In 1960, Corvette production topped the 10,000 mark for the first time. It was now carving out a solid niche in the market and becoming a part of American culture.
In each year between 1960 and 1962, performance and styling enhancements made it more and more appealing to a wide variety of buyers. 1961 was the first year for Corvette trademark quad taillights. In 1962, engine displacement was increased to 327 cu. in. and top horsepower was up to 360.
In 1963, Chevrolet unveiled its all-new Corvette Coupe and Convertible models -- the Sting Rays. This was the first time Corvette was available as a hardtop coupe model as well as the traditional convertible. Both cars featured an all-new body design that was significantly trimmer and more stylish than the previous generation. It was also the first year for concealed headlamps. The chassis was all new as well, including an independent rear suspension.
The 1963 Sting Ray Coupe featured a split rear-window design, but it was replaced with a single-piece rear window in 1964 because owners complained about visibility. Today, a 1963 split-window Coupe is a cherished prize among collectors.
The Sting Rays were the automotive success story of the year. Chevrolet had to add a second shift to its St. Louis, Missouri assembly plant to keep up with demand, and dealers reported owners waiting months for their cars to be built. By the end of the model year, Corvette production would surpass the 20,000-unit milestone.
The Sting Rays continued the Corvette evolution through the mid-1960s. In 1965, the 396-cu.-in. "Big Block" V8 was available in Corvette. It was rated at 425 horsepower. Four-wheel disc brakes were also made standard, although buyers could choose drum brakes as a cost-delete option while supplies of parts lasted.
In 1967, the limited-production L88 Corvette was officially rated at 430 horsepower, although some Corvette historians believe that figure was artificially low. Only 20 of the L88 Corvettes were built.
The all-new 1968 Corvette was dramatically different in appearance from any other Corvette. Bearing a striking resemblance to Chevrolet's "Mako Shark II" concept vehicle, it literally changed the way people looked at cars. Along with its bold new look, the 1968 Corvettes introduced hidden windshield wipers and removable T-Tops on Coupe models. In 1968, Corvette production hit a new record of 28,566. Corvette received its most radical styling change in 1968, and this basic body design would continue to evolve for 15 years.
Part of the RM Auctions event for Ritz-Carlton in March, 2012, Charlie Thomas in October, 2012 and in London, October, 2012.
Sources: Chevrolet press; RM Auctions and Mecum Auctions
Photo Credit: Darin Schnabel and Simon Clay