By on September 9, 2009

For accountants, there are two certainties: golf and taxes. Together, both are tedious enough to make me want death. Unfortunately, I knew I’d be hearing a lot about both of these moribund subjects at our firm golf tournament. I was in the parking lot that morning, praying to the heavens for divine intervention when I heard my boss’ 1976 Corvette growling and lazily pulling up. As soon as I saw the ‘Vette, I decided to cash in the goodwill I’d earned by working 300 hours of overtime between November and March. “Fifteen minutes – no more,” he said. Score.

As we sat down for the drive, my boss smiled. He knew what was coming. I turned the ignition; the car sputtered lamely. “This always happens when I drive cars that are older than me,” I said. I primed it with a flick of the gas and the 305 V8 rumbled to life. T-Top off, we hit the country roads near the course.

The car’s age was immediately apparent. The brakes were spongy and non-linear, the pedal travel was maddening and the stock automatic only had three speeds. The car’s handling managed to somehow both be soft, yet twitchy over destitute farm roads. By far the worst thing was the skinny steering wheel. Though it was relatively linear, the steering offered about 20 degrees of play before engaging in earnest, and when it did, it gave me an upper body workout worthy of P90X. Gripping the skinny tiller, and then making the Herculean effort to rotate it, I wondered if power steering should trump sliced bread as the world’s greatest invention.

I struggled to find a basis for comparison. The Corvette was so raw, so unrefined, so different from anything I’d driven. Though it was a “luxury” car in its day, I could never treat it as such. Every change of direction had to be planned in advance, lest the understeer or snap oversteer take over with such non-linear brakes. Every turn of the steering required a rest until the next. This thing wasn’t even close to a luxury car, it was a motorcycle on four wheels. Even the straight pipes and their thunderous burble reminded me of a bike.

As we bombed it down the country roads, I wasn’t taken back to a scene from Bullit, or 2 Fast Too Furious. The only thing I could think of was the opening scene in Lawrence of Arabia. The one where Peter O’Toole pushes his bike to the limit, swallowing the country road ahead of him, approaching death so closely just to see if he could still feel alive.

“This is all really cheesy,” I said to my boss. “Yeah, but it’s a kind of cheesy I like,” he replied.

It all felt so ancient, belonging to a time when Americans loved the open road. Before drivers learned to delegate 90 percent of a car’s decisions to a computer. A time when cars were so fun, and new, and cool, and awesome that just hitting a piece of strip was an event in and of itself. And the Stingtay was near the top of the pantheon, as far as perfect cars to devour the Interstate: more adventurous and accessible than a Cadillac of the same vintage, and more athletic than a Chevy Impala.

As cars became more insular, and the “Sunday drive” became a thing of the past, they stopped making Vettes like this one. But this Vette didn’t just take me through country roads, it brought me back to 1976. The 305 burbled, the sun shone and the road lay ahead of us. No speed traps, no ABS, no traction control. Just the Vette, my scared shitless Boss and I. A rare moment of automotive nirvana.

In the end, it didn’t really matter that the 305 could barely manage to produce wheelspin without power braking. And I hardly cared that the yellow Stinger was ridiculously phallic (it could probably arouse Bob Dole from the dead). Or that the seats were so old and cracked and offered so little lumbar support that I regretted not bringing my chiro along. Nope, none of that mattered.

Not having been alive when it rolled off the line, it was clear I couldn’t evaluate the Vette against its peers. All I knew was that I loved it. Was it because it was so different than the type of cars I grew up in, or was it because it was a bona fide good car? Out here on these country roads, as the miles piled up, the engine roared and I felt strangely at peace with myself, I’m not sure the answer really mattered.

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74 Comments on “Review: 1976 Chevrolet Corvette...”

  • avatar

    210 bhp and a 3-speed slush box? 0-60 in 8.1 seconds.

    It could get its doors blow off by an Avalon.

  • avatar

    Was it the stock engine block? I thought the 1976 only came with the 350 and the 305 wasn’t offered until 1980 or something.

  • avatar

    I don’t think any enthusiast wants to go back to 1976. 1966 maybe.

  • avatar

    Now that’s the kind of automotive writing I like. Thanks.

  • avatar

    These cars are best done with modified engines. The look of the car is great, the mechanical underpinnings not so much.

    A friend owns a 79 with a 350 that needs valve guide seals, a new interior and definitely a suspension work over. The gas gauge bounces wildly as you drive, the automatic shifts too hard thanks to a shift kit, the steering is not too bad although the brakes are Fred Flintstone quality. The radio doesn’t work and the headlights pop up when they feel like it.

    What you notice when driving is the two fender humps framing the road. The super low seat position puts you down at go kart level and gives a perspective no other car at the time had. The long front short rear means turns are really events to be experienced.

    He loves the car and plans to hop it up. There is something about a ‘vette that can’t be beat.

  • avatar

    I have it in the back of my mind to resto-mod a C3 Corvette. When I’ll have the money to do such a thing is anyone’s guess. I’d like to drop in an LS1 or LS6, newer 6-speed tranny, and a suspension that approximates “sport.” Top it off with period-style wheels (+1 or +2 over stock) and metallic paint.

  • avatar

    Turns out alot of these “fast” cars from yester-year weren’t that fast after all. But who cares… I was only 5 years old when this car came out and it still the BEST looking ‘Vette EVER! Sexy curves, oversized fenders, deep dish mag wheels, turned up tail, pointy front end, side scoop, hood bulge – man this car has it ALL, even the door handle screams “cool”.

