Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
In the early 60's the Europeans were, (some would say quite rightly), convinced that the only sports cars worth driving came from British or German soil, and nothing coming out of Detroit was worth a toss.
The Europeans had heritage and breeding, while Detroit was perfectly capable of producing blustering, big-engined buses that might pass as high-speed touring vehicles if they had proper brakes
and handling. That seemed their achilies heel, the American cars all too often coming with spongy suspension
and incendiary brakes.
The question is, did the Corvette Sting Ray make a case that times had changed? It was a tough ask, considering the likes of the best of Europe at the time, any list having to include thoroughbreds such as the Aston Martin DB-5 and Ferrari 250/GT.
Certainly the Sting Ray bore a superficial resemblance to an authentic sports car; the bucket seats were remarkably well-formed and comfortable, and the instrumentation was what you would expect on a GT - with a large, clear speedometer
placed right in front of the driver. But after all, there were dozens of cars with that kind of equipment that missed being GT cars by a mile.
What most people thought let the Sting Ray down, if comparing it to European GT's, was the size and weight. Suprisingly the Vette, with a 98 inch wheelbase, was only one inch longer than the Ferrari and 3.5 inches longer than the Aston Martin! But it was heavy like a truck - or so most people thought.
But they were wrong. The Sting Ray weighed in at 3180 lbs, which compared favourably to the Aston Martin's 3450lb. in the same trim. Ferrari claimed only 2540 lbs for the 250/GT (we are unable to verify the accuracy of this figure), so the jury was still out. Maybe what the pundits should have been asking was the level of engineering sophistication - after all, that is the heart of any great GT.
Given the Ferrari and the Aston Martin were more than double the sticker price at the time (over US$12,000), it was only to be expected that the Sting Ray would not make the grade. The first place we decided to look at was the suspension
- the failing of so many American cars of the era.
The Corvette had fully independent suspension
fore and aft. The Ferrari and the Aston used Live rear axles. Moving on to the gearbox, the Aston Martin featured an optional ZF five.-speed unit that was unparalleled, and although the Ferrari made do with only 4 forward cogs, it had a tremendous reputation. So how could a gearbox coming from Muncie, Indiana ever compete. Strange name perhaps, but the Muncie was, at the time, one of the lightest, most positive linkages ever designed and featured near-perfect ratios.
So far the honours are pretty much going the way of the Vette. But how could an American engine hope to (or dare to) compete with the best overhead camshaft units Europe could produce. The Ferrari V-12 dated back to the 1940s, but it remained one of the greatest designs of all time. And the Aston Martin engine was a lovely double-overhead-cam straight-six. Of course we know the big 365-hp and 375-hp Corvettes had a considerable edge in sheer power, but they were harsh, solid-lifter, semi-racing engines that hardly fitted the mould of a smooth, silent GT power plant.
But if you are going to compare the engineering prowess of one particular engine over another, it seems only fair to also consider the horses on tap - after all, that is a pretty important ingredient in the makeup of a GT. And better yet, the Corvette did get a mild engine makeover to make it a little less agricultural. GM fitted hydraulic lifters, and tuned it to produce three hundred-and-fifty horsepower at 5800 rpm. That was one hundred more horsepower than the 250/GT, and sixty-eight more than the Aston-Martin. Then consider the vast advantage the Corvette had in cubic inches: In terms of engine efficiency, the Ferrari produced 1.36 horsepower per cubic inch, the Aston Martin gave 1.16 hp per cubic inch and the Corvette 1.072 horsepower per cubic inch.
Speed in excess of 125 mph was considered essential for a car of this sort and on that count we'll have to give the Corvette a passing grade. With a 3.31 rear axle ratio, it would easily exceed that mark and, equipped with the optional 3.01 ratio, it could top 150 mph without effort. But anything capable of those types of speeds would need pretty good brakes, and those from Detroit were average - right? Kind of. GM fitted the Corvette with 11 inch vented discs to all 4 wheels, which turned out to be a revelation and remarkably resistant to fade.
The Ferrari had an enormous 573 square inches of swept braking area and the Aston Martin had 468 square inches. These figures compared favourably to the old Corvettes which had a paltry 321 square inches. But the C2 Corvette disc brakes
had 461.2 square inches of swept lining, making them one of the really outstanding braking systems available on a production car at the time.
So what is it we are trying to say? We set out to make a case for considering the Sting Ray one of the best GT's of the era, taking on the likes of pedigreed Europeans. Sure, the Vette lacked the necessary "breeding", but it was fast, silent and stable - as much in keeping with the grand touring concept as the other two. It was obvious that the Corvette was not as equally sophisticated from an engineering standpoint, or that it was as well made. But it was more reliable than the Aston or Ferrari. And today, is equally as sought after.