Corvette History Through Ads: Bragging Rights

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Car&Driver has devoted a lot of ink to the Corvette over the years. Their reviews of the car always seemed to be a “love/hate” relationship, frequently criticizing the car for its brakes, build quality and weight but praising its performance. Yet, at the same recognizing that there were no sports cars on the market that could offer as much performance and style per dollar. The year this ad was run the legendary Zora Arkus-Duntov joined the editors of Car&Driver as they put the Corvette through its paces and tested all four of the engines offered in 1971.

Predictably, the editors looked down their nose at the Corvette with the standard ZQ4 engine. The base engine could only manage 270 HP from the 350 cubic inches and the editors were probably correct when they criticized this engine saying it, “does not fall into the performance category.” They were more positive and even relatively complimentary about the solid lifter, 330 HP, LT1 small block engine despite the fact that the compression had “taken a giant step down” for 1971. The editors were pleased that the engine “hasn’t lost the vibrant, high-strung personality that made it famous. It’s eager and it talks to you.”

On the top end two other engines were offered, the LS5, a 365 HP 454 cubic inch engine and the “top dog” LS6, a 425 HP version of the big block. As expected however, Car&Driver’s preference was the powerful LS6, comparing it to the competent LT1 “only bigger.” The 425 HP engine with forged pistons, double-shot-peened connecting rods, and tuftrided crank was Duntov’s favorite and the chief engineer of the Corvette was distraught that the high price of the LS6 option, $1220.70, would prevent too many Corvette enthusiasts from experiencing the engine.

History proved him right, only 188 buyers opted for the LS6 in 1971 while 5067 chose the LS5. The vast majority of Corvette buyers, 14,547, took the standard ZQ4 engine. The editors lavished their praise on the LS6 calling it a “premium quality engine to the very core,” and went on to say “no corners had been cut” building and engineering the engine.

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During their 1971 test, the editors, sometimes criticized for a European car bias, were kinder than was the norm to the Corvette. And maybe it was because they didn’t want to “bite the hand that feeds them” and were starting to figure out what the majority of their readers had already realized having chosen the Corvette the “Best All Around Car” for several years running. But according to Chevrolet’s ad when they stated, “If we said any more, we’d be bragging,” they could have in fact said more. Because according to the 1971 Corvette test article, the editors of C/D said, “Every year for the last five years C/D readers have voted the Corvette as Best All-Around Car in the world, bar none.” So the ad actually could have said more, they could have added another year to the headline. Evidently the Corvette deserved bragging rights!