  • avatar

    Those C3 Vettes are hands down the sexiest cars GM ever made, possibly even the most beautiful car anyone ever made. If only it were practical to take that body and put modern hardware underneath it…

  • avatar

    Thanks for a great write-up. I’ve never driven a Corvette but you could have been describing my old AMX. I miss that thing… leaking gaskets and all.

  • avatar

    They were all 350’s with 8.5 to 1 compression. Big yawn

  • avatar

    These cars are just asking for an update under the hood. Most are cheap although paint and body can get real expensive.

  • avatar

    Some things are better left to memories and nostalgia. This car just wasn’t that good. Typical GM 70’s shoddy build quality. Old design and no power. Nothing innovative.

    Even the 60s muscle cars aren’t really as fast as folks remember. 14 second 1/4 miles were fast back in the day. Today, your mom can break a 14 second 1/4 in her Camry while applying makeup and talking on the phone.

  • avatar

    What great writing … thanks!

    My father, God rest his soul, bought one of these new. The ’76 was really the low water mark of Corvettes and, of course, it was a piece of shit, right down to the Vega GT steering wheel.

    But my father loved it and therefore so did I. He was 53 and bought it for the same reason most other people did then — my folks had just gotten divorced and as bad as the ‘Vette drove by today’s standards, it was a huge improvement over the Caprice Estate Wagon he dumped. And it got him his second wife, with whom he was much happier.

    I miss that stupid car.

    • 0 avatar

      Well – I have one of these things, and I bought it new off the lot way back when. My fiat Spyder died and I needed something so I grabbed this new off the lot.Had no real lust for one – it was there and I was there, a junior engineer and single… so….

      So here I am like 37 years later and it’s still here. I was out driving it today in the sunshine. I had no real intention of either keeping it or getting rid of it, but it’s still here – maybe that should tell you something……

      It has been used and abused, but over all the work I have done to it is zip compared to what I’d have had to do to lot newer cars.

      Fast? – no. Fun? – You betcha!

      Rough ride, poor steering, not a real barnburner, beat up and 37 years old, but ……

      Go out and spend a week driving in the sunshine with the top out and come back and tell me about it.

      The kids and old guys still comment on the thing. My son loves it (21) and he says he’ll never get rid of it.

      The alternator finally went after 37 years. I considered writing a complaint letter to GM. LOL!

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Damn; you beat me to it. I have a ’74 Corvette Curbside Classic, yellow too, but not nearly as “pretty” as this one.

    A “luxury car”? That would have been the Monte Carlo, or such. The Corvette was never positioned as anything but America’s best shot at a sports car, even when it failed to deliver, like these.

  • avatar

    The ’76 Corvette came with two engines, L-48 at 180 net horespower and L-82 at 210. Early L-82’s had 9.0:1 compression ratio, I don’t know about a ’76. Biggest differences were the heads and cam along with 4 bolt mains and forged (instead of cast) internal components. This one looks like a L-48 as it has no “L-82″ badge on the hood. The 305 was never put in a Corvette

    The only thing worse than a ’76 Corvette is a ’75 Corvette and it is the worst. But if you have it and you enjoy it that’s all that really matters.

  • avatar

    The thing about older cars, is that whilst they are not fast, and as many have pointed out, most modern appliances can outperform them, they feel fast.
    The low seating, wind in the hair, minimal driver aids; driving at any speed is an experience.
    Sometimes driving isn’t about going fast it’s about the overall experience.

  • avatar

    I kind of liked the way these Vettes looked. I recently flirted with an 82 in bright red.

    That being said, they sucked, in all honestly. Appalling build quality, dreadful performance and indifferent electrics. As a fun thing to have laying around it might be worth it for nostalgia…if you are nostalgic for the 70s. I am not.

  • avatar

    Aside from the Camaro and Firebirds of the day, that car (in optional Gymkhana trimmings) was the performance King of the late 70s. You know, if it never did battle with anything older than 1973. Or anything newer than 1983. If you stick with that window of relevance, the Disco Vettes are pretty cool.

    Make mine an ’82 Collectors Edition with a 4-spd and an aftermarket tape player, so I can listen to Journey with the T-tops off and the wind in my hair.

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Sajeev Mehta, love the way you think.After aquiring my ’82 col ed in feb. of this year,my 20 year old son and his buddy built an L -48 that was in my 1980,4-speed donor corvette.After the build and the swap we changed the diff. to 3:08 which helped alot on the bottom end, but am looking forward to upgrading to 3:73 in the spring. Hope the aluminum case can stand the strain. P.S. not really into Journey, but my after market Kenwood really blats the bluegrass tunes

  • avatar

    “Make mine an ‘82 Collectors Edition with a 4-spd and an aftermarket tape player, so I can listen to Journey with the T-tops off and the wind in my hair.”

    Sorry Sajeev, 1981 was the last year for the four speed. The ’82 only had the Crossfire sorta fuel injection engine and a three speed automatic.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    rpol 35: The 305 was never put in a Corvette

    1980 Corvettes sold in CA came only with the 305.

  • avatar

    rpol35 : Oops, that’s right…my mistake! But isn’t the automatic a 4-speed overdrive?

  • avatar


    “The ‘82 only had the Crossfire sorta fuel injection engine and a three speed automatic.”

    Blasphemy! I’ve never understood the desire to have a slushbox in a Corvette…or any car with sporting pretensions, for that matter. Though I must admit it doesn’t surprise me ’80s era GM would make such a boneheaded decision. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if GM made that kind of decision during any era. This is the same company that does the 1-2-4 lockout on modern ‘Vettes, aye?

