Continuing on with our Platforms that seem to go on forever, I thought I would turn to the Pony Car Chassis of both Ford and General Motors, and dive into the C2 and C3 Corvette Y-Body. While the Ford Fox architecture underpinned most of the Ford lineup that wasn’t a Panther or an Escort/Lynx, the GM F and Y platforms were only used for their sporty models.
The Ford Fox Body was launched in the fall of 1977 under two rather unassuming cars, the Ford Fairmont, and the Mercury Zephyr. When launched, the motoring press at that time dubbed these two cars the American Volvo. And why not? These cars had a thoroughly modern chassis with coil springs all around, rack and pinion steering, and engine choices of a four, six, or V-8 power. They were styled in the same vein as a Volvo, with upright styling, and lots-o-windows. The Ford Mustang shed it’s Pinto based chassis to the Fox platform in 1979, and went on to outlive both the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.
However, the chassis wasn’t suppose to live this long, and it was with the help of some die-hard Mustang fanatics that extended the Fox Platform. The Mustang replacement was to be introduced in 1989 as a FWD sporty car to compete with the Acura Integra and the Toyota Celica, but because of the outcry of Mustang loyalist, the FWD replacement became the Ford Probe instead. The Probe came and went while the Mustang soldiered on. A significant redesign happened in 1994, but the Fox Platform stayed true to its roots, right up until 2004. That’s a 24 year long lifespan.
Meanwhile over at General Motors, the new F-Body Camaro and Firebird was set to be introduced in 1982. It was a replacement for the long-lived F-Body Camaro and Bird that lived between 1970 and 1981, with many of the automotive journalist stating that that was a particularly out-of-date chassis. Little did they know that this F-Body would almost double it’s lifespan.
The Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird were an instant smash at their debut, with the Firebird Trans Am showing up on television screens everywhere as KITT on Knight Rider. However, all was not as it should have been, with reduced power, and lousy workmanship. These things were introduced with a 4-cylinder as the base engine, but soon the power returned with tuned port fuel injection, and the return of the 5.7L V-8. There was a complete restyle in 1993, but it was new clothing over an old chassis. The Camaro and Firebird lasted until late 2002 (Some reports have stated that they were produced until December of 2002), which is a 21 year production run.
You would think that Chevrolet’s flagship model, the Corvette, would have used the latest in chassis engineering, but that wasn’t always the case. The C2 Corvette, introduced in 1963, was truly a mind blowing tour-de-force. Here was a car built in America that offered four wheel independent suspension, fuel injected motor, and four wheel disc brakes in 1963, all wrapped in an arresting shape. When the C3 Corvette was introduced in 1968, it was nothing but a re-skin of the 1963 components.
To be fair to GM, the 70’s era was a time that all the car companies engineering went into emission controls, federally mandated bumper standards, and how to increase fuel economy. The Corvette suffered the most, with engines that were choked of performance, and with bumpers that looked anything but grotesque. Yet, it soldiered on until the C4 Corvette was introduced for the 1984 Model Year (there were no
2003 1983 Corvettes of any kind!), and that’s a 20 year production run. Some of the best sales years for the Corvette was in the late 70s, so take that to the bank for what it’s worth.