The automotive press really lashed into the ’69 Shark, calling it a piece of junk, a low point in Corvette history, and the beginning of a new trend toward the image-and-gadget car. Instead of testing the ’Vette, Car and Driver magazine simply recited a litany of glitches and pronounced it “too dire to drive,” sending ripples of rage through GM.
To be frank, the ’69 was not the best ’Vette ever. Styling was boisterous, trunk space vestigial, the seats had you sliding all over the place, and the general build was shoddy. Two great engines saved the day, the 327cid and three incarnations of the big-block 427. With the hottest L88 version hitting 60 mph (96 km/h) in five-and-a-half seconds and peaking at 160 mph (257 km/h), these were cars that were race-ready from the showroom floor.
Despite the vitriol, the public liked their image, gadgets, and grunt, buying 38,762 of them, a production record unbroken for the next six years—empirical proof that, occasionally, car journalists do talk hot air.
The Stingray filled its wheelarches very convincingly with an aggressive, menacing presence. Any similarity to the European sports cars that inspired the original Corvettes had by now withered away, to be replaced by a new, threatening personality. In the annals of automotive history, there is no car with more evil looks than this 1968–72 generation Corvette.
The side-mounted exhaust option was withdrawn after ’69 because of excessive heat and noise.
Chevy stopped calling their ’Vette the Sting Ray in 1968 but thought better of it in ’69, reinstating the name as one word.
Trim liners for side fender slots only appeared in the ’69 model year.
AM/FM radio option was offered for the first time in 1968.
Tires were F70x15s and could be specified in a number of different styles including with white lettering.
The ’69 Stingray was styled by GM’s Dave Hols and owed little to the original Sting Ray. But this was the dawn of the ’70s, and while it might not have had the purest shape, it reeked muscle from every vent.
Rear window demister was an option.
Wheel-rim width increased to 8 in (20 cm) in 1969, wide enough to climb walls.
Rear rack helped since there wasn’t much room in the trunk.
A four-wheel-drive, mid-engined prototype ’Vette was developed but canceled in 1969.
If the stock 427 was not enough, there was always the 500 bhp ZL1, a 170 mph (274 km/h) racing option package. To discourage boy racers, no heater was installed in the ZL1; only two were ever sold to retail customers.
GM chief Bill Mitchell was an admirer of sharks—“they are exciting to look at”—and wanted to design a car with similar lines. In 1960 a prototype Mako Shark was made, and the end result was the 1963 Sting Ray. A further prototype in 1966, the Mako Shark II, produced the 1968–72 generation of Stingray, but the ’Vette collided with the energy crisis and would never be the same again.
1969 saw the 250,000th ’Vette come off the production line; it was a gold convertible.
Soft Ray tinted glass was an optional extra.
Half of the ’69 production were coupes with twin lift-off roof panels and a removable window—making this Stingray almost a convertible.
’68 and ’69 ’Vettes had a vacuum-operated lid which covered the windshield wipers when not in use. It was, though, a styling gimmick which malfunctioned with depressing regularity.
The first all-aluminum Corvette block was offered in 1969.
The ’69 retained hidden headlights, but now worked off a vacuum.
With the 427 unit, the ’Vette was the biggest, heaviest, fastest, thirstiest, cheapest, and most powerful sports car on the market.
A major drawback of the ’69 was its sharply raked seats, which prevented the traditional Corvette arm out-of-the-window pose. While the telescopic tilt column and leather trim were extras, the glove compartment had been introduced as standard in 1968.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (1969)
PRODUCTION 38,762 (1969)
BODY STYLES Two-seater sports and convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Fiberglass, separate chassis.
ENGINES 327cid, 427cid V8s.
POWER OUTPUT 300–500 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed manual, optional four-speed manual, three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic.
SUSPENSION Front: upper and lower Aarms, coil springs; Rear: independent with transverse strut and leaf springs.
BRAKES Front and rear discs.
MAXIMUM SPEED 117–170 mph (188–274 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 5.7–7.7 sec
A.F.C. 10 mpg (3.5 km/l)