I am a contrarian. This is, of course, well known hereabouts. Many things that are popular bore me. I, instead, seek out things that are unusual. When I was in high school, an aunt I seldom saw sent me a Christmas gift. I have always loved music and was excited to see that it was a record album. I was fond of my aunt, but wondered if she had any idea about my odd musical tastes that were all about vintage jazz. When I pulled away the wrapping, I could see that I had received one of the most popular albums of the year: Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive!” I appreciated the thought, but I never even listened to it. It’s popularity with everyone else my age was enough to banish it from my collection with no consideration of its possible musical merits. I have no idea what ever happened to it – I think I gave it to a friend.
Corvettes have always occupied a similar role in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I always liked Corvettes up through the end of the C2 era in 1967 – who wouldn’t? But after the new wore off of the C3, it kind of became my automotive Peter Frampton. I could work up some enthusiasm for the early chrome bumper C3s – I could appreciate the clean design and appreciate the level of performance being offered for the buyer who checked the right boxes on the order form. But when the plastic bumpers came along, the Corvette was toast. At least in my mind.
I created a picture in my mind of those who drove these cars – these were the guys with loud leisure suits and gold chains around their necks. Teenaged me had no respect for these people and no respect for these cars. These were what balding, paunchy middle-aged guys drove as a kind of pre-Viagra remedy in a desperate last attempt to live the scene in the brochure artwork. My attitude did not improve as these cars aged. The C3 stayed around far too long and my disdain only grew as my tastes started to come around in line with the European designs favored by the (other) yuppies in my age group.
Perhaps it was these long-lingering prejudices that kept me from writing up this C3 that I found while picking up some groceries one day early in my CC-snapping career. I recognized that the car was significant in how someone had really cared for this one as it aged, which was why I took the pictures on October 10, 2011. Yet, I could never summon the enthusiasm to write about it. I didn’t know much about them, but it was a significant car, so research would be involved. So I took paths of less resistance or more reward and skipped ahead to other cars I found more interesting. Still, I occasionally thought of this one.
In the almost one dozen years that have passed since I snapped these shots, I have mellowed a lot when it comes to the C3. Even the later ones, the products of Detroit’s well-known “malaise” period, now appeal to me as a budget-friendly way to have a fun old car that performs better than most of what was being built then. I would absolutely consider a 1976-78 Corvette if the right one came knocking on my door today.
I believe this particular subject is a 1973, based on the combination of a plastic front bumper and a chrome one out back. If I am right, it is a 1973 on which the owner has taken a couple of liberties. The 1978 gas cap, for one thing. And the taillight lenses. I am not going to put more effort into confirming the year of manufacture, but will instead let the many Corvette fans here set me straight if I have wrongly dated this one.
The L-82 powerplant was a step up from the standard engine, and a slightly juiced 350 (5.7L) V8 would be a fine choice for a lightweight 2-seater. As one in my sixties, I could even be fine with the autotrans as making the car more of an ice cream cruiser than as something for carving curvy country roads.
What causes someone to put aside old prejudices and make friends with a former foe? I have certainly become one of those paunchy older guys, but one who has been married for 33 years and therefore one with no need to pick up girls. I am happy with my life and am not going to let a car get in the way of me enjoying it. So let’s all imagine what owning a car like this could be like.
A trip to the grocery store for a loaf of bread or a carton of ice cream would be a lot more fun than it is at the moment. The car has a fairly small footprint, so garage space would not be a problem. Anyone can fix it and parts simply have to be everywhere – a luxury that Mr. Nonconformist here has not always enjoyed. Nobody can grouse about the basic components – a Chevrolet V8 engine and a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic are low-stress propositions for most any car owner. There is no need to explain to people that these can be satisfactory to own IF you do about three dozen things that only the most anal-retentive car owners practice. I like stupid-simple, and this car is really about as stupid-simple as things get in this day and age.
I don’t care about the specs. I don’t care that it isn’t strictly original. I like the looks, I like the color, and I suspect I would like the way it sits and drives. It may rattle a bit and may be a little on the crude side, but that never stopped me from being a fan of old Mopars.
I am not sure I could commit to a monogamous relationship with this car – more likely, this would be a car to pick up, enjoy for a season or two, then sell to someone else who would appreciate it while I found something else. Then again, maybe it would surprise me. After all, it has kind of done that already in the last fifty years. I guess the only still-open question is whether I should give Peter Frampton another chance too. I may not like it, but at least now the question would be answered on musical merit and not because “everyone” is listening to it. I can follow a herd, but I require a safe following distance. 50 years should be safe enough.