I was at a car show last summer when I photographed the Corvette above with an unusual six tail light configuration. Now ordinarily I’m not a big fan of “modding” old cars (I only reluctantly upgraded the A/C on my Mark III to R-134a, and I refuse to install electronic ignition because I apparently like the stalling and hesitation that comes along with points and condensers). But something about this modification looks “right.”
When I asked the owner about it, he referred to it as a “California Conversion,” describing it as a popular period modification that supposedly originated in that state. After doing a little research, I’m not entirely sure about that story. But no matter what it is called or where it started, the six lamp Corvette is an interesting look with an equally interesting history behind it.
But first a little ancient history in the use of tail lights, brake lights, and backup lights to create and reinforce a perceived vehicular hierarchy.
In the beginning, all Chevrolets had the exact same number of tail lights: Two (one on each side). In 1958, this changed when Chevrolet introduced new tail light assemblies sporting two round lenses on each side for the Bel Air, Biscayne, and Delrey series.
But as if this weren’t enough, the new-for-1958 range-topping Impala added a backup light between the two brake lights on each side, for a total of six bulbs and lenses. Instantly, a visual shorthand was created to differentiate the more expensive Impalas from the lesser Chevrolet models.
The true genius of four-light/six-light hierarchy was in its simplicity. For the minuscule cost of a few extra bulbs, sockets, and lenses, Chevrolet was able to create a huge amount of perceived value. The four-lamp/six-lamp pecking order is so simple that even a child can pick it up.
So brilliant was this scheme that it seems surprising that Chevrolet walked away from it the following year, when Chevrolet made a switch to the odd segmented “cat eye” tail lights on the “bat wing” 1959 models.
Chevrolet must have realized what a mistake they made, as this change would prove to be short-lived. In 1960, Chevrolet would correct this error with the reintroduction of the round tail lights (and its associated four-lamp/six-lamp hierarchy) that remained a Chevrolet staple for decades to come.
Against this backdrop, the Corvette, arguably Chevrolet’s most prestigious model, continued to sport single tail lights (one per side) until 1961. And when the Corvette was finally bestowed with multiple tail lamps, it was the four-lamp setup like you would see on the cheapest Biscayne, and not the six-lamp arrangement that had already come to demarcate the top-end Chevies. Was everything people thought they knew about the Chevy tail light pecking order wrong?
Apparently, not even Chevrolet could agree on how many tail lights a Corvette was supposed to have, because some of the earliest concept Corvettes sport six tail lights, starting with the 1959 Sting Ray Racer (pictured above). This concept presaged the “duck tail” rear end that would eventually appear on the 1961 Corvette, albeit with six lights rather than the four on the production model. It is unclear why the two extra bulbs go lost on the way to production. I find it hard to believe that it was cost-related.
By 1964, Chevrolet was working on a mid-cycle refresh of the C2 Corvette for the 1966 model year. The clay model above shows two different tail light treatments they were considering, one with a three-lamp arrangement of the 1963 setup on the left, and the traditional two-lamp setup moved up into the body crease on the right. As we all now know, the C2 mid-cycle refresh, with its updated front and rear ends, never came to pass.
While the six-lamp tail was never offered to the public directly, there is evidence that Chevrolet did occasionally build some custom C2 Corvettes with six tail lamps for internal consumption. The 1964 Corvette pictured above was made custom-made for Florence Knudson, wife of Chevrolet General Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen. Everything you see, including the six tail lights, 1965-style fender vents, and custom pink and cranberry interior is as produced at the factory in St. Louis. Such are the perks of being the wife of the General Manager.
It also appears that Chevrolet occasionally produced six tail-lamp Corvettes for some top-level salespeople and dealerships. Like much of Corvette lore, a lot of these stories are anecdotal and hard to prove. However, 67fso.com contains the story of a factory custom 1967 Corvette produced for Bob Wingate, a salesperson who sold 160+ Corvettes in a single year, along with extensive documentation convincingly proving that this is a true factory custom.
