Are Rubber Bumpered C3’s the “Red Haired Stepchild” of Corvettes?

It looks like some guy with a gigantic backyard consisting of dirt, a swing set and children’s toys, decided to thrash his malaise era (’78 or ’79?) Corvette for all to see. Not the first time we’ve seen something like this on YouTube, and definitely not the last. It’s good fun, and we’ve all been there, but as C3 fans, is this the best use of a classic “plastic,” and why do rubber bumpered Sharks always seem to get the brunt of Corvette hatin’? 

Aside from drivetrain combinations and suspension tuning, we all know C2 and C3 Corvettes are identical under the ‘glass. Same late ’50’s Zora Arkus Duntov chassis technology, same heavy IRS and long-in-the-tooth driving dynamics. And that wasn’t just at the end of the production run in ’82; we’re talking when the Shark debuted in ’68. And yet C2 and chrome bumpered C3’s are the chosen ones, while rubber bumper Vettes are fair game for the aforementioned guy’s shenanigans, a hideous customization, or the junkyard.

“Cam Am” conversions are well represented in the Corvette hobby, no more needed…

To be fair, ‘74-’82 Corvettes were detuned and dumbed down, and GM cranked up the poor, archaic St. Louis factory (then Bowling Green in ’81) to “11” and pumped out up to 50,000 units a year, so these cars are hardly rare.

The interior redesign for ‘78 didn’t help things either as “Fisher-Price” quality plastic combined with snap-together assembly aged quickly and just plain fell apart. Anyone with this vintage Corvette also has experienced the rubber bumpers literally disintegrating. The Corvette did incorporate government-mandated 5 MPH bumpers better than other cars of this era but unfortunately, the flexible skin technology was embryonic and it was hard to get them to fit right. Regardless, every car today with integrated plastic bumpers owes a nod to GM, Corvette, and Pontiac on this now commonplace feature.

Having said all that, these Vettes are still Bill Mitchell dream-car-infused sharks! Can we have a smidgen of respect here? While ‘68-72 chrome bumper cars are heavily influenced by the Mako Shark, ‘74-82’s are just as inspired by the the Manta Ray show car and are beauties in their own right.

Instead of chopping them up into grotesque customs or literally running them into the ground, why not use these Vettes as the ultimate resto-rod stepping off point? Because there were literally a couple of hundred thousand 74-82’s made, altering a rare car or pleasing a Bloomington judge is not a concern. Parts are plentiful, and GM Performance will happily sell you a state of the art LS mill to fix the smog motor objection once and for all. Guys like Paul Newman will provide you with a chassis with C4 suspension bits that will easily bring the car up to par in terms of handling. Hell, you can do whatever degree of restoration you want, as you could friggin’ build a Corvette from scratch from Zip, Corvette Central or Mid America Motorworks. 

Okay rant over, but can we go easy on the red haired step child rubber bumper Corvette?

Mako Shark II morphed in to this beauty, the Manta Ray Concept from 1969.


About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods.
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