    Yeah, yeah about the modern automatics being better in both performance and fuel economy than their stick counterparts in most cars. But any so-called “driver’s car” deserves a driver behind the wheel. Not just someone merely keeps it between the ditches, but someone who appreciates– nay, savors the experience of making that car sing, gear changes and all.

    I get a lot of satisfaction out of downshifting as I come down the off-ramp cruising into work. Especially on older motorcycles or in older cars, the sound and feel of the engine during this maneuver adds a little much-needed zest to my morning (and possibly saves my brakes from a little unnecessary heat.)

    All but the most expensive, sporty autoboxes won’t do that for you. They’ll just let you glide in, forcing you to ride the brakes while you travel all the way down the ramp in relative silence. No heel-toe downshifting, no “hey hun, watch me go clutchless on this ramp,” nothing. Just mundanity.

    Awesome review, Samir. Quit working so much overtime and drive more cars for us!

  • avatar

    Samir Syed: But this Vette didn’t just take me through country roads, it brought me back to 1976. The 305 burbled, the sun shone and the road lay ahead of us. No speed traps, no ABS, no traction control.

    In 1976, the 55 mph speed limit was in effect, and enforcement was quite strict in most states. Most Detroit V-8s were a mere shadow of themselves by that point. The Corvette was already looking clunky and outdated by that point – and it had another seven years to go with this basic body and chassis!

    Definitely not the best of times, from an automotive enthusiast’s standpoint. Still loved the article.

  • avatar

    How about a time-travel trip to before even I was born? (so to speak)

    Yes, the Pontiac GTO was NOT the “original muscle car”. The 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk was.

    The massive (and I mean MASSIVE) Packard V8 shoe-horned into the very light Studebaker Hawk body.

    352 cubic inches (instead of 185 for the six cylinder, or 259 for the Power Hawk, or 289 for the Sky Hawk). 4071 built. 275 hp (stock – this one has about 330).

    The hottest 1956 Ford Thunderbird was only 225 hp (which was the only thing even remotely similar to the Stude – the Corvette was way more sports car and less boulevarder/cruiser).

    Even so, the hottest 1956 Corvette? 225 hp.

    The actual Studebaker built V8 didn’t lack power, however, as may be heard in this clip. Call it “symphony in Studebaker V8″ for gear-heads.

    These make the 1976 Corvette look positively modern, don’t they?

  • avatar

    “yeah but it’s a kind of cheesy I like” That says it all. It also explains why Camaros are flying off the shelf.

    The only thing that stops me from,dumping my equally cheesy Firebird for an C3 are the scary repair costs.

  • avatar

    I owned a 76 Vette when it was new. Out of all the older Corvettes this era is IMO the least desirable to own. Why anyone would spend any money restoring one of these is beyond me. It doesn’t cost any more to restore any other vintage and there are many model years I view as much more desirable. These cars are best left forgotten which is probably why you see so few of them on the road.

  • avatar

    “rpol35 : Oops, that’s right…my mistake! But isn’t the automatic a 4-speed overdrive?”

    Sajeev: I’ll have to ask the B&B but I believe the 700R4 four speed automatic was introduced in ’83. Anyone know for sure?

  • avatar

    Paul Niedermeyer: “1980 Corvettes sold in CA came only with the 305.”

    I forgot that CA was a one state exception in some cases. Thanks.

  • avatar

    “The ‘82 only had the Crossfire sorta fuel injection engine and a three speed automatic.”

    “Banger: Blasphemy! I’ve never understood the desire to have a slushbox in a Corvette…or any car with sporting pretensions, for that matter. Though I must admit it doesn’t surprise me ’80s era GM would make such a boneheaded decision. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if GM made that kind of decision during any era. This is the same company that does the 1-2-4 lockout on modern ‘Vettes, aye?”


    Agree completely but that’s the way it was, it’s GM so go figure.

  • avatar

    It’s a Corvette. It’s bright yellow. It has an open roof. It has that nice wasp-waisted body. Your boss could do a lot worse. I’d be happy to drive such a thing occiasionally.

  • avatar

    mtymsi: “These cars are best left forgotten which is probably why you see so few of them on the road.”

    Is it winter all year round where you are? I see these on the road all the time in the summer. Personally, I think they’re the most beautiful car ever built, which is why I just bought my second one.

  • avatar

    For those interested, here’s a .pdf chart from a 1976 Car and Driver comparo between the Corvette L82, Dart Sport 360, Trans Am 455, C10 Silverado 454, and the Mustang II Cobra.

    1976 American performance cars

    For people that don’t want to click (although I recommend it), the Corvette was a 3-spd auto. Its 0-60 was 7.1. Its 1/4 mile time was 15.3 @ 91.9mph. Top speed was 124.5mph. Turning circle was 37ft.

    Another interesting note is that the 3820lb Trans Am with rear drum brakes managed a 70-0 distance of 175ft. The 2010 Camaro LT weighs 3807lbs, has four wheel disks, and goes 70-0 in 173ft.

  • avatar


    “Another interesting note is that the 3820lb Trans Am with rear drum brakes managed a 70-0 distance of 175ft. The 2010 Camaro LT weighs 3807lbs, has four wheel disks, and goes 70-0 in 173ft.”

