The Mako Shark II show car styling forever defined the “Corvette look.” What’s your favorite? Take our poll at the end of this post!
The 1965-1966 Mako Shark-II show car was so over the top, it just had to be the next Corvette! Chevrolet management was so jazzed they wanted it a year! The first Mako Shark-II was a non-running car and was shown to Chevrolet management in Spring of 1965. I guess because the chassis and running gear would be a carry over from the then current Sting Ray, management thought a totally new body and interior could be designed and developed in time for Fall ‘66 delivery to showrooms as a ‘67 model – 18 months? No way!
So the schedule was pushed back a year to Fall ‘67 as a ‘68 model – and even that was pushing it! The end result was that ‘68 models were, shall we say, challenging. Even through everyone’s socks were going up and down over the look of the car, customers were shocked at how rough their premium car was. The new Shark Corvette should have been introduced as a ‘69 model, but hindsight is 20/20. The ‘69 model was a big improvement and things went from there.
Of course, we all tend to think that things will always improve, right? So when the ‘70 Corvettes came out with their LT-1 small-blocks, and enlarged, 454 big-blocks, we all assumed things were going to get even better. But a one-two punch landed squarely on the jaw of performance cars with a right jab from the insurance companies and a left hook from the oil companies and new environmental concerns. While getting the lead out of gasoline was a good thing, it took a long time for performance to recover. 1970 turned out to be the high watermark for performance and it was downhill for almost 15 years.
While the performance party was definitely over in the ‘70s and car makers were dropping their muscle cars like hot potatoes, it turned out to be a good thing for Corvettes. The desire for great handling performance cars didn’t go away, but the choices sure did. By the end of the ‘70s if you wanted a performance car, your choice was a Trans-Am Firebird, a Z-28 Camaro, or a Corvette. Buyers flocked to Corvettes and by 1979 Chevrolet sold a whopping 53,807 Corvettes – the all-time sales record for number of Corvettes sold in one year!
1. 1968 to 1972 – The chrome bumper cars.
2. 1973 to 1977 – The soft bumper cars.
3. 1978 to 1979 – The bubble-back cars.
4. 1980 to 1982 – The shovel-nose cars.
While the soft bumper covers weren’t perfect, when you look at the BIG chrome tail road ties that were put on most Detroit cars in the ‘70s, the Corvette’s bumper covers were way ahead of their time. Optional cast-aluminum wheels finally arrived in ‘76.
1978 was a banner year for three big reasons:
1. The car received a major revision and improvement to its top. The new rear window looked great. It’s too bad that the it wasn’t made into a hatchback until ‘82.
2. The Silver Anniversary paint option was the first “special edition” Corvette.
3. After 25 years, a Corvette FINALLY paced the Indy 500! The Indy 500 Pace Car Corvette caused a totally unexpected speculation fever among collectors and investors. While it was a very nice car, ONLY the dealers that sold their cars at a big markup (some sold for DOUBLE the sticker price) “made money” on the cars. Good condition ‘78 Pace Cars can still be acquired at reasonable prices.
The last few years of the C3, the car sure looked good and was selling like hot cakes, but his a few interesting lows. Like a 40-year old Elvis, the car was getting heavy by ‘79. Chief engineer Dave McLellan didn’t have much of a budget but he did his best to address some issues. By the time the weight issue was addressed, emission restrictions eliminated any kind of optional performance engine for ‘81 and ‘82. And in 1980 California buyers could only get a Corvette with a 305 passenger car engine and an automatic transmission! It was the first and only time that has ever happened to a Corvette.
For its final act, the 1982 went out “In Style” with the Collector Edition Corvette, powered by the first fuel-injection system on a Corvette since 1965 – the Cross Fire Injection system, that kind of made up for the automatic transmission-only setup. This car was a real beauty and can be bought at very resonable prices. The wheels, paint, stripes, and pin stripping were part of the package. And the silver leather interior was very cool. The liftback hatch should have arrived in ‘78.
It was an interesting generation. Certainly in the Fall of ‘67 as the first Shark ‘68 Corvettes were arriving in Chevrolet showrooms, no imagined the shape would have a 15-year run, with a chassis designed in 1960! The comedian Gallagher used to have a routine about how Americans have, “S t y l e……” The Mako Shark-II defined THE basic “style” of America’s sports car.
So, what do you think? What’s your favorite C3 Corvette? Cast your vote then click the “show results” link. If you stop back later, click the “show results” link to update the poll. Enjoy! – Scott
PS – C3 1968 to 1982 Corvette art prints are available HERE.
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