1) 1957 Corvette, Fuel-Injected
Once Zora Arkus-Duntov took over as the chief engineer in charge of the Corvette program, Chevrolet’s nimble little sportster was finally headed towards performance that lived up to the promise of the original Corvette design. For the 1957 model, Chevy added a mechanical fuel injection system by Rochester to the ‘Vette’s 283 cubic inch V8. The finely-tuned fuel distribution system delivered a startling 1 horsepower per cubic inch, for a grand total of 283 hp. In my experience, that’s easily double what most engines of the time were designed to produce.
The revolutionary fuel injection system had its origins in the custom rig Joh Fitch used to win the B class at Sebring in 1956. A highly technical and complicated system, Chevrolet’s “Ramjet” fuel injection system wound up on just 1,040 of the 6,338 Corvettes built for 1957.
The car’s performance is still impressive. I recently saw the results of a Road & Track test run on a fuel-injected ’57 Corvette with a 4.11:1 rear gearset. Top acceleration was reported as 0 to 6 in just 5.7 seconds. Personally, I think that’s outstanding performance even when judged by modern standards.
2) 1967 Corvette 427 L88
You don’t have to worry if you’re standing beside an L88 ‘Vette and you hear its Holley 850 carb grumble into life — it’s not actually sucking the breath out of your lungs, it just feels that way. Once the powertrain comes up to speed, your senses are dominated by the throaty idling roar of the engine and the distinctive smell of hot exhaust. Although Chevrolet has produced faster Corvettes than the L88, I don’t think there’s ever been one more aggressive.
According to the manufacturer’s documents, the L88 required a steady diet of 103 / 95 (research / motor) octane to avoid engine damage. This is because the aluminum-headed combustion chambers in the L88’s big-block V8 were designed to operate at a 12.5:1 compression ratio. The 427 cubic inch plant was rated by Chevrolet as capable of producing 430 hp, but I find myself siding with the third-party observers who estimated its output as well over 550 hp.
Chevy produced just 20 of these racing-pedigreed L88 monsters. Each of them features every performance-minded tweak imaginable, but creature comforts (like heating or defrosters) were decidedly lacking.
Before reading one bit further, take a minute and enjoy ’67 Vette in this video…
3) 1984 Corvette C4
Like a lot of prestigious marques, the Corvette name was entering a dark age at the start of the 80s. The C3 generation, stretching all the way back to 1968, was ending with a whimper rather than a bang. No longer a tense racer that could challenge European all-stars like Ferrari and Porsche, the Corvette had become a mushy status symbol intended more for town cruising than aggressive cornering.
The arrival of the C4 Corvette rewrote the story in an instant. Both the aesthetics and performance of the car were overhauled. Aesthetically, the ‘Vette was sharpened and pointed into something like an automotive hatchet. The engine — as well as the suspension system — was accessible underneath a generous clamshell hood. Even the wheels got a little TLC, featuring 16-inch rims and cutting-edge Goodyear Gatorback directional tires.
The only fly in the ointment at the beginning was the car’s 5.7-liter small-block V8. Held back by the underwhelming “Cross-Fire” injection system, this power plant produced just 205 hp. This was coupled with a crude “4+3” transmission and an unforgivingly stiff suspension. This new Corvette flew like a bat on a straight line, though, and the marques sports car credentials were at last redeemed.