Here’s an article that caught my sixteen year-old eyes in 1969: an in-depth review of the 435 hp 427 Corvette. And its a good one, as it spends a lot more time analyzing what a Corvette is, and means, beyond the visceral impact of driving just about the fastest production car in the land. And that includes some prognosticating about its inevitable mid-engine replacement.
One of the more revealing statistics about the demographics of Corvette buyers at the time is that “a growing majority of Corvette buyers are under-25 blue-collar types making less than $10,000 ($67k adjusted) per year. Curiously, the next largest segment of buyers is over-50, white-collar men who earn over $15,000 ($102k adjusted) per year. One is tempted to say that these to main demographic segments haven’t changed all that much over the decades.
In case you’re wondering how “under-25 blue-collar types” could afford a Corvette, 1969 was just a couple of years shy of the all-time peak of men’s hourly earnings. And even this top-performance version 435hp Corvette had an as-tested price of $6,573, which is $44,672 adjusted, or the price of pickup today. A 2018 Corvette starts at $55k, but the top performance version, the ZR-1, goes for well over $120k.
This Corvette was a challenge for me at the time. I had been a huge fan of the C2, as well as the ’56-’57, and obviously the ’68 Corvette’s Mako Shark styling made a big impact on me. But I also saw that it was a bit overwrought, and it felt somewhat less the international competitor than the C2. Also, the changing demographics were clearly impacting its image, and I was already aware of that at the time. The Corvette was quite affordable at a time when wages were swelling, whereas in the C2’s era, it was undoubtedly a more exclusive car. I would have loved to give it a whirls, but my interest was clearly turning more to import sports cars.
The Corvette’s image issues have been around for a long time, and may never go away.
The Corvette’s performance, with a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds, and the quarter mile dispatched in 13.8 seconds @ 106.8 mph was very impressive at the time, but obviously times have changed. Those are only just slightly faster than a Camry V6, and about comparable to a Subaru Forester XT I tested some years back. Never mind a Tesla Model S. But in 1969, this was the shits. Well, except of course the even faster L-88 version.
Here’s the best line in the whole article: “The present Corvette will doubtlessly be the last front-engine model. It remains uncertain if the the new rear-engine version will be introduced in 1971 or 1972”. How about 2020? Half a century of waiting for the mid-engine Corvette has certainly provided lots of grist for the automotive press all that time.