Collector's Originality Guide: Corvette 1968-82 (available from Motorbooks.com) is a great reference guide with encyclopedic details for those who admire the flair and power of Corvettes. Focusing on the third generation of Corvettes, cars produced during these 15 model years are often the most affordable and great candidates for restoration. In fact, after noting the simple truth that restoring cars is an expensive hobby or business, the author adds that, due to the removable fiberglass body and separate chassis, working on a Corvette can be less expensive than working on many other models.
After an initial chapter providing basics like names, model years, VIN numbers — and how to decode them, permanent numbers for title and registration purposes, options, and detailed photos (by James Mann who authored How to Photograph Cars), the reader has the background needed to appreciate year-by-year changes. There are chapters for the following model years: 1968, 1969, 1970-1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 & 1976, 1977, 1978 & 1979, and 1980 & 1981. There's also a bonus chapter on restoring a 1977 Coupe and an annotated bibliography that comments on the value of individual references. Each chapter discusses body and body trim, chassis, interiors, instruments and controls, engines, cooling system, emission system, electrics, transmission, wheels and tires, suspension and steering, and brakes. Sprinkled throughout are tables with options, identification numbers, colors, and dimensions and weights. Clearly written by a true aficionado, there are detours for design changes, production numbers, history (including teamster strikes), sales prices, and structural and handling problems.
There are also factoids galore. In 1963 convertible sales were only 300 above the split-window coupe but in 1967 and 1968 convertibles outsold the coupe two to one. Sales declined thereafter, however, until the convertible was phased out in 1975. This was partly due to drivers wanting to listen to their stereo systems (remember the 8 track?) in relative quiet. In 1969 there were 40 options offered. 1975 was the first year of the catalytic converter. In 1976 fewer than 200 cars were ordered without power steering so power steering became standard in 1977. 1982 was the first model to cost more than $20,000. How do the '73 and '74 interiors differ, other than colors? The interior light was square rather than rectangular and the rear view mirror was slightly larger.
For the restorer, there are restoration tips and possible part substitutions. The story of restoring a '77 Coupe resonates with many of us. A customer wanted to replace fuel and brake lines, a pretty straightforward undertaking. Once the body was removed, though, he realized there was much more to be done. He put the car away for nine years, always intending to restore it. Eventually though, he sold it to his dealer and the author did the restoration. He was meticulous in separating bolts, washers, and spacers, logging them onto lined paper with a short description and sending them out for stripping and zinc plating. When he got them back, he filed them in labeled drawers. As he progressed with the restoration, he took digital photographs and added them to his website. He also checked and re-checked measurements and alignments and simultaneously celebrated and rued the day his job was done and the car was once more complete. He had the Coupe just the way he wanted it but he knew he'd miss working on it. In fact, he once bought a box of 80 Corvette pistons and still has them all, thinking them beautiful enough to sell eventually as sculpture. For the restorer who loves Corvettes, this is a must-have guide.
About the Author: Tom Falconer runs a Corvette business in Kent, England, one he began to buy and sell cars and parts. He bought his first Corvette, a convertible he purchased from Eric Burdon of The Animals, in 1966 — and he's never looked back. Since 1971 he has dealt with more than 700 Corvettes and since 1982 he has written nine books about them. He also claims to be an ardent opponent of commuting by car since commuters often complain that they don't enjoy their drive.