1961 Chevrolet Corvette

A very nice Black and Silver 1961 Chevrolet Corvette.

Once upon a time, just a few years ago, owners of America’s only sports car were on the receiving end of constant gibes from the “sporty car set,” which held that the only thing the beast had to offer was drag strip performance. It would go like the wind (in a straight line, they said), but it wouldn’t corner, it wouldn’t stop, it had a boulevard ride, and a glass body. And it took 265 cu in. (4.5 liters) to get that performance.

Well, these derogatory remarks probably were true at one time. At least, some of them were. But engineers have now achieved an excellent package, combining acceleration, stopping power, a good ride and handling characteristics whose adequacy is indicated by the car’s race-winning ways.

In our January 1959 test report of the 1959 we said the 1960 would be the year for the big changes in the Corvette. We were wrong. The 1960 model wasn’t too much different from, or too much better than, the 1959 version. Lacking any great changes in 1960, we might logically have predicted a major change in 1961, but luckily we didn’t.

However, the few changes which have been made are for the better. Continual refinements since 1954 have made the Corvette into a sports car for which no owner need make excuses. It goes, it stops, and it corners.

The major change in the appearance is the rear end treatment, which was derived from the Sting Ray, GM racing Corvette, owned by Bill Mitchell. The stubbier look achieves a more crisp and a fleeter appearance than that of previous models, which looked “soft.” The front end remains basically unchanged. New bumpers fore and aft blend nicely into the body design, and the exhaust tips are now under the body instead of through the bumper tips. This was a good move; there’s no mistaking the Corvette for any other make and it is a better looking car now.

The finish of the fiberglass body is generally excellent, although we did find a few minor flaws on our test car, mostly in obscure places. Panel fit and fairing from one panel to another were good and showed Chevrolet’s great attention to the Corvette molds.

Interior trim and design are similar to past models and well done, but have a little of the Motorama touch. The seats are excellently designed and are very comfortable. Our longest single excursion was of some 200 miles, but no sign of driver fatigue was evident and we honestly feel a day behind the wheel of a Corvette could be put in without undue strain.

The instruments are easy to read and include a speedometer, tach (reading to 7000 rpm — red-lined at 6200), gas gauge, temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge and ammeter. Indicator lights are used for the turn signals, high headlight beam and parking brake. The parking brake light on the panel lights up when the key is turned on (if, of course, the parking brake is on) and when the engine is started the light blinks its warning to the driver. The only fixture in the Corvette interior that’s hard to use is the radio, which is mounted in a console deep under the instrument panel. This console also carries the clock, which is difficult to see and should be looked at only when the car is stopped.

The seats have 3 in. of fore and aft movement, which gave everyone on our staff adequate leg room, but the body panel between the seats interferes with the driver’s elbow (when shifting) when the seat is at its rearmost position.

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