsepower from the 1963 Corvette’s base V8. However the only other small-block V8 offered in the 1967 Corvette was the L79 4-bbl 327 V8 which was rated at 350 horsepower and was 10 horsepower less than 1963 Corvette’s L84 327 V8. And if you needed more more proof that the small-block V8 was in a permanent second class status for the Corvette the fuel-injected L84 327, a cornerstone of Corvette performance since 1957, was cancelled towards the end of the 1965 model year. The plain simple truth was that the Chevrolet big-block V8 could deliver more horsepower and torque than even the L84 fuel-injected 327. This did not mean that 1967 Corvette’s 327 V8 offerings were subpar. Actually it was quite the contrary, with 300 horsepower and a curb weight of only 3,130 lbs. even the base 327 V8 powered 1967 Corvette could move like the wind. The 350 horse L79 327 was a nice step above the base with a high 11.0:1 compression ratio and the ability to almost rev to the moon – it had its share of fans back in the day. Both the base and L79 327 V8s produced 360 lb-ft of torque. 67corvette-1.jpgRoad and Track magazine (February 1967) tested a base 327 convertible and obtained a 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds and a 1/4 mile of 16.0 seconds at 86.5 mph. The L79 327 shaved off about 1 full second off each of these times.

However the real thunder was with the 1967 Corvette’s big-block 427 CID V8 line-up. The big-block 396 V8 was a one year only phenomenon in the Corvette and by 1966 it had been replaced by two 427 V8s. By 1967 the choice of 427 was even better with no less than five 427 V8s available – from hot to very hot to extremely hot. First was the L36 4-bbl 427 which had a compression ratio of 10.25:1 and horsepower rating of 390. Next was the 400 horsepower L68 427 which in essence was the L36 with triple 2-bbl carburetors, hence the same 10:25:1 compression ratio. And for those wanting a little more grunt the L72 4-bbl 427 was just the ticket with 425 horsepower and a 11:0:1 compression ratio, a hotter camshaft, solid lifters, and high flow cylinder heads. And there was a triple 2-bbl version of this motor also available – the L71 427 which was rated at 435 horsepower. However the fun didn’t stop there, also available was an aluminum head version of the L71 which was the 435 horsepower L89 427. The L71 and L89 on the average back in the day completed the 1/4 mile in about mid-13 second range. The fastest L71/L89 test time of that era was the Cars Magazine May 1967 test of a 4-speed manual equipped L71 Corvette which yielded a 1/4 mile time of 12.9 seconds at 111 mph and a 0-60 mph time of just 5.0 seconds. Which is quite impressive considering most muscle cars in 1967 were about 2 seconds slower in both the 1/4 mile and 0-60 mph and the Corvette had skinny rear tires which made traction under heavy power a real chore.

And also available on the Corvette option list was the king daddy of the 427 V8s – the racing spec L88 427 rated at 430 horsepower which had an advertised compression ratio of 12:0:1. The real horsepower was slightly north of 450 horsepower making it by far the most powerful Corvette motor for 1967. However replacing the L88’s restrictive stock exhaust manifolds with headers easily increased horsepower to over 500. Chevrolet had purposely kept the L88 under the radar screen by rating the horsepower less than the L71 and L89 and slapping a high price tag on the L88 option. It only intended the L88 to be purchased by customers who would use the L88 for racing purposes. The end result was only 20 L88 equipped 1967 Corvettes were produced. The L88 had a max torque rating of 450 lb-ft versus the  other 427 V8s on the Corvette option list which produced 460 lb-ft of torque. A 1967 L88 Corvette with proper tune and headers could easily yield a 1/4 mile time in the 12 second range with the possibility of  touching into the 11 second range.

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The Corvette Sting Ray may have had thin tires (due to the design of the wheel wells which prohibited the use of wider tires unless the top area of the fenders just above the well wheels was cut out) but handling was still by far the best you were going to find in an American car back in 1967 with the exception of the Shelby Cobra 427 which in essence was a low production race car that was sold to the general public. The small-block 327 equipped Corvette was better balanced so its handling was marginally better than the slightly nose heavier big-block 427 Corvette. However the 427 Corvette was still leagues better than the competition. The standard independent rear suspension and four wheel disc brakes (two key items most of its competition were missing) made the Corvette a joy to drive on winding roads.

If the different performance engines under the hood didn’t scare off the competition the optional deep and mean sounding side exhaust pipes most certainly did. Chevrolet called this option the (N14) "Side Mount Exhaust System" – only 4,206 Corvettes left the factory with this option but many 1967 Corvettes owners installed this exhaust system later so there are many more 1967 Corvettes out there now with side pipes that were not originally ordered from the factory with this option. And who could blame the owners who had the conversion done, words can’t describe how sweat the deep rumble sound this exhaust system resonates (if you don’t believe me here’s a link to hear for yourself). It was by far one of the best options ever offered on a Corvette. It was first introduced in 67corvette-4.jpg1965 and for 1967 it was available on any 327 or 427 equipped Corvette. It made the standard rear exiting dual exhaust system seem like a milquetoast by comparison. When driving a Corvette with the factory side exhaust pipes system the announcement of your arrival always proceeded you by at least a few very long city blocks.