    Excellent data dive! And here I was marveling at the Silverado C10’s ability to put up the second-most expensive MSRP of the group while simultaneously putting up the worst numbers in most categories. But it did beat the Mustang Cobra II’s pathetic 105 mph top speed. I guess in the era of 55 mph national speed limits, Ford didn’t figure you should have any need to go twice the speed limit. For any reason. Ever.

  • avatar

    That car just screams “coke whores” and “disco” to me. YMMV…

  • avatar
    Paul W

    68-72 = most beautiful Corvette ever, after that, not so much! Lost the chrome and the power.

  • avatar

    A 454 bored and stroked to 496cid will fit under the hood without modifications.

  • avatar

    Great review.
    I’ve never driven any ‘Vette, but I’ve always loved the C3, despite it’s obvious mechanical handicaps. My uncle has two 1973s (a black hardtop and an orange converible), and they are the greatest things ever. As a kid, I remember taking a ride in the convertible and loving every second of it.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Wonderfully written piece which explains why such cars are undesirable for most folks. With bad steering, bad brakes, jumpy suspension, who needs it? Sure it can give you some kicks for a while as can for instance watching Ron Jeremy, but in the end, it’s just porno, and not very good porno either.

  • avatar

    I remember…back in the day. The guy across the street had one of these (dark blue), along with a hot looking Asian wife. I’d sit outside on the front porch sipping a cool one admiring the Vette parked in his driveway, and also keeping an eye on his wife mowing the lawn in her airbrushed shorts and halter top. I thought to myself, what a lucky guy–hot wife and hot car.

    Unfortunately, once his wife got her green card she divorced him, taking his Corvette to boot. Now, after all these years and after reading the TTAC review I realize the guy was neither lucky in love, nor in motoring pleasure; and also that my envy was completely misplaced.

  • avatar

    Mandated emissions killed whatever was left of GM’s vehicle’s high performance in 1973. Horsepower took a dive; In those days I worked in a GM parts dept. and these Corvettes were certainly good for (warranty) business. Door inner trim panels literally falling apart, but then the front suspension was still basically the 1953 Chev pass. design. GM had started the quality ‘downward spiral’, having just replaced the Vega with the shit-box Chevette in the mid 70’s.

  • avatar

    This review hits on the key to a lot of great cars that the obsession with performance figures and electronic aids glosses over; not what they filter out but what they add to the sensation of driving.

    The cars I’ve enjoyed the most always seem to be the rawest. In some ways they’ve been unrefined, but at least they didn’t have the character refined out of them.

  • avatar

    ajla: “For those interested, here’s a .pdf chart from a 1976 Car and Driver comparo”Great find. One of the high points of TTAC is the occasional reference to ‘the good ‘ole days’ of Car and Driver, such as the recent sub-compact comparo of 1971.

    In fact, I’ve been pining for years to see someone (anyone) post a classic article from the January, 1990 ‘Ten Best’ issue of C&D titled “The Ten Best Muscle Cars” which assembled what Patrick Bedard felt were the ten most viable factory contenders during the sixties/seventies street racing heyday.

    For those interested, here’s the list:

    ’66-’67 Plymouth/Dodge intermediate with 426 Hemi
    ’68-’69 Plymouth/Dodge intermediate with 426 Hemi
    ’70-’71 Plymouth/Dodge intermediate with 426 Hemi
    ’66-’67 Chevy II SS327
    ’66-’69 Chevelle SS396
    ’68-’69 Chevy II Nova SS396
    1969 Ford Torino Cobra 428
    1969 Roadrunner/Super Bee 440 Six Pack
    1970 Chevelle SS454
    1969 Pontiac GTO

    FWIW, the Hemi cars should be listed as a single entry, not three (IIRC, Bedard’s rationale for this was that the engineering changes in the Hemi justified listing them separately), as well as Hemi-powered cars being a relative rarity on the street back then (they were expensive and just didn’t build a whole lot of them).

    Likewise, the GTO shouldn’t be on the list, either. They just weren’t that fast (particularly the 389-powered variety) compared to the others on the list. The performance level was right down there with stuff like 390 Fords.

    This would free up spots to be able to add more omnipresent, fast cars like Chrysler’s great 340 Duster/Dart compact muscle cars, the Olds W-30 442 or Buick GSX, both of which finally got the 455 engine in 1970, or the Mustang Mach 1 428CJ.

    Regardless, I’d still love to see the entire text of the article posted somewhere.

  • avatar

    The only thing worse than a ‘76 Corvette is a ‘75 Corvette and it is the worst.

    That is so true. My father bought a 75 and it was a total piece of crap. One of it’s more endearing characteristics was when it’s wipers would get slightly out of sync and hang up on each other. The passenger had to reach out and unstick them.

    He bought a 4 speed Corolla at the same time and that quickly became his baby. A scratch on the Vette – no problem, but god forbid anything happening to that little Toyota.

  • avatar

    In case anyone is confused, Bob Dole is not really dead. But I doubt even a canary yellow Corvette could have done anything for his presidential bid 20 years after this car was produced…

  • avatar

    OK, here we go…

    305 in CA in 1980 only is correct. L48/L82 specs are correct, though by ’78 they were getting 220 horses out of the L82 and 6.6 sec 0-60 times. Not quite an L-88 from 10 years before but definitely respectable. And top of the heap at the time.

    Corvettes have ALWAYS had automatics. The first one in ’53 came with a Powerglide only. Keep in mind that the automatic transmission was a godsend to that generation. Clutches and shifters up to that point were heavy and crude. Automatics were the cutting edge of technology and luxury.

    And the performance of a Turbo Hydra-matic Vette was very close to the four-speed with the same engine.

