#0090 - Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Coupe, 1966
Photographed: Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance, 2009. Owner: Bruce Allen
Mosport Green: This particular shade of silvery metallic is one of the great colors of the 1960s. The decade had a knack for aqua-toned shades that wandered from blue to teal to verdigris, all of them spiked with high metallic flake. Notable were rare applications of tropical blues on Alfa Romeo GT cars, and of course various Aston Martin cars of the same persuasion. The Corvette was right there, offering Laguna Blue, Trophy Blue, and Mosport Green all within this same spectrum of gemstone inspired finishes. They remain some of the most remarkably eye-catching examples of their kind, captivating in their appeal whether American, English, or Italian.
Yankee Details: But of course, what we have here is the American variety. So, beyond the simple question of color, looking at a Corvette turns into a numbers game. Side pipes and styling cues on the bonnet hint at potency, but sometimes you don't get to the truth until you look at the serial number.
In this case, not having the chance to be humored by the owner, we can assume the car is a 327 by noting the simple nose bulge that survives from the 1963 split-window year. Both 396 and 427 cars, the latter new for 1966, required wider clearance around the air cleaners to provide adequate breathing room in the motor bay. Hopefully we'll get around to snapping a 427 version, preferably a coupe from 1967, although I feel this 327 coupe represents a pure form of the Sting Ray aesthetic.
During the sixties, Corvettes developed neatly from year to year, with marked improvements in build quality and road holding. And where the 327 unit fits in is really as the quintessential figure for Corvette power. In 1961 it was top of the line. By now, it's the base option. But, not to be overshadowed, the 327 remains a highly tractable motor with a wide band of torque—in many ways it is to the Corvette what the 289 is to the Cobra, not the bare minimum, but instead the bread-and-butter performance component. Diminutive among American V-8 blocks at around 5.4 litres, it's huge by European standards, and yet the responsiveness of the pushrod design was enough to make Giotto Bizzarrini declare it superior to a Ferrari motor.
The Birth of Torque: When you look at 5 to 7-litre American blocks in the context of sports car racing, you see a complete phase shift in race car set-up. The go like hell philosophy meant neck-snapping throttle response out of the curves, which could make up for discrepancies in the chassis or suspension. However, put the same response in a decent platform, like those produced by Lister, Scarab, or yes, Shelby American, and the result is pasta-eating performance.
As for the Bizzarrini itself, (long story, but we'll cut it short here), perhaps apocryphal tales tell of unofficial 200-plus mile per hour trap times at Le Mans, such was the combination of a Chevrolet 327 block, an aerodynamic Italian body, and Bizzarrini's own custom intake. A few notable sports cars have claims (or stories) to challenge the 200 mark, Bizzarrini among them of course, although it was likely Aston's short-lived Development Project cars, or the last generation Ferrari 330 long wheelbase GTO to have done so. In any case, mid-motor design would soon take over, and by that time Lola and McLaren would enlist the help of considerably larger hunks of American iron.
Quick Conclusion: Where does that leave us with our brilliant coupe? Just like the '67 tri-carb 427 I hope to snap, I'm also looking for a fine '63 split-window car. At that point, we'll dive back into the Sting Ray's design evolution. However, for those who really need to know, I've already got quite a lot on the subject, going all the way back to the 1957 concept car that started it all, here in our feature on the 1961 roadster.
WebCars.com: One of the few places online where you can find a year by year rundown of Corvette history. And we'd also like to give a quick shout-out to Paul and say thanks for keeping this particular feature up and running.
Stay tuned for more Corvettes, and a few fantastic cars from Giotto Bizzarrini...
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