The 1976 Corvette Sting Ray was produced in 46,558 units – all of them coupes. This was the first time since the very beginning of the Corvette era that no convertibles were produced. When the production of Corvettes begun in 1953, all manufactured cars were convertibles. The coupe was not introduced until 1963, coinciding with the start of the next generation Corvettes, the C2’s, also known as the mid-year Chevrolet Corvettes. The 1963 Corvette was the very first Corvette Sting Ray. The cabriolet survived well into the third generation of Corvettes which commenced with the 1968 Corvette Sting Ray, but while the third generation continued until 1982 the cabriolet was dropped now – in 1976.
Long before 1976, the interest for cabriolets had showed a steady decline. Ten years earlier, in 1964, nearly 65 percent of all sold Corvette Sting Ray cars were cabriolets. By 1975, the proportion had dropped to a mere 12 percent. When the 1975 Corvette Sting Ray was produced, many people feared that U.S. legislation would outlaw the cabriolets completely within a few years, since the cabriolets were seen as unsafe. Many people actually bought 1975 Corvette Sting Ray cabriolets as an investment, hoping that they would be the last Corvette cabriolets ever and thereby become extremely popular and high priced by future car collectors. To their disappointment, no U.S. ban against cabriolets ever materialized and there was never any dramatic price increase for the 1975 Corvette Sting Ray cabriolet. In 1986, Chevrolet began to produce cabriolets again.
Except for being available only in the coupe form, there were few alterations in the 1976 Corvette Sting Ray. The stricter laws regarding safety and environmental concern kept the engineers busy and focus was placed on technical solutions that would keep the 1976 Corvette Sting Ray legal without loosing too much of traditional Corvette Sting Ray values. The base 1976 Corvette Sting Ray had a 350 cu. in. 180 hp engine, which was an increase by 15 hp from the previous year. The only alternative engine was the L82 350 cu. in. 210hp motor which cost $481 and could not be purchased by California residents due to smog legislation. California smog legislation had also prompted Chevrolet to offer their customers the YF5 California Emission Test option. This option cost $50 and was ordered by 7.58 percent of all buyers.
An interesting detail is that the steering wheel used in the 1976 Corvette Sting Ray was the same as in the Chevrolet Vega. The Chevrolet Vega was a subcompact car infamous for its non reliable engines. The Arab Oil Embargo had made the American consumers look for small compacts instead of traditional American cars, and the Chevrolet Vega was an effort to compete with Japanese imports. The similarity between the 1976 Corvette Sting Ray and the subcompact Chevrolet Vega was not appreciated by Corvette enthusiasts and the steering wheel was not used for the 1977 Corvette Sting Ray.
The 1976 Corvette Sting Ray could be obtained in ten different exterior colours: Classic White, Silver, Bright Yellow, Orange Flame, Red, Mahogany, Dark Brown, Buckskin, Dark Green and Bright Blue. The most popular choice was Classic White, chosen by over 20 percent of the buyers.