1968 was a good year for the Corvette, but so was 1969. In fact, while 28,566 Corvettes were sold in 1968, there were 38,762 sold in 1969!
In terms of styling, appearance was similar to the 1968 models. The word “Stingray” was added to the front fenders. The exterior door opening mechanism was redesigned from 1968, thus eliminating what was a separate release button in 1968. The optional side mount exhaust system was different in 1969 as was the side fender vent trim. At the rear, the previously separate backup lights were incorporated with the inboard tail lamps. The frame was stiffened to reduce body shake.
In the interior, the steering-wheel diameter was trimmed an inch for more under-rim thigh clearance, and the inner door panels were made to open up a half-inch per side in extra shoulder width. A flexible dash-mounted three-section map pocket was included to help make up for the lack of a proper glovebox. Other changes for 1969 included a steering column ignition switch, 8 inch wide wheels and headlight washers. Also new, was the 350 cubic inch base engine, rated at 350hp.
Two new performance options were announced for 1969: One was extremely rare, with only two installed. The other was available but put back a year. The former was RPO ZL1, which was basically the mighty big-block L88 with all-aluminum construction plus numerous other modifications such as dry-sump lubrication. Devised for the British-built McLarens that would dominate the SCCA’s Canadian-American Challenge Cup series (CanAm), this engine had the same compression and carburetion as the L88 but weighed 100 pounds less. It also carried the same 430hp rating; yet over-the-counter racing versions were reportedly good for 585bhp. It used the same special domed hood shared with the L88 (RPO ZL2) incorporating an air intake at the high-pressure area near the base of the windshield.
The 427s are listed as follows:
RPO # Description Quantity
L36 427 c.i. 390hp engine 10,531
L68 427 c.i. 400hp engine 2,072
L71 427 c.i. 435hp engine 2,722
L88 427 c.i. 430hp engine 116
L89 Aluminum heads with L71 390
ZL1 Special L88 (aluminum block) 2
Despite continued criticism from the enthusiast press for its terrible build quality, styling eccentricities, and overall lack of finesse, Corvette sales rose by more than 10,000 units to 38,762- a record that wouldn’t be broken until 1976.