In 1963, the second generation “C2” Corvette turned GM’s fiberglass wonder into a serious sports car. The new “Sting Ray” body was bolted to a new chassis with a shorter wheelbase and better weight distribution. Together with a new independent rear suspension, it could handle as well as anything coming out of Europe. There was just one thing missing: a big engine.
There’s No Replacement for Displacement
A big block 396 had been introduced in 1965, but the Corvette didn’t really come into its own until the addition of the 427 the following year. The rat motor was available in two forms: a basic version with 390 bhp or a “high-compression” motor with bigger intake valves and an intake and heads made out of aluminum, cutting weight and increasing output to 425 brake horsepower. As with many performance engines from the era, the 427’s were intentionally underrated to help keep insurance costs low. Real-world performance put output at around 410 hp for the base 427 and at least 450 hp in the high-compression model.
More importantly, the H.C. made 460 lb-ft. of torque, 45 more than the 396. That made it faster than anything on the road aside from Shelby’s monstrously expensive Cobra 427.
1966 Chevrolet Corvette – The Full Package
427-equipped cars have bigger axles, stiffer springs, a PosiTrac limited slip differential and a Muncie “Rock Crusher” 4-speed as standard equipment to help deal with the added power. 1966 also saw the introduction of a new power steering system GM openly admitted was benchmarked against Mercedes-Benz. The result is a surprising amount of road feel for an American car of the era.
GM Returns to Racing
Despite a brief interlude in 1963, GM hadn’t officially been involved in racing for years. Unofficially, lead designer Zora Arkus-Duntov was working on the “L-88” race car program using the new 427 as its base.
Although put into limited production in 1967, the first prototype, built around a 1966 production car, went to Roger Penske Racing to compete in Daytona’s GT class. An accident forced the team to borrow a radiator from a spectator’s Corvette and tape flashlights to the hood to stay in the race, but they still finished first in the class and 11th overall. The 427 wasn’t just a good street engine, it was a race-winning engine.
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