    Yeah, a well-worn 33-year-old car is going to feel somewhat crappy. See if you can get your hands on a mint-condition example to get a true feel for how these cars drove and what they meant to car culture in their time.

    But more than anything, please make sure you have your facts straight. A glaring inaccuracy like the wrong engine can kill an otherwise enjoyable read.

  • avatar

    So these cars are great because they feel so raw, eh?

    A few days ago, I drove a 16 year old, 200k mile Prizm. It had been hit and repainted several times. At 65mph, the front hood shook terribly. The rear bearing were intrusively loud. The bent front rims shook the steering wheel violently. The rear door window fell of its tracks so there was plenty of wind noise. The 15 minute ride felt like several hours. It was definitely raw, just like a 76 Vette would be.

  • avatar

    The thing about the C3 Corvette, though, is that it was a little crude by the standards of 1968 or 1976, much less today. They were never very rigid, they were always cramped, noisy and hot, most of the seats sucked, and they tended to rattle. It was, in a very literal sense, the triumph of GM Styling over engineering.

    As for the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic, it was a great improvement over previous generations, where the only available automatic was the two-speed Powerglide. (Corvette history buffs will recall that the original ’53-’54 ‘Vettes came only with PeeGee.) By the standards of the time, the Turbo Hydro was world-class, which ought to tell you something.

  • avatar
    Matthew Neundorf

    Sajeev —

    “Make mine an ‘82 Collectors Edition with a 4-spd and an aftermarket tape player, so I can listen to Journey with the T-tops off and the wind in my hair.”

    How about an ’80, with said T-tops and tape deck??? I just might know a guy, if you’re ever in Toronto

  • avatar

    My brother had a modified ’68 which I had the displeasure of driving a few times. The previous owner had put a built 454 in, but he switched it to a built 350 because with the unassisted steering it required a herculean effort to drive at low speeds with the big block weight over the front wheels. Worst thing aside from the atrocious build quality was the ergonomics… instead of raising the roofline to accommodate drivers over 6′, they just raked the seat to a pretty severe angle. Result was one funky driving position. Not sure if it got better in the 70’s.

    On the plus side the vacuum operated pop-up headlights were entertaining, never knew what they were going to do.

  • avatar

    Everything that came out of Detroit in the 1970’s was crap, even the Corvette.

    In the 1980’s I was allowed to drive a 70’s vintage Vette for a short distance, it was a huge disappointment. It was like getting a shot at the homecoming queen, only to discover that she had crabs.

  • avatar

    Banger :
    September 9th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    rpol35:Blasphemy! I’ve never understood the desire to have a slushbox in a Corvette…or any car with sporting pretensions, for that matter. Though I must admit it doesn’t surprise me ’80s era GM would make such a boneheaded decision.

    In fact, ‘Vetttes were available from pretty much day one with automatics. The original 1953 model was available as automatic-only.

    These days, with the new technology and paddle shifters, I’m beginning to like automatics better than manuals.

  • avatar

    Paul W :
    September 9th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    68-72 = most beautiful Corvette ever, after that, not so much! Lost the chrome and the power.

    +1 on that!!!!

  • avatar

    msquare :
    September 9th, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    OK, here we go…

    305 in CA in 1980 only is correct. L48/L82 specs are correct, though by ‘78 they were getting 220 horses out of the L82 and 6.6 sec 0-60 times. Not quite an L-88 from 10 years before but definitely respectable. And top of the heap at the time.

    With the operative phrase being “at that time.”

    I’ve been looking over stats from the really crap-
    hot cars from that era, and the hottest were the Lamborghini Countach and Porsche 911 Turbo. And the best they could do was a 0-60 in the high fives.

    Some kid in a WRX could give either a run for its life today.

    Worth noting that progress can certainly be a wonderful thing…but thinking back to cars from the ’70s, as bad as some were, is like thinking about your first kiss. You don’t remember the excess of saliva or (in my case) wounding your tongue on the girl’s braces.

  • avatar

    DO NOT BE MISTAKEN! The biggest limiting factors to the uber-muscle cars of the day was tires. Bias Ply tires. Trust me, a 426 Hemi or 427 Vette with proper tires ‘that could hook’ (which meant slicks at that time) would smoke any standard WRX/STI/Camry. It just makes sense, as these cars produced a legitimate (today’s SAE rating) 400HP and mega-torque. And even though many were not small cars, they didn’t weigh any more than today’s rides. 12’s was do-able with tires, and dipping into the 11’s with carb tuning/headers was realistic. Push/Tweak a little harder (open headers), 10’s. So in a straight line, the ‘right’ car of the time was VERY fast even by today’s standards. If you look at some of the old muscle-mags of the day, they tested many cars with slicks/headers. They realized keeping the stock rubber on the car was useless to test the cars potential. ** Keep in mind, no one considers ‘any’ 1976 car part of this era. So don’t lump the ‘fuel crisis’ Vette into what I’m trying to say…. I know no one is, just saying….

    That being said, all other performance aspects are far surpassed by today’s fast cars. Handling, braking, etc…. It would be pretty sad if it wasn’t.

  • avatar

    Psssttt…. Article about BIG DOGS going low 10’s

    (1969 Camaro – ZL1 option) This may loo like a normal every day 1969 Camaro to you, but it’s acctually one of the meanest muscle cars ever built by Chavrolet or any other company, yes including the Hemi.

