Vintage R&T Road Test: 1969 Corvette 427 435-HP – “More Of A Race Car Than A Road Car”

0-60 in 6.1 seconds? That’s nothing nowadays, when dime-a-dozen electric family haulers will do it in under 4 seconds. And plenty of IC cars too. So yes, things have changed since 1969, when this 435 hp 427 Corvette was “more of a race car than a road car”. But in its day, this was a veritable rocket.

R&T points out that the second year of the C3 got some badly needed improvements, after a rather shaky start, literally. A stiffer frame, for starters, improved ventilation, a larger (350 CID) standard engine, and a few other minor details. The 435 hp version of the 427 CID V8 was the highest rated of the three, above the 390 and 400 hp ones, which had a milder hydraulic cam, among other things. The 400 and 435 hp engines both shared the same triple two-barrel induction system, a format that I was surprised to show up on the 427 as it seemed to have had its day in the sun back in the late 50s and early-mid 60s, before the really big Holley four barrel made it redundant. But here it was again.

The one in R&T’s tester also had the optional aluminum heads, which meant that the big 427 weighed only 60 lbs more than the small block, a meaningful reduction over the front wheels.

The aggressive mechanical lifter cam did not appreciably reduce the flexibility of the 427, pulling strongly from 1000 rpm to its bellowing 6500 rpm redline. According to R&T,”there’s simply no production car available today that can top its acceleration”. Hmm. Well, I seem to remember Hemi B-Bodies doing the quarter in about 13.8 or so, about half a second quicker than the ‘Vette’s 14.3 seconds. But the R&T’s acceleration times almost invariably were slower than some of the other mags, so maybe. Or maybe not. And its trap speed of 98 mph does not sound like peak 1969 muscle car era either.

FWIW, average fuel mileage was…10 mpg. Which means the 20 gallon tank afforded less than 200 miles of range. Range anxiety?

The clutch wasn’t too heavy, and the four speed’s shift linkage was “delightfully light and positive”. The power steering was the best yet from Detroit, but “not up to the standard of a certain imported make” (that would be Mercedes).

The Corvette’s handling was top notch for a front engine car, as long as the road surface was relatively smooth. This was exacerbated by the stiff bias-ply belted wide tires, which provided lots of grip (and very short life), but made for an unpleasant experience when the road became rough or uneven. Radial tires back then had much softer sidewalls, and would not have worked well with the way the Corvette’s suspension was set up. It would take some years and significant suspension re-tuning to make that work, and the radials it eventually came with most likely had stiffer sidewalls.

The four wheel disc brakes in principle were top notch, but due to a less-than ideal rear bias, the tested results weren’t all that great, in terms of maximum deceleration. But the proportioning valve could be adjusted.


The interior was a mixed bag. The huge speedometer and tach directly in front of the driver relegated the other instruments to the periphery. The “improved” ventilation was still quite inadequate. Assembly was actually worse than the ’68 that had been tested.  What else is new?

The bottom line was pretty much the same as for all Corvettes: a lot of bang for the buck; and plenty of bangs and creaks and groans when going over bumps. In this case, the bang was even more than usual.