What if you wanted a six-tail light Corvette, but we’re not connected enough to get a factory custom Corvette? Well, this is America: If Chevrolet won’t give you the correct number of tail lights on your Corvette, you can just do it yourself. Magazine articles, like the one pictured above, began appearing in various DIY and hot-rodding publications. All you needed was an extra set of tail lights from the parts counter of your local dealer, a hole saw, and nerves of steel. Extra points if you cut out openings for the exhaust under the bumper.
For some, even six tail lamps weren’t enough. So for the man who has everything, may I present the eight-tail light mod. The eight-tail lamp mod is nowhere near as popular as its six-lamp sibling, for obvious reasons.
Despite never being (officially) offered to the public from the factory, the six-tail light Corvette quickly became part of the zeitgeist in the mid ’60s. There is even a reference to it in the song Dead Man’s Curve by Jan and Dean, about an epic race between a Corvette and a Jaguar XKE:
I flew past La Brea, Schwab’s and Crescent Heights
And all the Jag could see were my six taillights
Then, as quickly as it burst upon the scene, the six (and eight) tail lamp mod was gone. As near as I can tell, Chevrolet never entertained using six tail lights on the third-generation Corvette, not even in concept form. The larger lamps employed by the C3, combined with the smaller tail panel, left no room for DIY-ers to install an extra set of lights. Plus, the introduction of the Camaro solidified the use of four tail lights on performance Chevrolets, so maybe people no longer felt that the Corvette was lacking in the tail light department.
For whatever reason, by the end of the ’60s the six (and eight) tail lamp Corvettes were gone. Little wonder that unless you were alive at the time, you may never have seen one before (like myself).
Lovely piece of informed arcana. Our own HQ Monaro was mooted with six tail lights before settling on four.
I remember quite a few 6 light conversions back in the day.
Same here. Always looked better than four, and fitted perfectly.
This is what they look like on, including reversing lights! No excuse for not seeing something (tall) behind you at night.
Hmm, the photo didn’t load up?
I always wondered what the story was behind those 6-taillight Vettes. I’ve only seen them out in the wild a handful of times.Thanks for an interesting read!
I always thought it would be a neat trick to do the three light conversion, making the outside lamps dedicated turn signals ( white backup lenses with amber bulbs inside ) , the center ones being the reverse lights, and the inboard being the stop / tail.
I like that idea too, but I’d put stop/tail on the outsides (where they can define the width of the car at night), reverse inboard and turn in between. Amber-lensed Chevy taillights (similar to the Holden ones pictured above) were made for export.
The only good lights are more lights.
On a related matter I’d be delighted to see triple tail lights on a Mustang that isn’t completely banged up. For some reason this is the only photo I can find of it. Custom builders always go for the Shelby lights.
Well, SALEEN went in the opposite direction and REDUCED the number of taillights on the early S197 Mustangs, albeit with only a blank-out panel….
Fine. Now make those sequential!
I own a 66 k code coupe that also has extra tail lights. Tail light panel is stamped and not cut. Not sure if ford ever did this factory. Do you have any info of this?
Tom, your statement about the small cost of a few more lights adding tremendous value had me examining the ’58 Chevys further. I may be wrong, but it looks like they used different rear quarter panels, trunk lid, and filler panels between the two.
It looks like the impala is a hardtop with that vent on the top of the roof ,and the low line cars are post cars . If I rember correctly some 67-68 mustangs had an extra tail light added in
KevinB, I agree. I did the same thing this morning looking at the two photos and only noticed today how expensive that third light on each side of the 1958 Chevrolet probably was. And this from a person (well, kid) who studied car designs of the 1950s to an obsessive level.
Interesting write up and a fun read. The duck tailed Corvettes have always been my favorite aspect of those early designs, along with the T shifter reverse lockout on the 4 speeds.
