A Very General Summery of Corvettes up to the C4. (by Randy)
The 1953-82 is generally pretty easy to decide the year and most people can narrow it down to a few years…
However- There are a few years that can be tough to decide the year. The thing that you have to keep in mind is A LOT of Corvettes are changed from stock by the owner's and a lot of the year markers and emblems are gone or changed to suit the owner.
In Very General Corvette Terms:
The 1953-55 basically look alike. If you see one of these year Corvettes chances are that it will probably be a 1954. There were 300 1953 Corvettes built and about 220 are currently accounted for. There were 700 1955 Corvettes produced. The 55 was the first year for the V-8 265 and the side emblem has a big “V” in “CheVrolet”. All but seven 1955 Corvettes are V-8 265 cid. (So there is your Corvette quest- find one of the seven 1955 Corvettes with a straight six-cylinder!) There were 3,640 1954 Corvettes produced.
It was/is very common for the 1953-55 Corvette taillight housings to crack or even break off. The 1956-60 Corvette taillight housings were recessed.
The single-headlight 1956 & 57 are identical cars, but the 57 was the first year for the 4-speed, fuel injection and the 283.
The quad-headlight 1958- 60 look pretty much the same, but the 58 has a fake louvered "washboard" hood and two chrome spears on the trunk. A lot of 58 owners removed the hood and the chrome spears to make the car look more like a 60 which was a much more desirable year to have back in the day. The lines in the seats of the 58 & 60 run in the same vertical direction, but the 59 run side-to-side. The 59 & 60 look pretty much the same and I always look at the seats to decide what year the car is.
The quad-headlight and boat-tail 1961 & 62 look a lot alike but the 61 has chrome all the way around the side coves with three chrome spears in the side coves- and the 62 has just molded side cove outlines in the fiberglass. The 61 has chrome headlight rings and most 62's have painted headlight rings. In short-the 62 has very little chrome on the side coves and painted headlight rings---However---A LOT of 62 owners’ install chrome headlight rings. The 62 is the first year for the 327 in a Corvette.
ALL 1953- 62 Corvettes are convertible cars with a solid rear axle and are called C1. No 1953-55 could be ordered with a hardtop, but aftermarket ones were available. The 1956-60 hardtops would fit each year between 1956-60, but the 61 & 62 hardtop would only fit the 61 & 62 due to the boat-tail body line in the center of the rear of the car.
The 1963-1982 Corvettes have independent rear suspension and have basically the same ladder-type frame. In fact, a 1982 Corvette body would fit a 1963 frame with very little effort. However, installing a 1963 body on a 1982 frame would take some modifications, because of the extra supports and gussets installed on later year Corvette frames.
The 1963- 67 is basically the same car.
The 1963 fastback is the only year to have the "split window". All factory 63's and 64's are small block 327 cars. The 63 Corvette has indents in the hood with fake grills in the indents. The 64 has the indents, but no fake grills. The 63 and 64 has “dished” gauges. The 63 has silver inside of the gauges and the 64 is black. The 65-67 gauges are flat.
The 63 & 64 have two long indents that run horizontal just in front of the doors. A great deal of 63 and 64 owners install a big block hood because there is no hood clearance with the stock hood. The stock air filter is one inch tall. If you wonder why the “Split-Window” only lasted one year---sit in one and attempt to look through the rear-view mirror. (You might as well be looking through the rear-view mirror of a 71 fastback Mustang.)
(I’m going to keep this very basic and try not to confuse you. The mid-year fastback Corvettes have different style indents in the fastback just behind the side windows, but I’m not going to go there with this writing.)
The 1965 & 66 are very difficult to tell apart even for me at times especially if the car is a convertible and stock emblems have been removed or changed. I always hunt for the gas door emblem because most owners will leave those alone. You can Google those to see the difference between the two.
The 65 & 66 Corvettes have three vertical indents in the side of the car just in front of the doors.
The 65 is the first year for big and small block Corvettes along with options like disc brakes, side pipes, etc.
The 65 & 66 Big Block hoods look a lot alike. The 65-67 small block hood is the same as each other and have no indents like the 64. The 67 big block cowl-induction looking hood is the most popular, but only 20 production 1967 L-88 Corvettes had working cowl-induction.
The 1963-66 Corvettes could be ordered with knock-off wheels. Each year wheel and/or center cone was a little different from year-to-year. The HEAVY lug nut was thread directional with left and right hand threads so the forward direction of the car tightened the center three-eared lug nut. The very early 1963 Corvettes had two-eared lug nuts and if you have a set---happy retirement!
The 67 is the ONLY mid-year Corvette to have a backup light above the license plate and the 67 has five (nearly) vertical side vents in front of the doors. The 67 is the only mid-year Corvette to have a hand emergency brake between the seats. Knock-off wheels were no longer available for the 67.
