1968-1982 C3 Chevrolet Corvette Shark: ZL1 Engine, Performance, and Features

Brand Development, Growth & Expansion
The 3rd generation Chevrolet Corvette C3, known as the Shark, was manufactured from 1968 through 1982 as a 2-door coupe or convertible. The C3 also tied in with the Mattel® Hot Wheels custom Corvette toy car. A total of 542,741 Corvette C3′s were manufactured between 1968 and 1982 at the Chevrolet plants in St. Louis, Missouri and the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky.


Design & Technology
As the Corvette matured, slight
styling changes took place throughout the C3 generation along with a
significant power decline; at its lowest in 1975 anticipating catalytic
converters, emissions control, and unleaded fuel. From 1968 to 1982,
the Corvette was offered with a 327 inch small-block V8 with 300 or 350
hp or a 350 inch small-block V8 engine with 165, 180, 185, 190, 195,
200, 205, 210, 220, 225, 230, 249, 250, 255, 270, 300, 330, 350, or 370
hp. In 1968, the Corvette C3 was also sold with a 427 inch big-block V8
engine that made 390 or 400hp and a 427-inch big-block tri-power V8
engine with 435hp.

For one year only in 1969, Chevrolet sold a
427 inch ZL1 aluminum V8 engine with an estimated 550-680 hp. The
Corvette C3 sported a 454 inch big-block V8 engine with 270, 275, 365,
390, or 425 hp. In 1980, Corvette manufactured a “California Only”
305-inch LG4 V8 engine with 180 hp. For the first time, Corvette built
independent rear suspension into its line. The transmission styles
offered included the new 3-speed Turbo Hydra-matic automatic or a
4-speed manual.

Corvette introduced the 2-piece T-tops in 1968.
The 1969 model year was extended to December due to the delay of the
1970 model introduction and was the first year of the 350-inch
small-block engine and the “Stingray” emblem. The Lt-1 small-block
454-inch big block and posi-traction became standard equipment in 1970,
as did a fiber-optic 9-monitored light system that was discontinued two
years later. In 1971, Chevrolet began its transition from SAE Gross to
SAE Net measurement for horsepower. The 1972 Corvette styling included
the deletion of the removable rear window and front chrome bumpers.

Radial
tires became standard equipment on the 1973 Corvette, the only year
with plastic front bumpers (due to government regulations) and chrome
rear bumpers. The 454-inch engine was last installed in the 1974
Corvette, which was entirely chrome-less for the first time. In 1975
catalytic converters were introduced while the Vette came as a
convertible for the last time until 1986. The “Stingray” emblem was
deleted after 1976 and alloy wheels became an option for the first
time. A new interior console was introduced in 1977 as the newly
appointed Chief Engineer became Dave McLellan. The Corvette Silver
Anniversary edition and the Indy 500 Pace Car version were introduced
in 1978 along with the new “fastback” rear end.

The 1979
Corvette displayed new comfort features and saw the highest sales in
its existence. Government regulations forced the 1980 Corvette
speedometer’s reduction to 85 mile per hour. In California, the
Corvette 305-inch V8 engine with automatic transmission became
available and Chevrolet eased the load by using lighter materials while
sculpting a more aerodynamic exterior design. Production began at the
Bowling Green, Kentucky Corvette plant in 1981. 1982 introduced the
cross-fire fuel-injected L83 engine, sans a manual transmission option,
along with the 1982 Corvette Collectors Edition Hatchback.