It wasn't the massive leap forward that Corvette aficionados had hoped for. And it was panned by the critics for mostly being a carry-over from the previous generation. But there was no denying that the C3 was absolutely beautiful -- and that big block 427 could still fly.
The new for 1968 Corvette (it was supposed to be launched a year earlier but development issues meant its introduction was delayed) had evolved from a proper sportscar to more of a boulevard cruiser -- but a powerful one at that. Though it retained the same engines as the C2 (except for the mandatory air pump apparatus for emission control) it did boast GM's new three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission in place of the two-speed Powerglide auto, but the Muncie four-speed manual was still the one to have. Performance was brutal; the 427 cubic inch (7.0-litre) V8 had a monstrous 435bhp.
It was too much to handle for some, so Chevy also offered a small-block with 350bhp. The new Corvette's straight-line speed wasn't ever in doubt, but it was also surprisingly adept on twistier roads (the battery was relocated behind the seats and this helped improve weight distribution) as well as those that were as straight as an arrow even though its all-independent suspension wasn't exactly state-of-the-art. In spite of a harsh ride, a flexing body and brakes that weren't the grabbiest, the C3 was an absolute blast and offered one of the most exhilarating rides of the year. But it took your breath away before you even mashed the loud pedal.
There was much to like; a long, low nose, 15in wheels (7.0in wide -- an inch wider than the previous year) and a wider track that didn't just make it look more muscular, but helped hug the road better too.
Finally, the roofline that was lowered by 2.0in and coupled with the new T-tops added yet more glamour to the curvy C3. It wasn't a surprise that a sales record was set with 28,566 units sold in the first year. Sales remained strong until the last C3 rolled off the St Louis, Missouri assembly line in 1982.
When buying a '68 C3, don't be swayed by the stunning looks. Those big blocks eventually suffer from blown heads and if you see blue smoke from the exhaust, you'll have a pricey repair job on your hands. If it goes away once that V8 warms up then at the very least you're looking at a valve job. Bite the bullet, get it done and cruise in one of the hottest Vettes ever.