Corvette Profile: 1966 Corvette

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A Profile of the 1966 Corvette

1966 Corvette Convertible
This 1966 Convertible sold for $56,000 (hammer price - before buyer's premium) at Mecum's Kansas City Auction in 2011. Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions

In 2016, the 1966 Corvette celebrates its 50th anniversary. It's a celebration that few models currently in production can proclaim, and is an occurrence certainly worth applauding. But more than just a 50-year milestone makes this Corvette special.

While the 1966 appears identical to other Midyears, a few unique features set it apart. Corvettes built in 1964 and 1966 featured chrome slats in the front grille. But for 1965, Corvette used an all black design with anodized metal. Though subtle, the chrome bumper appeared more distinctive above this darkened opening.

In keeping with cleaner lines, the rocker panel moldings were also simplified. Extra black grooves featured the year before were removed, leaving the trim piece all chrome with the exception of one, thick black line.

Powering most Corvettes this year is a 327-cubic inch engine with a four-barrel carburetor. But keep your eyes out for the few boasting a 425 horsepower 396 cubic inch engine. This was the first year for the L78 big block (only 2,157 were built) and it is one of the most collectible. The L78 was accompanied by a unique hood that raised the center bulge in the rear (similar to the stinger style hood introduced in 1967). Narrow chrome trim is mounted on the sides of the bulge.

Even more rare (though less powerful) is a 327 with Ram Jet fuel injection. Only 771 Corvettes were built with this option (less than 3-percent of all the Corvettes built that year), with a special badge placed above the front fender louvers. In fact, this is the last time Corvettes ran with fuel injection until 1982, when throttle body injection replaced the carburetors.

And you will be truly fortunate if you come across one of the few 1965 Corvettes set up for racing. The "Tanker" coupe featured an extra large, 36-gallon fuel tank. With only 41 built, these are some of the most prized editions. In recent auctions, bids have reached over $175,000 for Tanker Corvettes.

SEE ALSO: Refined to the Limit - A Profile of the 1967 Corvette​

A heavy-duty M22 four speed transmission was also optioned on 30 Corvettes this year. And the spec sheets on some track-ready Corvettes had a $100 credit in exchange for removing the heater and defroster. This removed components that weren't necessary for the racetrack and saved weight.

Nassau Blue was by far the most popular color, with 6,022 Corvettes wearing this color straight from the factory. Glen Green and Rally Red were almost tied, with 3,782 and 3,688 (respectively). Though Goldwood Yellow is not the rarest color (Tuxedo Black wins with 1,191), it ranks second at 1,275 Corvettes and is one of the most sought after.

Many Corvette events in 2015 will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Corvette. Look for special displays planned at events like Bloomington Gold, Corvettes at Carlisle and the National Corvette Restorers Society's annual convention.

For collectors, this is a great model if you are looking for a classic Corvette to drive around town or to take on a tour. Values for a base 1965 coupe that's in running condition and is mostly clean (similar to a 20-footer) have hovered under $40,000 for the past couple of years, making it an affordable classic. With the standard four-wheel disc brakes, a solid 327 engine and bonus items like air conditioning, many are comfortable enough for a longer road trip.


1965 Corvette Fact List

Total production: 23,564

Original coupe retail price: $4,321

Original convertible retail price: $4,106 


SEE ALSO: Should I buy a 1966 or a 1967 Coupe Corvette?