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From the archives: 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray road test

Classic second-generation Vette set a high standard, paving the way for the 21st-century Stingray

Published: June 26, 2014 08:00 AM
1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray

Photo: Alan Vanderkaay

In August 1966, Consumer Reports magazine published a road test of the 1966 Chevrolet Corvette, back when the Beatles were in their heyday, Lyndon Johnson was President, and "Sting Ray" was still two words. Now, as Chevy resurrects the Stingray name from its '70s archives for the striking 2014 model, we look in the rearview mirror at our review of the second-generation V8 Sport Coupe.

As we wrote nearly 48 years ago: "Since its introduction in 1953, the Corvette has been steadily refined and improved until it is now accepted through the world as a true ‘Grand Turismo’ car." Those same words ring true even today. (Download a PDF of the original report which includes road tests of the Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang.)

Consumer Reports magazine, Aug. 1966
Testers trying to retrieve the spare tire from the back of the Corvette.

Low rider

Our testers found that, like its sea-based namesake, the Sting Ray hovered close to the ground.

“Entrance and exit for this very low car, although partially aided by the wide-opening doors which are cut into the roof line, are still somewhat awkward.” The photo above shows our testers trying to retrieve the spare tire from the back of the car that rested only about six inches off the ground. They deemed the task “an assignment for a contortionist.”

Cramped cabin and lurching luggage

Inside the cabin, life was cramped and uncomfortable with meager head room and short bench seats that lacked body-hugging contouring. And, without a person in the passenger seat, the seat flopped forward during hard braking, which we reported allowed luggage stashed in the back to fly forward into the front of the vehicle.

Along with the perils of flying suitcases, the ride got off to a short, choppy start, with the low-lying exhaust pipes scraping against a bump in the road, though we wrote that the “suspension retained control of the car's movements . . . and even over the worst bumps on our ride circuit the car never lost its poise.”

From Consumer Reports, Aug. 1966

Left lane, please

But the Sting Ray was not built for puttering in the right lane—and maybe not for transporting one's baggage, either. We did positively assess that the car's independent suspension could handle life well at all speeds, but the coupe really excelled on the track when we took it into the upper numbers on the speedometer, revealing the car’s true destiny. Sprinting from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds, the Sting Ray was more than twice as fast as the six-cylinder Ford Mustang Fastback we tested in the same issue.

“On the sports car track, during the high-speed handling tests, the Corvette's handling was excellent, even when pushed through the corners much faster than any of our other test cars. The power-steering behavior proved how good power steering can be, and should be, on all cars—the ratio was very quick, the effort moderate, and the feel precise.”

The Corvette’s two-speed transmission, a technology that had not impressed us in other cars, performed well with enough power to offset the need for additional gears.

Let's take a brake

We also had high praise for the Sting Ray's braking system. “It is one of the few high-performance U.S. cars—if not the only one—with a standard-equipment braking capacity to match its performance level. . . . The Corvette passed the repeated-stop test very well, although there was measurable fade after the 10th stop. The important characteristic of the Corvette four-wheel disk brakes was the feeling of predictability and confidence they provided whenever they were used.”

This hallmark continues, as we found the new Corvette delivers record-setting stops in our tests.

Under the hood

The pleasure of the Sting Ray's speed was paid for in the economy of her space. The packed placement of parts under the hood made the cabin space seem spacious by comparison. We found that the battery was tucked under one fender and covered by the radiator header tank, making the task of checking the battery fluid level or adding fluid almost impossible. On our test Sting Ray, we reported that “the heater hose plumbing was so close to the battery that the sharp-edged battery cover wore a hole through the hose after less than 1,000 miles.” And, we've already mentioned the testers' contortionistic attempts to extricate the spare tire.

Bottom line: Expensive, impractical, and worth it

Like many beauties, the Sting Ray could be high-maintenance and impractical, but our testers determined that she was worth it. “To sum up, if a domestic high-speed road car, seating two persons only, fills your requirements for personal transportation, then the Corvette, with its powerful performance, excellent brakes, and excellent steering and handling may be your best choice. . . . The car is expensive, and in many ways impractical, but there is nothing else quite like it manufactured in the U.S.”

Those words could equally apply to today’s Corvette. Read our detailed 2014 Corvette road test.

Sharon Riley

 

1966 Chevrolet Corvette

2014 Chevrolet Corvette
MSRP $4,784 $53,000
Wheelbase (in.) 98 107
Length 175 177
Width 69 74
Height 50 49
Curb weight (lbs.) 3,135 3,470
Engine 327 CID V8 6.2L V8
Horsepower 300 460
Transmission 2-spd automatic 7-spd manual
0-60 mph (sec.) 7.5 
4.3
Overall fuel economy (mpg) 14 20

 

   

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