General Motors has been making the Corvette since 1953 and it is one of the most cherished American nameplates (and longest-running too; 64 years and counting...) but it wasn’t born an icon. It had to work for that status.
In that debut year, production was capped at 300 units and they were all finished in a Polo White exterior with Sportsman Red interior. Power came from a 150bhp, three-carb “Blue Flame” inline-six mated to a two-speed Powerglide transmission. Interest in GM’s first sportscar was so high that it sold out in days — however, the Chevrolet has had an up-and-down journey over its seven generations and has seen many changes.
It’s only retained a few staple ingredients since birth (the two-seat configuration being one), while everything else has evolved, but in the process some of the most memorable sportscars in history have been created.
But the C3 (1968-82) sure divides opinion. Some like the curvy exterior, others not so much. Me? I absolutely adore everything about these cars.
By far the largest generation ever produced (more than 1.5 million Corvettes have been built between 1953 and 2017 and over 540,000 were these third gens), they started strong in terms of performance, but emission regulations soon strangled horsepower. ‘A bit gutless’ is how these early Eighties cars are perceived, so it’s with some nonchalance that I approach this bright red ’82 Chevy, swing the small, heavy door open, slide into the soft tan leather seat and crank the 5.7-litre V8. The first hint that I ought to take this car a little more seriously is when it thunders into life. It’s showing no sign of settling in a quieter idle, but surely its bark is worse than its bite — after all, this is an ageing sportscar from the malaise era, how potent could it still be? I stick the clunky little black lever into Drive and give it a bit too much gas… and a set of unintentional elevens has adorned the tarmac. That answers that.
This car, with just 60,800 miles (97,850km) on the clock, has a lot of life left in it and I spend the rest of the afternoon with my right foot buried to the carpet. I’m adamant I’ll not wheel anything as exciting as this — but there are moments when some of that excitement is replaced with downright fear; corner a little too enthusiastically and you feel as if you might be flung out of the t-tops. Riding a roller coaster is what driving this car is akin to; you’re safe — but there’s always that nagging feeling in the back of your mind...
Typical of all GM cars of the Eighties the steering wheel has a bit of play in it and when I hit the brakes, the nose darts this way or that. It’s a bit like being on a skid pad — you have no idea which direction you’ll be flung next, but this just adds to its ‘dangerous’ character.
Unlike most sterile cars of today, this C3 is alive and it demands all of your attention. It is a real pleasure to blast around in, even if it only comes with an automatic. The ’82 Vette was the first since ’55 not to offer a manual, but the Turbo-Hydra-Matic, with a long-striding overdrive fourth, is doing a sterling job in swapping the cogs.
With a full gauge cluster showing me everything from the oil pressure to the battery amperage it is the engine temperature that I’m looking nervously at. It’s a hot day and that big 350 must be warm under what appears an endless bonnet, but the needle never comes anywhere close to the red zone. This Chevy is in top working order.
It rides a mere few inches off the ground and you feel like you’re sitting on the road. With the roof off, you can feel prying eyes all over you whenever you stop at the lights, but when they turn green and you mash the throttle, you leave them standing and breathe a little sigh of relief, until the next set. You have to prepare yourself for a lot of attention in this car. It’s definitely not for introverts.
I’ve driven loads of sportscars and supercars and just a few have been as much fun as this C3. It’s loud, fast and ever so engaging. Sure, it probably sounds quicker than it’s actually going, but that’s just part of its charm. It was built to entertain and thirty-five years later, surrounded by soulless new cars, it is proving far more entertaining than it ever was.
— With thanks to Nostalgia Classic Cars for the loan of the 1982 Chevrolet Corvette. Fore more information, head to nostalgiaclassiccars.ae/en.
For more: http://wheels.ae/