    In 1969 Fred Gibbs Chevrolet orded one of these Camaro’s to go and race with, it was a special order car known as the ZL1 Camaro or COPO 9560 “Central Office Production Order” Dick Herrel was to drive the car for Fred Gibbs Chevrolet, and he would set a record for a street driven car during his run as a driver for Fred Gibbs.

    The ZL1 Camaro would prove to be an amazing race car, not to mention, it was still a street car also, in street dress Dick Herrel would achieve 1/4 mile times of 11.05 and in full race mode, with the headers uncorcked and slicks added he would achieve a 10.35 1/4 mile time on his first run.

    Then he would reach a real high for a street driven car, mind you this in as bought from the factory with slicks added and headers uncorcked or in full race mode he would achieve an all time high 1/4 mile time of 10.05, now how meny cars do you know of from the factory that will pull that feat off.

  • avatar


    You could have fixed that steering slop issue with a flat-head screw driver and a couple turns. 30 seconds max. Another minute to dial in the minimal ‘play’ that should be in the steering (a couple degrees), not the 20 degrees you experienced. I used to own a C3 Vette (1969). Here, give your Boss this free of charge ;) – Of course it could be something more serious (ball joints, steering box, stripped gears, etc…), but this worked for me…. Although C3 Vettes are not perfect by any means, many things could be improved upon with a little know-how. You’d be VERY surprised how well these cars ‘can’ handle if you’re willing to dump ‘reasonable’ money into new suspension upgrages designed specifically for older Vettes. Under $5,000 and you can have a serious ‘G’ machine. Mine actually had good brakes (SS option), which stopped from 60-0 in 117 feet (according to Motortrend). Not too bad, although I never tested them to repeated hard use. It was a ‘fun’ car, not a ‘track’ car. A Vert with lap belts.

    After owning an old performance car, the thing I am most greatful is computer controlled fuel injection (and safety improvements). I believe I was 20 years too young to have the mystical carb tuning power required to have my Vette run properly day-in-day-out. Performance was night and day, depending on night/day/cool/hot/humid/etc…

  • avatar

    Here’s a thought: what if some bright guy did a “Day One” style resto-mod on mid-70’s Vettes?

    You’d have a mad-sexy car with 21st century performance. Sign me up!

  • avatar

    I drove a friend’s ’79…and woolly as the drive was I had an absolute ball. His car was pretty fast though…he’d dropped in a fuel-injected 383. But the sloppy steering and iffy brakes, jiggly gauges, fabulous fenders and strange driving position were all there. He’s doing the resto-mod thing on it…new 383 stroker (target hp: 450), Wilwood brakes all around, a revised rear suspension, a rack and pinion kit, and Kumho XS rubber on 18″ rims. It will be a drag and autocross car. Can’t wait to give it a whirl. Driving a car like that remotely hard gives you a tingly, puckering fear modern cars just can’t.

  • avatar

    The 1980 Corvette was offered in California with only the 305 and 3 speed automatic due to emissions reasons. I don’t believe the 305 was offered in any 76 corvette.

  • avatar

    From Samir’s description, it sounds like this car needs the steering, brakes and suspension repaired, which would not be an uncommon issue with a 33 year old car.

    One of my customers has a 1975 Vette, and we completely restored the steering, suspension and brakes, and even with the stock 350 L48 (165 hp), it is a very fun car to drive, especially on curvy roads. On these cars, it is important to go with the stock tire size (225/70R15) if you want the best combination of ride and handling. Even though that tire size may seem archaic today, this car was designed for it, and it brings out the best in this car.

    Also, we replaced the OEM steel rear leaf spring with a composite version, and this was a great improvement, especially in the suspension’s response to smaller road surface imperfections.

    The car is very “tight” now, with no play in the steering or suspension, and the only rattles heard are in the interior, which is awaiting restoration.

    A great daily-driver car, lots of fun.

  • avatar


    “On these cars, it is important to go with the stock tire size (225/70R15) if you want the best combination of ride and handling. Even though that tire size may seem archaic today, this car was designed for it, and it brings out the best in this car.”

    Dang, I could slap the wheels from my Ford Ranger on a ’70’s Vette! Never knew.

  • avatar

    While the 70’s were definitely the low point for muscle cars, from the sounds of it, your boss needs to get his brakes and steering fixed. I will say that I find these Corvettes to be one of the most beautiful sports cars ever built. I absolutely love the front fender humps and narrow “waist.”

    Another interesting note is that the 3820lb Trans Am with rear drum brakes managed a 70-0 distance of 175ft. The 2010 Camaro LT weighs 3807lbs, has four wheel disks, and goes 70-0 in 173ft.

    The big advantage to discs over drum brakes is the resistance to brake fade. For something like a one or two pass breaking exercise, there is no advantage to disc brakes. On a road coarse where you are constantly on and off the brakes, you need the disc brakes to maintain your braking power for the duration of the ride.

  • avatar

    Loved this article. My former father-in-law had a ’78 Silver Anniversary edition, in original condition, complete with working 8-track player.

    I always found that the car looked best from about 10 feet away — close enough to take in those nice curves, but far enough away that the awful workmanship and Chevette-grade interior plastics would not break the spell.

    Of course, once you were in the driver seat, the rumbling motor and fender peaks were enough to make a believer out of even the staunchest import driver.

  • avatar

    And 30 years later, what has GM decided makes its Vette a supercar? No t-tops: +1 … See thru 6″ square in the hood -2 … Magneto ride: +2 … Plastic interior: -5 … Supercharger (whine): -2 … Engine: +2 … Chinese electronics: -4 … The 54-63 Vettes at least had some semblance of balance, more poise in the earlier models. If (K)lutz & Co can bring back retro Camaros, the least GM can do is bring back 50s/early 60s Vettes. I would buy 2.