All convertible mid-year Corvettes came with a convertible top, but could be ordered with a much desired removable hardtop. All 1963-67 hardtops will fit each year from 1963-67 providing the car is a convertible. ;D
All 1963-67 Corvettes are "Sting Ray" (two words) Corvettes and are either fastbacks or convertibles. These year cars are “mid-years” and C2.
The C3’s 1968-1982- All 1968-82 Corvettes could be T-Tops but only 1968-75 Corvettes could be convertibles. The removable C3 hardtops would fit all year’s between1968-75. The 68-82 T-tops are interchangeable.
The 1968 & 69 Corvette looks pretty much the same but the 69 was a “Stingray” (one word) and the 68 is NOT a “Sting Ray” or a “Stingray”. The 68 has a weird looking “push button” door assembly and the 69 has a door handle assembly that was used on the 69-82 Corvettes.
The 68 & 69’s have four vertical slots in the side of the car just in front of the doors. The 69 has a “Stingray” emblem above the slots and the 68 does not. Some 68 owners install the emblem-- so look at the doors for better identification.
The 68 also has much smaller popup headlight doors so a set of 1969-82 will not fit the 68’s. At times, you might see a set of 68 headlights installed on a 69-82. It’s easy to tell--they have a HUGE gap all around the headlight doors. The 68’s were the last year for the 327 and the 69’s were the first year for the 350 small blocks. The 69 could be ordered with side pipes and the 68 could not be. The 69 was the last year (to date) that could be ordered with side pipes, but they will easily install on 69-82 Corvettes because the mounting slots remained in the frames of the C3’s.
The 68 had a simulated wood grain large steering wheel closely related the ones found on the mid-year Corvettes and the 69 Corvette had a much smaller steering wheel that was black with a silver strip ring on the outside of the steering wheel. The 69-75 Corvettes had the same steering wheel.
The 68-72 Corvette T-Tops cars had a removable rear window and all 68-72 Corvettes had a windshield wiper door assembly that opened and closed for wiper operation. The 68-72 Corvette hoods were interchangeable and most quickly went to a LT-1 or a big block hood.
The 1970-72 look pretty much identical. The 1970 (in the front of the car) have clear turn signal lenses and the 72 have amber ones. The 71 can have either. The 70-72 have a “checker board” side grills just in front of the doors.
The 1973 has chrome rear bumpers as found on the 68-72 but a urethane rubber front bumper. The 73 is the only year for this combination. The side molding in front of the doors is just one big indent scoop. That lasted from 1973-82. The wiper door just behind the hood is gone in 73 and all hoods from 73-82 are interchangeable; however, the 73-75 did have a small cowl induction hood and air cleaner system.
The 1974 has front and back urethane rubber bumpers. But the 74 has a “split” in the rear bumper. The 74 was the last year for a big block option and the last of the leaded gasoline cars.
The 1975-77 look a lot alike but the 76 has a GT Vega steering wheel. Many get changed over to the 75 or 77 Corvette wheel. Basically on these years-- you are looking at emblems and steering wheels.
You can Google each year to see the differences.
The 1976-82 Corvettes have a steel floor pan and can rust out just as any Camaro, Chevelle or Mustang. Keep that in mind if you are considering buying one of these year Corvettes, because ALL Corvette T-tops leak! If an owner says that they don’t- they are full of B.S.
Again- All 1968-75 Corvettes could either be a T-top or a convertible. All 1969-76 Corvettes are “Stingrays”. All 1976-82 Corvettes are T-top only cars.
The 1978 & 79 look a lot alike, the 78 was the 25th anniversary and has a big gaudy 25th nose emblem-the cars were the first years to have the big back window. A front and rear spoiler could be ordered, but the car did not come with them. The 78 Indy Pace Car is probably the most well known 78, but GM did offer and silver anniversary car too. Surprise-it’s silver!
The 1980-82 look pretty much the same, but the 82’s have “Cross-Fire Injection” emblems on the side. These years you are pretty much looking at (Google) nose emblems. The 80-82 Corvettes have molded front and rear spoilers molded into the urethane bumpers. The 81 Corvette marks the great changeover in production from the St. Louis Plant to The Bowling Green, Kentucky Pant. The 81 was made in both places at the same time.
ALL 1982 Corvettes were automatics.
All 1968-82 Corvettes are C3 Corvettes.
The 1983 Corvette-- There were 42 or 43 used for testing, but the cars were never released to the public so the 1984 was the start of the C4 Corvettes. You can see the ONLY 83 Corvette at the Corvette Museum.
All Corvette bodies from 1953-82 were constructed from polyester fiberglass resin. So one could go to Wal Mart and buy resin, mat and cloth to repair a 53-82. However-the 84 Corvette bodies and up to modern era Corvettes were made from expensive and hard to work with epoxy resins which pretty much took simple body repairs out of the general Corvette owner's hands.
Corvettes made of Steel- The great car show/bar myth... Outside of a few prototypes, NO production Corvettes were ever steel or metal bodied.
This is a VERY brief Corvette summery and I hope that this helps you better understand the Corvette basics. ;D (by Randy)