1961 Chevrolet Corvette

1961 Chevrolet Corvette

The ’61 Corvette got a thorough reworking of the look both front and rear. Up front, this was the first year the Corvette didn’t have big chromed “teeth” in the grille. It was a much finer texture, more modern. The rear end was also completely restyled. Gone were the protruding, ‘sonar-probe’-looking taillights, and in their place, for the first time ever, the 4 round taillights that would become a Corvette trademark until the C7 comes out in 2014. In addition, the rear end lost it’s rounded butt and gains that sexy ducktail that showed the way for the next generation of Corvettes, just around the corner.

This was the first year for the aluminum radiator as standard, of a new cross-flow design. However, due to delays with its development, many 1961s were built with the old copper radiators as used on the 1960. The exhaust was relocated so that it no longer exited through the back bumper, it now passed through the lower valance, under the bumper. The transmission tunnel was reengineered so that it took up much less space, increasing interior volume. Courtesy lights, windshield washers, a temperature-controlled radiator fan, sun shades and a parking brake warning light were now standard equipment. This was the last year for 2-tone paint, and the only year for the color Jewel Blue, with 855 built in that color.

1961 Chevrolet Corvette INTERIOR

1961 Chevrolet Corvette ENGINES

This was the last year for the 283 cubic inch small block V8. It would be replaced by the bored and stroked 327 small block in 1962. But, for 1961, there were five of them offered in varying outputs and induction systems. See the chart below for more details. The base engine was a 283 with single 4-barrel carburetor producing 230hp. Then there were two 283s with two 4-barrels, one with 245hp and the other 270hp. 1961 was the last year for the dual 4-barrel setup. At the top of the heap were the two “Fuelies”, those with the revolutionary, ahead-of-its-time Rochester mechanical fuel injection, with 275hp and 315hp. Remember, this was 1961, and this was only a 283 cubic-inch OHV engine. Chevy had been the first to break the one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch barrier with the 1957 283 Fuelie with 283hp. The muscle car world was in awe. It had never been done before! And now, 4 years later, the same engine with essentially the same fuel injection system was now making 315hp (below). That’s progress. Base engines had stamped-steel valve covers with ‘Chevrolet’ script embossed in them. Optional engines all had polished, cast-aluminum valve covers with 7 fins.

BELOW: Rochester Fuel Injection system. The first in a production car to produce more than one horsepower per cubic inch of displacement. When tuned right, they screamed. But, they were expensive, the most costliest option on the list. By the mid-60s, it became cheaper to install a big block. The last “Fuelie” was built in 1965.

All Corvettes, regardless of engine, came standard with a 3-speed manual transmission with floor shift. The only automatic offered in the 1961 model year was the 2-speed Powerglide. The performance-minded chose the optional Muncie 4-speed manual gearbox. Engines mated to automatics actually had a different engine code than standard transmission engines, even if the other specs were the same. See the chart below for details.

1961 Chevrolet Corvette SPECIFICATIONS

1961 Production

Serial Numbers





Curb Weight

Fuel Capacity


Base Engine

RPO 469

RPO 468

RPO 353

RPO 354


Engine Type

Engine Family

Block & Head Material


Bore & Stroke

10,261 Convertibles

10867S10001 to 10867S110939

102.0 inches

177.2 inches

72.8 inches

51.6 inches

3,035 lbs

16.4 US gallons

230hp 283 V8 w/single 4-barrel carb, 9.5:1 compression

245hp 283 V8 w/dual 4-barrel carbs, 9.5:1 compression

270hp 283 V8 w/dual 4-barrel carbs, 9.5:1 compression

275hp 283 V8 w/Rochester Fuel Injection, 11.0:1 compression

315hp 283 V8 w/Rochester Fuel Injection, 11.0:1 compression

90-degree OHV V8 w/5 main bearings

Chevrolet Small Block

Cast Iron

283 cubic inches

3.875″ X 3.00″