  • avatar

    Nice article, brought back many memories having owned two C3 Corvettes and one C4 along with being a long term member of a Corvette club.

    Unfortunately the subject car is all wrong starting with the paint color (not original) and the front and rear spoilers. Those spoilers were not available until 78 (pace car only) and they look ridiculous on that 76 (from a purist’s view).

    I’m no longer a Corvette expert but I used to be and I take exception to the poster who claimed “The only thing worse than a ‘76 Corvette is a ‘75 Corvette and it is the worst”.

    Many Vette enthusiasts consider the 76 the least collectible of all Corvettes. It was the first year no convertible was offered, they dropped the cool rear window vents for “Astro Ventilation”, the interior was cheapened with fake stitching on the dash and console and GM had the nerve to throw a cheap Vega steering wheel in the car. The 76’s had a bit more horsepower but mechanically they were pretty much identical to the 75’s so to boldly claim the 75’s were worse is just not true.

    I was 15 in 1975 and my best friend’s dad had a brand new 75 Vette coupe that my friend and I spent the best part of that summer driving. He was a year older and had his license – I had my learners. I can tell you there was nothing wrong with that car. It had decent power, handled great and was a pretty sexy ride for two teenagers to spend the summer tooling around in.

    It was the first year for catalytic converters and the car gave off the faint odor of sulfur all the time but other than that it was pure bliss to drive and be seen driving.

    Three years later I bought my own Corvette, a 73 coupe (which by the way had chrome rear bumpers) that I kept for 5 years and lived the dream. Back then Corvettes were the sports car to have – gold chains and all. (Most 18 year old kids couldn’t afford a Porsche.)

    Fast forward 15 years and I bought a 72 roadster, 454 4spd. Now that car was crude. I can attest however that each year GM made strides in modernizing the Corvette, the handling got a bit better along with the ride and comfort. Of course by today’s standards those “sport cars” are laughable but back then it was nothing but fun, fun, fun.

  • avatar

    Here you go again with the flashbacks….

    Mine was a ’79 L82 with the 4sp close ratio M21 rock crusher 4-speed, and gymkhana suspension; ordered from the factory complete with 8-track all for about $11,000.

    Came in from the factory W/transport damage on the t-tops–should have taken that as a omen -but no…

    Then after broken thermostatic engine fan, shorted starter, multiple broken muffler hangers, broken speedometer(never fixed), broken heater control cables, collapsed lifter(s), broken power window control,failed hood paint, in 15k miles/14 months, I sold it. It promptly went TU in the new owners driveway the next day. It was just saying “hi” I guess.

    In the 14 months of ownership, it spent about 3 months tied up in the dealer waiting for parts or getting repaired.

    I don’t remember it being that fast, or handling that great either. The gymkhana was enough to loosen fillings, the shifter was sloppy, and it ‘ran out a gas’ past 4000rpm even though it had the increased redline of the L82.

    Like owning a boat, the two happiest days were the day I picked it up, and the day I sold it. To this day after about 50 new vehicle purchases, that car remains at the top of the POS pile.

    I must disagree with those who said the ’75 or ’76 was the worst Vett years. IMO it was the’74:first year with serious smog gear but no cat, half- baked two piece rear flex bumper with the visible unfinished slit down the middle, and sub-economy car power (165hp IIRC). I think pricing for the ’74’s have the same type of negative stigma that the ’64 enjoys.

    At the time when a new Ferrari was netting only 205hp, it was however, the biggest bang for the buck.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    If only it were practical to take that body and put modern hardware underneath it…

    It is. You can easily drop a modern EFI GM crate small block in a C3, bolt on au courant bigger, lighter brakes and there are a number of full suspension kits for upgrading the car.

    Who knows how well maintained this particular sample is. I drove a friend’s 1976 the day he took it off the dealer lot and its handling was quite precise and controllable. Yup, it would nevertheless feel alien to the contemporary driver who grew up on front-drive unibody cars with no torque. But in 1976, notwithstanding some of the non-structural body’s NVH, the chassis itself was communicative, with tight steering and readily controllable. It’s rawness was an asset. Corvette was, even in its diminished power state of the mid/late 70s, never a luxury car. It did have some years when it was more cruiser than sports car, a GT of sorts.


  • avatar

    The Vette, like most cars in it’s era, was a victim of the two inflicted oil crisis. Compression ratios were dropping as fast as HP figures and 0-60 times were getting longer. It’s a testament to this hearty old beast that it managed to survive through good times and bad and become the legendary performer it is today. What many on this board are forgetting or never experienced is how drastically different things were during the 70’s. The carefree spirit of the muscle car era of the 60’s gave way to energy crisis, Watergate, politics, tree huggers, disco and vivid color. They were drepressing times for many including my dad who was laid off twice from work for nearly 6 months due to a down turn in the economy. Grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers and instant mashed taters were the order of the day. We lived in a nice average income neighborhood and most families were in a similar boat and got by with but one car in each household. Video games were just starting to come in there own and were all the rage by the late 70’s. Things were simple too. Families gathered around the table for dinner. Going to the beach or disco clubs was a cool treat. Cars were losing muscle but the wide array of choices, colors, configurations and engines partially made up for that. Build quality varied dramatically from one car to the next but cars like the Corvette, Camaro, Trans Am, Mustang, Challenger or Charger were considered very cool and kids jaws would drop when the proverbial teenager in high school would pull up in a growling sporty car. There were more places that people raced than Carter had liver pills and if you listened closely nary a night would go by without hearing the sound of two big block V8’s going at it in a race on some two laned stetch of roadway. I was young growing up in the 70’s but I will always remember that era fondly of great music, fast and neat cars, loads of cool discount stores and centers, color, disco, lots of partys, way less stupid big brother laws, loads of family get togethers, station wagons and lots of good old made in America products that actually lasted.

