At first it seemed like the big changes for Corvette in 1961 were the body, particularly at the rear, with a sharp beltline cutoff and near-Kamm-style tail with exhaust tips dropped below the body. With it, Corvette introduced the four-taillight arrangement that established an identifying feature that is still seen on Corvettes nearly five decades later. Up front, the bulky teeth that Corvettes had employed for years disappeared, replaced with a subtle rectangular mesh set deep in the oval opening.
Inside, the Corvette engineering team was hard at work making their car better, faster, and more comfortable. The transmission tunnel was narrowed for more interior room but more importantly, continued development of the 283-cubic-inch Chevy V8 raised output, including a 25-hp increase in the solid-lifter, fuel-injected engine from 290 to 315 horsepower. The 4-speed transmission’s case migrated to lightweight aluminum and the radiator was revised to a cross-flow configuration for better cooling.
The ultimate options for the 1961 Corvette were the solid-lifter 315-horsepower fuel-injected engine with the Big-Brake package (RPO 687), featuring stiff shocks, big brakes with front and rear cooling air scoops and finned drums, wide steel wheels, and a quick-steering adapter. The Big-Brake option could be ordered only with the solid-lifter engines (either with fuel injection or dual with four-barrel carbs) and also required the Positraction rear axle.
Finished in Honduras Maroon with white coves and Fawn Beige vinyl interior, this 1961 Corvette fuelie, owned by noted collector Reggie Jackson, is one of very few 1961 Corvettes ordered with the rare combination of the 283/315 cold air box, fuel-injected engine and RPO 687. Restored some time ago, it also has hard and soft tops and radio and heater delete.
The production numbers tell part of the story. Although there were only 1,462 315-hp fuel-injected cars out of 10,939 Corvettes produced for 1961, the number of RPO 687 cars is even fewer, at just 233. Considering that it cost $333.60 plus the $43.05 for the required Positraction (RPO 675), the paucity of RPO 687 cars is easily understood.
The Reggie Jackson 1961 Big-Brake car is one of very few Corvettes built in the ultimate configuration available to a few performance-oriented buyers. It’s an example of the steady progression of Corvette into a competitive production-racing sports car with factory-developed performance equipment. It was recommended to Reggie Jackson by some of the most informed Corvette authorities, and is a prize of the highest order.