MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By: Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/ Researcher
Images: Courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection
Posted: 05.12.2015

1968 was a year to remember and a year of some very popular historical notes that took place in American culture. During this year, the Beatles had their popular hit song “Hey Jude”. Perhaps you were listening to the sounds of the late Otis Redding “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”. If you're a movie fan like myself, one of the most popular films of the year was “Planet of the Apes” starring the late Charlton Heston along with other talented cast members. 1968 was also the year that the Mattel toy manufacturer released their Hot Wheels line of new products for consumers which were originally intended for children and young adults.

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Also in 1968, General Motors introduced their newly designed Corvette to the public on September 21, 1967. The Corvette of 1968 came with an all-new design that offered an aerodynamic body incorporating the design of the experimental Mako- Shark II styling. The 1968 Corvette designs were under the direction of the late Mr. Bill Mitchell along with Larry Shinoda, Henry Haga, David Holls, Zora Arkus Duntov, and many other great talented engineers and designers. The 1968 Corvette design was the first major re-styling model since the 1963 Sting Ray. The fastback designed was replaced by a tunneled-roof coupe. It featured a removable back window and a two-piece detachable roof section or T-Top. The design of the rear end contained four rounded taillights with the word Corvette printed in chrome in the space between them. As Road & Track magazine Mr. Ron Wakefield remarked “Body side lines emphasize the currently fashionable coke bottle shape” and “The roof rear fenders spoiler and louvers of the 1968 Corvette bear remarkable similarity to those of the 1964 Ferrari GTO”.

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The 1968 Corvette models offered a 435 horse power 427 cubic inch engine for customers who wanted a powerful driving machine. Corvette’s other features included a horizontal-pattern grille along with power-operated retractable dual headlights and one-piece curved side windows and a special high domed hood which many customers thoroughly enjoyed. Wheel trim rings and center hub caps were standard on all Corvettes. Other features included a rear deck luggage carrier along with a hand portable spotlight and a rear deck carrier ski rack. The base price for the Corvette Roadster was $4,320 dollars and $4,663 dollars for the coupe model. Campbell-Ewald handled the advertising for Chevrolet during the 1960's and one of the most popular advertising themes for Corvette was “10 seconds to lift off” which became very popular among the youth of America. A total of 28,600 Corvette models were manufactured and built in 1968 at the St. Louis plant in 1968. Some automotive historians have even gone to say that the Corvette was America's only true sports car.

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The Corvette, however, wasn't America's first sports car. Fast two-seater vehicles were being built in this country nearly half a century before the 1953 Corvette models appeared. Some of the early two-seater sports cars included the 1951 Nash-Healey, 1953 Crosley Super Sport, along with the Briggs Cunningham models from 1951-1955 and the 1954 Kaiser-Darrin model as well. In 1953, General Motors produced its first Corvette model. Soon after that, a generation of great Corvette models would follow and became very popular with the consumer market and the youth along with race car fans from all over the world. In conclusion, The 1968 Corvette models offered great styling features and were a great classic among a long line of exceptional Corvette styling designs. The models will always be remembered by fans of automotive history and enthusiasts from all over the world.

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A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection. (Bibliography: Wakefield Ron. “1968 Corvette” Road & Track October 1967. Ludvigsen Karl. “Corvette America's Star-Spangled Sports Car The Complete history”. Published by Automobile Quarterly publications. 1973-1974. Dammann H. George. “Sixty Years Of Chevrolet” Crestline Publishing 1972.

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