  • avatar

    Being the owner of a 550hp 2002 Trans am WS6 (built corvette Z06 LS6motor) and a 1976 Stingray all I have to say is wow. I love my 76 which actually is a retirement gift for my father. I have done a complete frame off on it, new 350hp motor, rebuilt 400 trans, stall, hooker chrome sidepipes, 2000 TransAm seats everything is upgraded. I hated vettes. Jeepers my trans am has 4 seats a trunk pulls 28mpg on the highway and can rip apart a new corvette… but when I took the c3 for a drive after the restoration I was hooked. The “raw” feel, the rumble, and the thumbs up from everyone I pass. The look of them cars is amazing. I am 6’2″ and it is a little cramped but none the less it’s one hell of a ride and I’m going to miss it when I hand my dad the keys…

  • avatar

    Hi everyone, my 2c on the 1976 Corvette debate. Right now I own 1976 corvette L82 (210hp) and also a 2012 Audi TTS. But i just sold a few years ago a 1967 v8 Mustang and a 1969 v8 Mustang (both In like new condition) First of all I refute all the people that say that the corvette 1976 is a POS. I bought mine for really cheap, because as you can read in this forum, people do not like them much. But from day one when I drove it home from the seller, I love driving it. I used to drive a British Elva track cars in the EU golden age racing cup during the 80’s so I am kind of use to old racing cars. I have had plenty of them over the years. What I can say is the 1976 corvette is not my Audi TT and that’s for sure, but it is almost 40 years older and it would be sad if we did not progrss in anyway. but I can say that my 1976 corvette drive straight as an arrow, turns great if you know how to use it properly. Now the breaking gotta be one of its weakness as it is weak and dull, I am going to put an after market break system on it to improve it and also rebuilt the bushings in the front end that are old, I will also change the suspension on it to make its handling tighter and clean. But overall I can drive my Audi TT and then drive th corvette without thinking hey what a POS. I just sold my wife Benz Clk, recent model, and let me tell you, the Benz clk is a POS, I will never buy another one, I would rather drive my 1976 Vette than than a Benz, LOL. Also I really like the shape of the 1976 corvette, sexy and muscle at the same time and As weird as it sounds, I like the low inclined seating driving position, it brings me back to my racing days. I am not a big fan of its plastic feel interior, definitely a minus, but racing cars don’t need fancy interior, and obviously for me as a ex racer, chrome bumpers, chrome motor parts are a no no because they produce too much heat, break fast because of that, so for me the fiber body and fiber bumpers are simply what I like, it keeps it tight. Now it is taking me a while to re-adjust the whole fiber Body to ensure that transition between the body parts are perfect.

    So in conclusion I love that 1976 corvette and with a little care and tweaking it can be a blast to own for very cheap, right now in Az, you can find one for 2k that drive and run great, that is what I paid for mine, gotta to go, it is Sunday morning and I am taking out the Vette for a spin

  • avatar

    Check this out, for people that think the 76 is the least desirable year, Found this on BTW, I love my 76, the last Stingray!

    Top Appreciation Models 2009
    Year Make % Change Average Price
    1976 T-Top 10% $10,800
    1962 Roadster 9% $52,700
    1963 Coupe 9% $54,500
    1977 T-Top 9% $12,000
    1957 Roadster 8% $64,800
    1965 Roadster 8% $46,100
    1960 Roadster 7% $50,400
    1963 Roadster 7% $41,600
    1964 Roadster 7% $38,200
    1966 Coupe 7% $46,200

    Quite surprisingly, we found the 1976 Corvette at the top of our appreciation chart at 10% followed by the 1977 model at 9%. Evidently what we are seeing is renewed interest in the last of the traditional C3 body style models prior to the C3 change to a ‘fast back’ body style with the 1978-1982 models. It is also interesting to note the 1976 and 1977 T-Tops are selling at approximately $10-$12,000 LESS than the C3 chrome bumper Corvettes with the same body silhouette.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Bought one of these new. If I remember correctly I paid $10,680. 4 speed with the T-Bar roof. So it would now be worth about the same which is a lot more than I can say for the Dodge Caravans I have been driving for the past 20 years.

    At the time the ’76 was considered superior to the 73, 74 and 75 models. I certainly had no trouble with those if they were unmodified.

    For its time it was considered fast and had far more status (and sex appeal) that any European car, except for Aston Martins.

    However, the rear defog button was located down in the tunnel, the seats were awful, the car squeeked and it blew hot air constantly. Since it didn’t have A.C. when it rained in the hot weather it was basically undriveaable due to the heat in the driver’s compartment.

    The battery was behind the seats. Mine died once. As a safety feature the clutch had to be depressed to start the car. So I had to lay across the seats and work the clutch, gas, brake (my emergency brake was defective from the factory) with my hands while the seats were lowered over my back and the booster was run to the battery.

    Still, great times. Wish that I still had it. Unfortunately needed something more ‘practical’ so I traded it for a realy P.O.S. brand new ’78 T-Bird.

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