Agreed. There is simply no room for a third on the basic Chevrolet, so the rear had to be reworked.
I’m not a manufacturing expert (it would be helpful for one to weigh in). There do appear to be subtle differences between the 1958 Impala body and those of the lesser 1958’s. However, I find it difficult to believe that they would have two sets of tooling for the 1958 Chevrolets for cost reasons alone.
I’m guessing that they used the same basic stampings and then modified the panels after stamping (for the extra vents and whatnot).
I believe only the front clip and doors are common between the Bel Air and Impala 2-door hardtops. The Impala roof, rear quarters and trunk lid are all unique pieces.
I believe I read it in On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors – that back then only Chevrolet and Cadillac would get two sets of stamping dies during a model run. Cadillac to keep tight tolerances and Chevy because they would wear them out from the volume. So perhaps the two versions of the rear sheet metal might have made more sense from a manufacturing standpoint than we might first think.
This unique Impala rear end was hardly unusual in GM. Cadillac had short and long deck versions of its cars for a number of years, and Buick had an extended deck on the Roadmaster.
Realistically, with a body on frame, it’s not that hard to make a different rear end. Front ends are more complicated to differentiate.
We’ve looked at the various rear ends that Pontiac had, for their extended wheelbase cars, and the shortened version for their Canadian cars. It was always in the rear.
The additional cost of a separate set of dies for the Impala was just a rounding error to GM at the time. When you are doing a million units a year, give or take, not only will the dies wear out before the model year is done they aren’t going to be able to keep all the lines moving supplying them from a single press. Since this was before CNC milling dies were hand made at the time. So the cost of ordering 2 variations was not really more expensive than ordering 2 of the same. The only real cost was having the designers draw up the 2nd design.
No need to just “believe”; it’s absolute fact: the ’58 Impala had a unique body from the front windshield and doors back. Roof, and all rear body stampings were just for it. Undoubtedly some inner panels were shared, but not external. The rear is obvious: the Impala’s trunk is narrower to accommodate the deeper intrusion from the tail lights and that sweep from the fender.
Yeah I’m surprised to see debate about it. The bumper is the same(I’m fairly certain), and if you look at the body sculpting/trim between the Biscayne and Impala in relation to the recessed plate area of the bumper, the sculpting is clearly pulled further inward on the Impala
Also, the Impala shared its unique body largely with the ’58 Bonneville.
According to Collectible Automobile, Chevy did exactly that – used different tooling for the rear sheetmetal and fenders of the Impala as opposed to the lower-line models.
I’m wondering where non-Impalas put the reversing lights, if they were ordered.
They occupied the holes for the inner pair of taillights.
You’ve got it right so far. But there’s more. Listen to the lyrics of Jan & Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve” sometime. That famous line comes in two versions: “All the Jag could see were my six taillights.” or “All the Jag could see were my Frenched taillights.”
I’ve always found it interesting that two versions were released, obviously someone in the recording process couldn’t decide which take they liked better.
One of the early Beach Boys songs (can’t remember its name) was themed around school life, and apparently they recorded multiple versions to accommodate the names of various schools or states (again can’t remember which).
I think that you are referring to “High School USA” by Tommy Facenda:
Right, diskojoe, it sounds as though Don may thinking of 1959’s “High School USA.” I have the “National Version,” and almost all of the 28 local and regional versions. Each version had a separate catalog number, and Billboard combined the sales for all of them to determine the song’s position on its chart.
But the confusion might be caused to the The Beach Boys’ release of the similarly-themed “Be True to Your School.” That track was released in at least two versions, one of which had “cheerleaders” chanting in the background. An interesting bit of trivia: The “cheerleaders” were actually a group known The Honeys, which included Marilyn Rovell (later Brian Wilson’s wife, and mother to solo artists Carney and Wendy), her sister, and her cousin.
And to bring things back full circle, The Honeys backed Jan and Dean on at least one version of “Dead Man’s Curve!”
