In the March '68 issue of Motor Trend, Steve Kelly pitted a Shelby G.T. 500 convertible against the redesigned Corvette—actually a pair of drop-tops—in what he called a Sports Car Tournament.
Do we have to tell you the outcome wasn't even close?
Sure, Kelly noted that the Mustang-based Shelby had more luggage space, thanks to its trunk, and that the ponycar's insurance rates and repair costs would likely be lower than the Vette's, but beyond those ho-hum benchmarks, the Corvettes dominated.
For instance, a glance at the "Performance" portion of the spec chart shows that, despite giving up 100 cubic inches of displacement to the 428-powered Shelby, the L79 Vette lagged behind it in the horsepower department by just 10 ponies—350 for the Vette versus 360 for the Shelby. The L71 427 was way out in front with its 435hp rating. Quarter-mile times followed a similar pattern, with the small-block trailing the G.T. 500 by just a quarter of a second and 6 mph. Comparing big-block to big-block, the 427 shut down the 428 with its 14.1-second/103-mph run next to the Shelby's 14.7-second/98-mph pass. The 0-60 brake test was no contest: The 3,665-pound Shelby needed 151 feet to get stopped, compared with the 117 feet traveled by the 3,445-pound small-block Vette and 119 feet for the 3,425-pound 427. Of course, both the Corvettes were fitted with four-wheel disc brakes, compared to the Shelby's disc/drum setup.
Where the Vettes really shined was in the handling department. Kelly called the new car's road manners, "improved over '67 by at least 100 percent," thanks in large part to its F70-15 "wide pattern" tires, reduced ride height, and increased track width. In the spec chart's summary comments, he deemed the Corvette's handing, "the best of all U.S. cars, and one of the upper echelon of sports ‘handlers.'"
Not all of Kelly's comments about the Corvettes were rosy. "From the looks of things, it appears that Corvette assembly-line workers are taking time getting used to putting the new model together," he wrote. "Rough panels and ill-fitting sections, highly evident on early-run cars, indicate some practice is needed before perfection could be neared."
He was disappointed in the big-block's performance, stout as it was. The L71 in his test car was equipped with a pair of L88 aluminum heads, "and frankly we thought it'd go quicker than it did. Tuning time was shortened by inclement weather, so we had to settle for 14-second quarter-mile times. But our earlier 427 cars ('66 and '67) both hit the 13s right off the bat. The '68 should be high 12s in proper tune."
Kelly also encountered trouble, "getting the triple carburetion to work in unison. Several times, the front and rear Holley 2-bbls. refused to work. Some jerry-rigging on the vacuum linkage helps, but there's no substitute for mechanical actuation—available at most speed or specialty shops."
Still, those complaints didn't dim his overall enthusiasm for the Vettes. "Regardless of its few distinct minus points, the Corvette still holds the position of one of the world's all out ‘class' vehicles, and justifiably so," he said at the end of the story. "Kinda wish we had one."