The Corvette has now spent nearly 70 years in the limelight, enduring 8 successive generations of production and a wealth of developmental progress. One decade after the next has passed, with the Corvette serving as the poster child for what a true American sports car can and should be. Of these generations, each has produced its share of stand-out performers within the Corvette line, holding distinct value for their form, function, or intrinsic value.
The 1970s were an ever-changing time in both Corvette production and the United States as a whole. The Watergate Scandal made headlines, an ongoing oil crisis left gasoline in short supply, and the movie Jaws first debuted in theatres. However, the 1970s was also a decade during which the muscle car fell from prominence, primarily due to growing oversight toward fuel consumption and environmental concerns. Despite this, the Corvette soldiered on, as sales continued to flourish.
The following are the three most notable Corvette models from the 1970s.
By the year 1970, the writing was on the wall, and industry insiders were well aware of impending oversight related to fuel consumption and emissions output, which would soon come into effect. While the bulk of manufacturers began dialing back their vehicles’ performance to reach compliance, GM went full steam ahead, outfitting the Corvette with some of the era’s most robust powerplants which included the 370 HP LT-1 and the 390 HP LS5.
Aside from its obvious performance attributes, the 1970 Corvette also showcased numerous improvements to the line’s interior. Such improvements included the use of redesigned seats, relocated shoulder harness inertia reels, and seat-back integrated seat belts. Additionally, one could opt for GM’s new “Custom Interior” option, which further expanded upon the Corvette’s cabin amenities.
In 1971, GM’s design and development team were attempting to hold on to their dignity, knowing full well that the coming years would see the Corvette’s performance specifications fall to nearly unprecedented levels. Still, the 1971 Corvette provided much for consumers to be excited about, including the introduction of one of the line’s highest performing big blocks, the LS6. The 454 cubic-inch LS6 was offered in conjunction with the specialty ZR2 package, and was rated at 450 HP, though these figures are often cited as being tremendously conservative.
Outside of the 1971 Corvette’s list of notable engine options, little else changed from the model year prior. However, the Corvette had just undergone several notable interior upgrades during the two previous years of production.
By the mid-1970s, the Corvette’s performance had withered to a level that few could have predicted. Horsepower had fallen much in line with that of a 4-cylinder sedan today, and recovery from these troubling times was slower than most would have hoped. However, by the end of the decade, the Corvette had slowly begun to reclaim its performance merit, and a significant amount of refinement had taken place in the car’s interior.
In 1979, numerous features, which were previously offered on an optional basis, made their way onto the list of standard equipment. These features included AM/FM radio, air conditioning, power windows, and tilt/telescopic steering. GM also introduced new “high-back” seats for the 1979 production year.