EDIT: Looks like la673 beat me to it regarding The Honeys (see below).
Thank you Wikipedia! There were three versions of the song recorded. Versions 1 and 3 (original off the 63 Drag City album and a rejected studio take off the 66 Filet of Soul album) said “Frenched tail lights”. The 64 hit version (45 single) was “six tail lights”.
Which is what probably introduced the California custom style to a whole lot of Midwest and East Coast car crazy kids. I can remember that’s the first I heard of it, and the “wrong” amount of taillights popped up on my radar from the first time I heard it. Yes, while pop music ran in the background for me in those early teen years, the cars songs were listened to intently. Mainly I was listening for mistakes. Which happened very rarely.
Perhaps you don’t listen to country, but the Brooks and Dunn song “Red Dirt Road” has my #1 wrong car lyric. The singer sings about his “Shackled Up GTO”. Perhaps he meant “Jacked Up GTO”, as many of these were raised up in the rear, but shackled up would confer that the car was being restrained, sort of like being handcuffed. To me, it is kind of insulting to mention the car and condition as a means of endearing oneself to one’s perceived audience and still getting it totally wrong!
Shackles attach the leaf spring to the frame, and can be replaced with ones that add lift. That’s likely what the lyric is referring to. Im not familiar with the song however, I’m a Waylon/Willy/Hank man myself.
Although shackles are not of much use on a car with rear coil springs. 🙂
That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of that. Unless they were singing about a 74 GTO, I guess shackles for lift would be pretty useless !
I always thought it meant the hillbilly rear end jacking up of the leaf springs with longer $6 Pep Boys shackles made of old beer cans…..
GTO had a 4 link coil spring rear end from 64-73, 74 went to the X body platform and used a leaf spring rear.
Was it “Be True To Your School” Don?
That sounds like the one chris.
I’m a serious Beach Boys fan and am only familiar with two versions of the song – the album version (from the Little Deuce Coupe LP) and the single version. The latter version did feature various cheerleader chants (by The Honeys, an all-female group that included Brian Wilson’s then-girlfriend), but all the references are to the Hawthorne High School fight song, where most of the Beach Boys attended. There may have been some custom versions made by radio stations featuring other locations, but they weren’t authorized by the band.
It was a common practice in the 1960s to have different versions of the same song, often album mix vs. single mix, mono mix vs. stereo mix, or UK mix vs. US mix. Sometimes these are entirely different recordings rather than just different mixes of the same recording, as with “Be True to Your School”.
I thought Be True to Your School used a few bars from the University of Wisconsin’s fight song.
It sort of does – the Hawthorne High fight song uses the UW song’s (“On, Wisconsin”) melody with new lyrics.
Yep, I’m a bit hazy on their earlier stuff so thanks for the clarity
Can’t get enough of the Pet Sounds to Surf’s Up period. Dennis’ solo album has some gems as well.
I caught Brian Wilson doing Smile live with the Wondermints backing him – sublime performance even though it was disconcerting to see Brian’s occasional moments of space-cadet-ness. Had tickets the year before for the Pet Sounds tour but missed it due to work. Won’t ever get that opportunity back.
That’s exactly the tour I caught too! (Warner Theatre in DC). I also missed the recent one, not because of work conflicts but just wasn’t feeling well at the time. Pity.
I love that run of albums too, though for me it starts about two years earlier. Side two of The Beach Boys Today (from 1965) is every bit as great as the more-lauded Pet Sounds, for instance.
My 1963 Corvette convertible was modified in this fashion by its prior owner, but the third lights are backup lights. Corvettes with factory backup lights had one red tail light and one white backup light per side. Mine has two red, one white per side.
If it ever goes full-restoration, which is unlikely, it will probably lose the backup lights.
Yes, it is a lifelong California car.
It’s not at all surprising the ’59 Chevy abandoned the four/six light setup introduced just the year before – the annual styling cycle meant that by the time the public had a chance to see the new models the following year’s were already set in stone.
