To many Corvette lovers, the '74 Stingrays were the worst ones yet. Down on power (compared with just a half-decade earlier), up in price, and wearing those body-colored bumpers.

But, to Vette folks in the know, there's a two word answer: So what?

So what if the powertrain choices included only three engines, two of them 350s? Was the base sticker price ($6,001.50 for the coupe, $5,765.50 for the convertible) too high? Look at how much less that money got you elsewhere that year. And as far as bumpers go, have you ever seen the hideously heavy ones that other car lines (especially the Blue Oval ones) wore back then?

There were plenty of updates to America's Only True Sports Car for its 22nd year of production. Under the hood, a new aluminum radiator attacked the shark's low-speed cooling problems. Three-point lap/shoulder belts made their first appearance for '74, as well as resonators on the exhaust system, and a relocation of the alarm system's activator from the rear panel to the left front fender.

And there were the bumpers. After meeting the 1973 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard-which called for 5-mph front-impact protection-by adding the first body-colored bumper and impact- absorption system, Corvette's engineers met the 1974 FMVSS-which called for 5-mph impact protection in back as well-with an aluminum impact bar and two telescopic brackets behind the new fascia. (If you think that added too much weight, take a look at what Chevy's big-car team added to the fullsize Impala, BelAir, and Caprice Classic to meet those bumper standards back then!)

Mike Vaccarelli's '74 Stingray coupe wears its body-colored bumpers well, even though it hasn't worn its original Corvette Orange exterior color all these years. "The person I bought it from in April 1993 hated the orange and painted it black," he says from his Wantagh, New York, home. "I kept it black for a while, [but] after the paint started getting ratty, I figured that the whole car is original except for the color, so let's go back to the original." Black wasn't a Corvette color choice for 1974-it left the color selection after 1969, and didn't reappear until 1977.

He also says that it didn't take years of searching for correct parts to keep his '74 original. "I've [had good luck] checking the catalogs from places like Mid America Motorworks, and getting parts when I've needed them," he says. "For the most part, the original stuff is still there. In the interior, the only things that aren't original are the door panels and the carpet. All the body panels are original. Under the hood, about the only thing that isn't original is the master cylinder."

That means the standard L48 350 is still there, with its OEM AC/Delco points-style ignition system and plenty of pre-catalyst vacuum lines added in the name of emissions control. Nevertheless, Vaccarelli says that it's quite a performer. "The car's great," he says without hesitation. "It moves! Even though they rated it at 195 horsepower, the car goes, even when I'm in Fourth gear up on the highway. If I hit the gas, I just go!"

As mentioned earlier, Vaccarelli has had this C3 for nearly two decades. Though it's not a daily driver, he's managed to put some miles on it-and the '74 hasn't begun to show its age the way many of its steel-bodies contemporaries did. "The car's tight-it doesn't squeak, rattle, or bang," he says. "There are about 76,000 miles on it. I usually use it for club events and shows, but I don't put more than a thousand miles a year on the car."

If you're lucky enough to find an original Corvette of any vintage, Vaccarelli says there's one important thing to remember if you want to keep it that way. "Stay up with the maintenance, and keep doing the tune-ups and oil changes. One thing that people forget about the older cars is lubrication of all the chassis and suspension parts. On newer cars, you don't have to do that, because they're all sealed, but on the older cars you need to get the old grease gun out."

Despite the first "oil shock" that hit about a month after the '74s went on sale (and all but killed sales of many other domestic cars that year), Corvette sales were up a bunch in 1974, totaling 37,502 (32,028 coupes and 5,474 convertibles) despite a two-month-long strike that hit St. Louis Assembly in late June. Still, that total was up from 1973's tally of 30,464 sharks, part of an upward sales trend that started in 1972 and didn't peak until 1979's total of 53,807 Corvettes.

With its body-colored bumpers and other required safety and emissions-control gear, was the '74 Corvette really that bad? Not if you ask those who've owned one-like Mike Vaccarelli.

Spec Sheet

'74 coupe
Owner Mike Vaccarelli; Wantagh, NY
Block Stock L48 iron, casting No. 3970010
Displacement 350 ci
Compression Ratio 9.0:1
Heads Stock L48 iron, casting No. 33881
Valves Stock
Camshaft Stock
Rocker Arms Stock
Pistons Stock
Crankshaft Stock
Rods Stock
Intake Manifold Stock iron
Carburetor Stock Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel, PN 7044207
Fuel Pump Stock Rochester mechanical
Ignition Stock Delco points-style (non-electronic)
Exhaust System Stock full dual with resonators and no catalytic converters
Transmission Stock M21 Muncie four-speed manual
Clutch Stock
Driveshaft Stock
Suspension Stock
RearEnd Stock with Positraction and 3.36:1 gears
Brakes Stock four-wheel discs with 11-1/2-in rotors and RPO J50 power assist
Wheels Stock 15x8 steel Rallyes with chrome trim rings and "tall" center caps
Tires Goodyear Eagle ST RWL radials, 225/70R15
Weight 3,492 lbs (factory shipping weight)
Current Mileage About 76,000 (original)