Corvette styling was substantially upgraded in 1961. Although enthusiasts at the time did not know it, they were being given a sneak peak of things to come. The rear would carry over to 1963, which would be a pivotal year in Corvette history. The "ducktail" design (above) of the 1961 (and '62) would be known as "transitional" years. The exhaust now exited below the body and not via an opening in the bumper as in previous years. The four round tail lights was the start of a Corvette tradition that would continue for more than 50 years.
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Above: Body colored headlight bezels began to replace the chrome of 1960. Below: The Corvette style was softened somewhat by the removal of the "teeth" in the grill.
Other changes for 1961: Sun visors, an aluminum radiator, parking brake warning lamp, interior lights and the windshield washer were standard equipment. The four speed transmission featured an aluminum case.
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Laura Shepard Churchkey, daughter of astronaut Alan ShepardClose
Laura Shepard Churchkey, daughter of Alan Shepard, the first American to travel into outer space, leads the parade commemorating the 50th anniversary of Shepard's historic flight Saturday, May 7, 2011 in Cocoa Beach, Florida in a 1961 Corvette. Alan Shepard brought along his 1957 Corvette when he reported for Space Program training in April 1959. He would own at least 10 Corvettes in his lifetime. His enthusiasm for sports cars was shared by several of the other young men who would train with him to become America’s first astronauts.
Typical 1961 Corvette print ads. Today they would be referred to as lifestyle ads; i.e. Corvette = the good life.
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1961 Corvette print adClose
1961 Corvette ad 1927 with BugattiClose
GM had enough confidence in the road manners of the Corvette that they compared their product to a 1927 Bugatti.
By 1961, Corvette drivetrain choices had become ample with a configuration for every budget and performance intention. 1961 would also be the last year for the 283 cubic inch engine first seen in 1958.
1961 Chevrolet Corvette Illustration courtesy Dominic LucasClose
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1961 Chevrolet Corvette Owners ManualClose
1961 Corvette Options