The same thing happened with Pontiac’s split grille – introduced for ’59 and immediately popular, dropped without trace for 1960, brought back for ’61 and remained a key design cue for the rest of the division’s history.
Yes, styling changes were/are “set in stone” longer than some think. So many articles online assume annual changes were ordered over the summer before new cars came out in the fall.
Indeed, it sometimes took a crash program to get something that was a hit back for the *following* year. From what I can tell the ’60 standard Chevy had a separate insert around the taillights even on the base Biscayne so the round taillights may indeed have been a last-minute change.
Buick used the same concept for their ventiports…”senior” Buicks had 4 openings, “juniors” had 3….This continued into the early eighties with LeSabres having 3 and Electras having 4
The 3 vs 4 ventiport thing was brought back for the Lucerne, an often overlooked Buick that in some ways is more attractive now than it was when new. The 3.8 V6 got three ventiports per side while the Northstar V8 got four. I’m not sure what happened when it got the 3.9 V6 late in its life.
I think the Lucerne may have been the last Buick to come with a Buick engine.
Wow, somehow I had never known about this Corvette modification. The C2 doesn’t look bad at all with the two extras, and I am not usually one who likes mods like this.
And for the first time today I noticed something interesting. I am still obsessing a bit over the oddball 1961 Mopars and saw something in the rear of that 58 Chevy that I had never noticed before now.
I liked GN’s comparison the other day between the ’61 Plymouth and the Lexus RC Spindle-mouth…
Saw a new Lexus yesterday, and immediately thought ’61 Plymouth!
And the same styling element used in the back of the ’58 Impala and front of the ’61 Plymouth was used on the front fender of the ’63 Valiant. (It was toned down and eventually dropped altogether before this generation was done with).
That was my first thought as well.. I suppose they had to find inspiration SOMEWHERE, although I never would have expected the 1961 Plymouth would ever be a candidate. It was truly bizarre looking, then and now.
Oh yes; the ’58 Impala rear end recycled at Chrysler. I was brought up in the comments to L.Jones’ ’61 Plymouth CC.
What has been seen cannot be unseen… O_o
Now all we need is for some custom builder to put a ’61 Plymouth front on a ’58 Chevy.
“Now all we need is for some custom builder to put a ’61 Plymouth front on a ’58 Chevy.”
Perish the thought!
Parabolic shapes and outlines were everywhere in the late 1950s and early 1960s; evocative of the Space Age because early space flights were suborbital and the rocket flight path was a parabola.
This was found in auto design, furniture, lighting, appliance design and architecture of the era, flamboyant and exuberant, it reflected the optimism of the post-war / Kennedy era.
“This was found in auto design, furniture, lighting, appliance design and architecture of the era, flamboyant and exuberant…”
I believe you’re describing the transition from “Art Deco” to “Mid-Century Moderne”, then on to “Space Age” designs. As far as I know…
Nice write-up Tom, and I too like this subtle mod to a late C1 and C2 Corvette.
I’ve always loved the Chevy Taillight discussion, ever since I was a little kid. The Impalas were my earliest memory of being able to correctly identify the year of a car, having been taught the differences between the Chevys by my father. He had a ’56, ’66 & ’68 (and a ’77 Nova Concourse, if you want to go with a nice application of the 4 vs 6 thing).
What always confused me was the 1967 Full Sizer. While the Caprice (all red and 3 on each side), and Impala (the normal red-white-red arrangement), and even the Biscayne fell into place with only 2 lights on each side; What was up with the Bel Air? It had the same arrangement as the Impala.
Everything was back to normal in 1968, so I chalk it up to an anomaly like the 1959…
Well, normal until 2000 when they missed an opportunity to get it right on the 8th Gen Impala. That had 4 taillights making me think that GM somehow miss counted on the early W-Body Impala.
