The C3 arrived in 1968, sporting the Corvette’s first major restyling since ’63. Obviously based on the Mako Shark II show car, the new ’Vette had an aero front end with hidden headlights and disappearing wipers. Except for fender air vents and chrome on the rocker panels, the undulating body sides were plain. The blunt, Kammback rear deck had four round taillights. A “tunnel roof” coupe with a removable back window and optional T-top replaced the Sting Ray fastback. The Shark convertible’s optional hard top had a glass rear window.
The ’68 Corvette’s 427 big-block engine came in four versions up to the L88 aluminum-head V8 (See Winter 2008, “C3 Profile,” p. 36). Thought to be the “ultimate big-block” at the time, it cost $947 and was installed primarily in racing cars. It had a 12.50:1 compression ratio, mechanical valve lifters, a special ultra-high-performance cam, and a single Holley 850-cfm four-barrel carburetor. With a 3.36:1 rear axle, the L88 convertible did the quarter mile in 13.56 seconds at 111.10 mph.
Racing was a big part of the C3 story. John Greenwood, Allen Barker, Don Yenko, Hal Sharp, and Tony DeLorenzo were some of the winning drivers. Even actor James Garner and comedian Dick Smothers tore up racetracks in their cars. The Corvette won twelve Sports Car Club of America national titles and was the favorite car in Car and Driver’s Reader Poll four years in a row.
As a new decade began, the focus on racing grew even stronger. A 454-ci big-block V8 replaced the 427 in 1970. For small-block racing classes, an awesome new ZR1 option was released. This special racing package included Chevrolet’s LT-1—a solid-lifter 350—as well as the M22 heavy-duty 4-speed transmission, a dual-plate clutch, J50/J56 dual-pin brakes with heavy-duty front pads and power assist, a special aluminum radiator, and a revised F41 heavy-duty suspension.