Quality and Design Problems
Plague the 1968 Corvette
With the introduction of the 1968 model, Chevrolet was greeted with something it had not heard with regards to the Corvette for a long time: criticism, much of it quite harsh. Although the new styling was well liked - and time has proven it to be a winner - it did require compromises.
The interior was hard hit by the critics, who marveled at how the Corvette managed to grow bigger in the exterior while at the same time shrinking the insides. To accommodate a lower roofline, the seats were angled at 33° vs. the 25° in the previous generation. Support and padding was also lacking as was the overall level of comfort. The other problem was the center console which was widened to accommodate a three speed automatic transmission. Making matters worse was the door panels which intruded into the passenger area.
There was also a sometimes perceived, sometimes reality based quality control problem. A long list of mostly nuisance items, many of which were corrected by hobbyist owners, were part of all 1968 Corvettes. Most of the issues, a lot of which were build quality related, were fixed in the 1969 and subsequent years. This reputation still plagues the '68s however, affecting their value. Defenders of the '68 respond that the concerns were overblown, making them attractively priced.
Above: As with the C2 Corvette, the new generation featured hidden headlights. Unlike the C2 however, the new design popped up rather than rotate. They were vacuum operated (C2s used an electric motor) and they were reliable and fast.
Another new for 1968 feature was hide-away windshield wipers. Like the headlights, they were vacuum operated and both aesthetic and aerodynamic advantages were the goal. Unlike the headlights however, their operation was not reliable. Other changes including locating the battery behind the passenger which improved weight distribution and freed up some under hood space and deletion of side vent windows.
Left: Typical 1968 Corvette window sticker.
Right: The door release was thumb operated, an exclusive feature in the 1968 Corvette and an easy way to identify that model year. 1969 and later designs opened the door with the depression plate with a flush mounted keyhole in the same position as the thumb release.
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Above: The body style may have been all new, but the chassis was exactly the same as first introduced in 1963 and included the disc brakes originally installed in 1965. This was still a good thing as even five years later it offered great performance and excellent value for the era. The new body did allow for an increase of 1" of wheel width, so seven inch wheels were standard for 1968 only. Also unchanged was the engine selection, which was the same as 1967. Illustrated is a later (1970 to '72) body which included the egg crate front fender grill.
Below: Cutaway illustration from the 1968 Corvette brochure.
The Corvette had a tradition as an open car since the first examples exited the assembly line in 1953. The 1968 coupe featured a T-Top arrangement (right and below) which was an excellent compromise. The removable roof panels offered the best of both worlds: the security, weather sealing etc. of a fixed roof and the open motoring experience of a convertible. It would not be until 1999 with the introduction of the C5 hardtop that an exclusively fixed roof Corvette would be sold.
1968 Corvette print advertisements were proud of the dual function convertible / coupe advantages of the C3. Not mentioned was the security and safety advantages of the T-Top design. The "10 seconds to lift off" theme reflected the space race story that was popular at the time; one year later, a man would walk on the moon. The "Corvette Like a car only better" verbage is a bit much however . . .
1968 Corvettes witnessed the demise of the side vent window. In its place GM incorporated Astro Ventilation. The white script below was found in the space on the passenger windows where the side vent windows were formerly located. Only non Air Conditioned cars were so equipped although all Corvettes up to ~ 1974 / 1975 featured the white "Astro Ventilation" script. The system could be found on other GM cars although its effectiveness was considered minimal according to some owners.
Check out the options page for the 1968 Corvette
and you'll notice that 65% of the 1968s sold were convertibles. This compares with 43% for 1969 and 38% in 1970. This is not because convertibles were super popular for 1968. When the new generation 1968 C3 was introduced in 1967, only convertibles were available. What happened is that originally the coupe was to be a full targa style roof, similar to what was eventually used in the C4 which was introduced as a 1984 model. The body style suffered from torsional stability problems - the roof could not be removed or installed unless the Corvette was on a flat surface. This meant that the first 10,000 1968 Corvettes were all convertibles. A panicked effort resulted in the T-Top design and its' production started in January 1968. The situation was a problem for the convertible top supplier who was initially told that 60 units a day would work but then had to produce twice that. Compounding the situation was that if a customer liked and wanted the new body style of the C3, their only choice was the ragtop.
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