Wow, I had never noticed that the 67 Bel Air had six taillights! And like you, Chevys were one of the first and easiest cars to ID by year. The 67s were all over when I was a kid so I am surprised I never noticed this. The Biscayne treatment looks awful on these.
Chevy’s tail treatments were my first car ‘obsession’ and first time I learned of model years and trims.
I agree it was odd for the ’67 Bel Air to get “Impala lights”, but not Biscayne. Also, for ’72, the lights for all trims [and last Biscayne] were 3 segments, then back to 2 for Bel Air for its final 3 years [USA].
Probably depended on who was in charge at the time? Workers were moving up the GM Corp ladder a lot.
When the 2000 Impala came out, yeah, the rear looked like a ’62 Bel Air, but Chevy said the lights were “Corvette inspired”.
Back in the day, GM could afford all the extra tooling costs for differing style treatments. Now, unthinkable.
I always thought that Chevy missed the boat when they resurrected the Impala in 2000 with 4 tail lights. Everybody knows that an Impala has 6 tail lights!
It’s because down inside the designers knew that reskinned Lumina wasn’t a real Impala anyway
Weren’t there also certain years when full-size station wagons followed the 2-taillight/3-taillight convention, and certain years when they didn’t?
Yes, many of the years they flip-flopped on this. 1963 and 1965 (as well as many others DID have the 3 light / 2 light (Impala / Bel Air) thing going.
And then there was the 1964. You only got 1 taillight on each side. Boring!
Later Kingswoods like from the 70(s) and such appear to have only one light on each side, but they look segmented into 3 by some trim. I don’t know the wagons all that well, but 1971 to 73 comes to mind.
Upon Further Review… the 74-76 looks like it was segmented into 4 sections on each side. Ok, THAT’s weird.
Thanks for that reminder. I had forgotten that the ’72 Chevys all had the three segment lights on each side, no matter the trim. It was also getting increasingly difficult to tell a Caprice from an Impala by then.
By the second generation W-Body (9th gen Impala: 2006 – 2013), the taillights were looking boring like what everyone else was offering up at the time.
And while I like the new 10th generation Impala, the one thing I don’t like about that car is the back of it; The back of the car looks like the designers just phoned it in, especially those taillights.
I never knew the Biscayne had only 2! I thought 67 was a 59 like anomaly with the same taillights across the board.
Having obsessed about all things 1967 full-size Chevrolet since 1967 (notice my avatar), I would have sworn that the Bel-Air used a two light arrangement like the Biscayne.
The only problem is, I can only find one image of the Bel-Air with a two light arrangement – the early ’67 full-size brochure. Any internet image of an actual Bel-Air appears to have the Impala six light lens set up.
In the brochure, the Bel-Air is shown with two red lenses, and the Biscayne is shown with a red outboard lens and a white inboard lens.
Apparently back-up lights became standard in 1966, so the idea that some cars might not even offer them for 1967 is a non-starter.
So, here is the 1967 nerd theory on these lights; The Caprice offered three lighted red lenses by moving the backup lights into Caprice specific bumper ends with a mildly altered wiring set up. The rest of the big Chevys made do with back-up lights in the above bumper light bezel.
Somebody in early marketing must have been promoting that each of the four model nameplates have bespoke rear lighting, not realizing the Bel-Air would have to use something like the Caprice solution to back-up lights.
Somebody decided this was not going to happen, and the solution was that the Impala and Bel-Air shared rear lights. There was generally precious little to differentiate the Bel-Air and Biscayne, so apparently this solution won the coin toss to upgrade the Bel-Air over the Biscayne.
The elusive two light 1967 Bel-Air…….
There are several anomalies in the early ’67 brochure, and my picture from the brochure seems to exhibit a second one – the proportions of this two door sedan look wrong. It appears to be a four door sedan that underwent some air brushing.