Even if the 1967 Corvette had not been such a hot performer it still would have been a good selling car by its looks alone. This is confirmed by glimpse at the exterior which appeared as if it was going over 100 mph even when it was standing still. Even in its fifth year of production with the same basic body style, the 1967 Corvette’s modern lines were still so far ahead of any other American car. Chevrolet could have probably left this body style intact for at least another five model years and maybe even until the late-1970s before a replacement would have been needed. After-all its replacement the C3 Corvette (1968-1982) lasted fifteen model years with the same body style. However it was customary in this era that body styling had to be changed every two to three years, and Chevrolet probably felt five years was pushing it. The roots of the 1963-1967 Corvette’s styling were derived from Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer. The Stingray Racer was designed by Mitchell and even raced in SCCA-C Class competition. The basic attractive styling curves might have been there but the Stingray body style was far from production car worthy – it was attractive but too bare bones racer in appearance to be a sleek production car. That’s were Larry Shinoda a talented designer working under Mitchell’s direction came into the picture. Shinoda reworked the design and modified it for production. The end result was one of the most beautiful body styles to ever grace a production car. The easy way to determine a 1967 Corvette from other C2 Corvettes are the five functional vertical air vents located on the front quarter panels directly behind both front wheel wells. The rear mounted fix mast 31 inch radio antenna and the single rectangular backup light above the license plate were also new items on 67corvette-6.jpgthe 1967 Corvette. And where the big-block equipped 1965 and 1966 Corvettes had a hood bulge at the center of the hood so the top of the engine air-cleaner could clear when the hood was closed, the big-block 427 equipped 1967 Corvettes all received a very stylish hood air scoop which was accompanied by a large racing hood stripe.

The interior was an interesting mix in the 1967 Corvette, it was modern back when the 1963 Corvette made its debut however by 1967 it looked very dated. The round symmetrical bumps on each side of the front dashboard gave the interior an overall look of a very modern 1950s design rather than a futuristic 1960s design. Basically the interior was an evolution from the C1 Corvette rather than a revolution. The interior was functional with easy to read gauges however due to the extremely narrow section between the center console and the upper dash area the radio had to be mounted vertically instead of the industry standard horizontal position. However everything was functional in the interior and any seasoned driver was pleased when the 1967 Corvette came equipped with the 4-speed manual transmission since it was located conveniently only a few short inches away from the steering wheel. A new standard offering on the 1967 Corvette was a center console emergency brake handle which was a big jump forward from the previous year’s under the dash handle. Getting in and out of the 1967 Corvette was fairly easy even though it was a low car – as a comparison it was much easier than a C4 Corvette. Visibility was also not bad in either the fastback coupe or convertible. The 1967 fastback used a full piece of curved glass for the rear window unlike the 1963 which had the famous split window. The split window 1963 Corvette is much sought after today by collectors especially since it was a one year only. Visually nothing beats the split window, however functionally it provided a massive blind spot.

The 1967 Corvette proved to be a good seller with 22,940 sold (14,436 convertibles and 8,504 coupes). A figure that was just below 1965 and 1966 production figures but slightly better than 1963 and 1964. The base price for the 1967 convertible was $4240.75 and the (fastback) coupe was $4,388.75 – adding some options it was easy getting the price to touch or exceed the $5,000 mark which back in 1967 was a large chunk of change. As a comparison a 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS had a base price of only $2,825.

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Towards the end of the 1967 model year not many were upset that C2 Corvette production was coming to an end, everyone was focused on the debut of the wild and futuristic third generation (C3) Corvette for 1968. The C3 of course would become a big hit for Chevrolet and for a period of time the C2 would be forgotten. However by the late-1970s the C2 especially the 1967 Corvette began to rise in popularity again and has continued to do so to this day. Unfortunately finding a nice conditioned 427 powered 1967 Corvette is out of reach of most buyers with many nice examples now either approaching or over six figures. And even the 327 powered 1967 Corvettes aren’t cheap and considered pricey. Currently the average cost of a 1967 Corvette in decent condition is a little over $50,000. Even so that’s still small potatoes for one of the most beautiful automobiles to ever be produced. At the end of the 1967 model year, most Corvette fans really didn’t realize what they were about to lose. In retrospect 1967 will be remembered as a great year for the Corvette – it was when there was a perfect marriage of beauty and raw performance. I guess the old saying of "you never know what you have got until it’s gone" certainly applies here.
 

Written contents in this article – © 2011 Pete Dunton – All Rights Reserved  

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