We had a 67 Chevy Bel Air 2-door sedan as the family car back in the day, so it was a delight knowing it had the same 3-light setup as the Impala. And yes the photos of the Bel Air in that brochure (showing only that one light green car with the “happy traveling salesman” driver) was obviously a 4-door sedan with the rear doors airbrushed out. The B-pillar is too far forward and the rear side window is too large for the the 2-door.
This bugged me so much that for my own digital brochure collection I corrected it.
Good job! As Chevy would say in their ads a decade later, “That’s more like it!” Now you have the only known photos in existence that show a proper Bel Air 2-door sedan with the Biscayne taillights.
With Caprice added, Chevy had too many trim lines for a few years. Bel Air and Biscayne overlapped. Even when I was 10, I thought why do they still have both? One for cheap/fleet is enough.
The production Corvette ended up with four taillights because that’s what its designer, Bill Mitchell, thought looked best. Certainly not because of the cost.
Mitchell reserved the Corvette’s styling very much for himself; he was more directly involved with it than any other GM car. The Sting Ray prototype may have had six lights, but obviously he thought that wasn’t right for the production car. And I agree; six is too many for that smaller, narrower rear end.
I’ve never been a fan of the six light conversion, in part because to do it right would require the spacing between all of them to be somewhat less.
I would bet that Bill wasn’t any too wild about the Knudsen custom 6 light ‘Vette, or the others that might have been customized at the factory.
Thank you for another interesting and informative article. Tail light configuration and its relationship to perceived status is a subject that has never crossed my mind, so I appreciate that you got my brain thinking in a new direction.
I normally refrain from pointing out typos, but Mr. Knudsen’s first name is misspelled in one of your captions.
What’s interesting is how well these six tallight conversions look to have been done. It seems like it would have been very easy to screw this up by either getting the spacing wrong or cutting too large a hole so there’s slight gap somewhere around the trim ring. While it looks okay when done properly, the possibility of an irreversible error would have kept me from attempting it.
Did anyone else notice that the Corvette on the instruction sheet has quad tailpipes, too? That’s the first time I’ve seen that on a C2.
Boat builder here. Putting round lights in wood trim I cut the hole a bit small with a hole saw and finish with a small barrel sander, leaning more on one side of the hole as needed to get it located perfectly.
The stakes can be high though. One of my co-workers ruined a part and it cost $20,000 to fix. Ouch! He’s a good carpenter though, and still on the job.
Oh, yeah, it would certainly be possible to get the new holes just right. But as with anything done by hand, there are lots of opportunities for screw-ups, and I dare say that many of the C2 DIYers lacked the necessary skill, proficiency, and/or equipment. I sure wouldn’t try hacking into a Corvette body for a modification of dubious benefit. The example of a $20k screw-up would seem to be amble evidence of that and, I dare say, far from the only one.
No mention of the 61 Mako Shark?
Also occurred to me the 69 Camaro was the anomaly in the bunch, 67-68 and 70-73 used four, but 69 used 6, with reverse in the center
“Lovely piece of informed arcana.”
^^^Don A. hit the nail on the head with his opening post. I’m not much of a Chevy/Corvette guy, but learned plenty and smiled the whole time. I guess the fiberglass could always be repaired, but I don’t think I’d have the nerve to make the cuts myself.
1958 Impala (unique body parts): obvious to me now, but I never gave it a moment’s thought before—just as I never noticed the shared GM rooflines of the period before I started reading CC.
Thank you, Tom Halter—-a pleasure to read!
This brings back memories. For a few years in the mid-1970s, the college in my hometown played host to a Corvette show for one week in the summer. At least one Corvette of this generation on display featured the six taillights.
If I were lucky enough to own a C2 I’d take a hole saw to it without hesitation, 6 taillights look fantastic on them.
I seem to remember this being a common custom touch on C2 Corvettes in the 70’s before they became big buck collector cars.
Regarding the 2000-05 FWD Impala rears, some writers disliked the tails, calling them “donuts” or “Cheerios”. But better then the plain 2006-16 era.
There were two variations as I recall, one had a dark red panel surrounding the actual round taillights, and another where the dark red area was body colored. I think the body colored ones amplified the donut/cheerio effect, especially on lighter colors like the all too common silver of the era.
I agree, I can’t stand the generic triangles on the 06-16.
Chevy could never make up it’s mind. The Monte on the left is a 1978, while the one on the right is a ’79
I never thought either of those taillights looked right on either a Chevy or a Monte Carlo in particular since they usually had vertical taillamps with a style distinct from those used on other Chevrolets – odd, since the rest of the ’78-’80 car was unmistakably Monte Carlo. The ’81 facelift returned to the classic Monte Carlo taillight look.
I do know that the 1980-85 Chevrolet Caprice has three red tail lights on each side with the back-up lights next to the license plate whereas the Impala tail lights were rectangular with back-up lights in the middle.
In looking at the 1961 and 1968 cars, it appears there was some sort of disconnect as to what Corvette stylists were planning to do with the taillights on the C2. They started out with a four tail light treatment to mimic the last C1, but then set them more further outboard, rather than centered above the bumper like the previous model, intentionally leaving space for the additional light.
So, they might have intended at some point to add the third light on each side, but somewhere down the line, when the styling for the C3 was being finalized and it was determined they were going to (permanently) stick with just four taillights, the extra taillight treatment was completely abandoned.
I am shocked! All these years I have not paid that much attention to Sting Rays. I just figured six taillights because of Jan and Dean:
Song still makes the hair stand up on back of my head
There are some 6-taillight Corvairs out there too. (couldn’t find a first-gen ‘Vair with 6 lights though).
That’s intriguing. I wonder if anyone did them Impala-style with the back-up lights in the middle.
This is the only other one I could find, which doesn’t look like it has backup lights at all, athough the person who posted the picture was impressed that the added lights were raised from the surface in the same way as the existing ones, something that likely required grafting on a section of sheet metal from a replacement panel or a parts car.
I think the first-gen Corvair better lends itself to the six-taillight treatment.
One more bit of trivia that many of you may be able to correct if my memory is faulty: On the 58 Impala, I recall that only the outboard lights served as combined brake/tail/turn signals; the inboard lights were tail only. For 60 and later, this was changed so that both the outermost and innermost lights combined all 3 functions.
What is also odd is the Luminas had 3 segment lights, but the W body Impala had 2.
At least the 94-96 Impala SS had 3.
Don’t forget the 58 Chevy wagon with its single round taillight on each side, in order to have a decently sized tailgate.
The ’58 styling doesn’t work on the wagon very well. What a letdown from the awesome ’55-’57 Nomads.
My husband had a 1967 Corvette 327 and always remarked he hadn’t seen another with three tail lights, watched Haggarty’s auction hoping to see another, never did. I wish I had checked the internet earlier. I think it came Number One in our family.
We didn’t get many American cars in the UK, but fortunately for me and my friend Ric who just loved them, we had a US base a few miles away. When the servicemen weren’t selling us dex they’d occasionally sell us a car. The first was a Buick Skylark. We took great pleasure in upstaging Ric’s girlfriend’s father who ran a Rover dealership. He proudly turned up in the new V8 and was mortified when we showed him the same engine in our Buick.
Anyway to get to the point, the next car we acquired was a ’65 T-bird convertible. A subtle little number, ideal for a home counties village. We’d cruise for chics through the Oxford colleges. I’m sure it was six tail lights with sequential indicators that led to our success.
I’m still looking for any photo,s of any 1978
vets whit 3+3 rear lights??.
This was my Dad’s car. I always heard it referred to as a 61 hard-top vette. It has the 3 tail lights on each side. Can anyone confirm the year and model looking at it? Or anything else of note. Thanks
I always thought this generation of Dodge Dart could have used an extra tail light. Here’s my Photoshop effort: