The Legendary 1961 Chevrolet Corvette: A Complete Guide to Specs and Options

The Legendary 1961 Chevrolet Corvette: Specs, Options, Codes, and Prices – Your Ultimate Guide to Buying the Vintage Model

The 1961 Corvette is considered to be one of the most iconic American muscle cars of all time. It was the first Corvette to feature a more aggressive and sportier look and was powered by a variety of engine options, including the legendary 327 ci V8. Read on to learn more about the specs of the 1961 Corvette.

  • Reliable and economic performance
  • Stylish design inside and out
  • High-tech features for convenience and safety

The 1961 Chevrolet Corvette is an iconic classic sports car and the first generation of the legendary C1 Corvette, which ran from 1953 – 1962. This post will provide an overview of the specs, options, codes, quantities, and prices of the 1961 Corvette, making it an invaluable resource for anyone interested in purchasing the vintage model. Whether you’re a collector, hobbyist, or simply an admirer of classic cars, this post will provide an in-depth look at the legendary 1961 Chevrolet Corvette.

IN THIS ARTICLE:

The 61 Corvette was the ninth year of the C1 series, and Chevrolet had made a few notable changes to the design of the car. The exterior received new features like a new grille design, rear fender scoops, and round tail lights.

It was the top-performing American sports car of its time, with a range of engine options.

One of the standout features of the 1961 Corvette was its suspension.  At the time of its debut, the first-generation (C1) Corvette was outfitted with a comparatively traditional suspension system that featured multi-leaf springs in the rear and a combination of coil springs and control arms up front. Additionally, this model was ahead of the time with a stabilizer bar for improved road handling.

Standard Equipment

A 283ci, 230hp engine, 3-speed manual transmission, vinyl interior trim, and a soft top were included in the base price. For the 1961 models, the windshield washers, a courtesy light, sun shades, a temperature-controlled radiator fan, and a parking brake warning light were all included as standard equipment.

Engine Specs

The 1961 Corvette featured five engine options.

  • 230 H.P. Single 4-Barrel compression ratio was 9.5.1
  • 245 H.P. Twin 4-Barrell compression Ratio was 9.5:1
  • 270 H.P. Twin 4-Barrel compression ratio was 9.5:1
  • 275 H.P. Ramjet Fuel Injection compression ratio was 11.0:1
  • 315 H.P. Ramjet Fuel Injection compression ratio was 11.0:1

This was the last year for the 283ci engines in Corvettes.

The standard engines were equipped with 230hp painted steel valve covers, whereas the optional ones had seven-fin cast alloy versions. In both cases, the covers featured straight-across mounting holes, fastened with Phillips-head screws.

For engines not utilizing fuel injection, the windshield washer reservoir was placed on the left side; however, for fuel injected engines, the reservoir was situated on the right and guarded by a heat shield.

Performance

In terms of performance, the 1961 Chevrolet Corvette could go 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds and a quarter mile in 14.2.

Transmission Specs

In 1961, 4-speed transmission aluminum cases debuted. The width of the transmission tunnel was reduced.

Out of the total 1,458 RPO 313 automatic transmissions, 1,226 were paired with 230hp engines, while 234 were paired with 245hp engines.

The 1961 Corvette came standard with a three-speed manual transmission, with the option to upgrade to a four-speed manual or a two-speed Powerglide automatic. The three-speed transmission had a floor-mounted shifter, while the four-speed option had a Hurst shifter. Both transmissions were designed to handle the car’s impressive power and acceleration.

In terms of the car’s steering and suspension, the transmission was connected to a solid axle rear end with leaf springs. The front suspension featured coil springs and independent suspension with unequal-length A-arms. This allowed for better handling and control on the road.

Overall, the transmission specs of the 1961 Corvette were a perfect complement to the car’s impressive engine and suspension. Drivers could choose the transmission that best suited their driving style and needs, whether it be the standard three-speed manual or the more powerful and sporty four-speed manual, or Powerglide automatic.

Radiator

n 1961, a new aluminum radiator with a crossflow design and side-mount expansion tank was introduced. Unfortunately, during the initial production stages of 1961, earlier versions of both copper and aluminum radiators were used. Reports have stated that it was the intention of Chevrolet to provide copper radiators exclusively for basic engines until stocks were depleted.

Body Specs

Showcasing the debut of the now iconic quad taillight design, this 1961 Corvette is a showstopper in Fawn Beige. The new rear gave the C1 Corvette an entirely fresh aesthetic.
Showcasing the debut of the now iconic quad taillight design, this 1961 Corvette is a showstopper in Fawn Beige. The new rear gave the C1 Corvette an entirely fresh aesthetic.

The 1961 Chevrolet Corvette is widely regarded as one of the most iconic sports cars ever made. Its sleek and stylish exterior design was a significant departure from previous models, and it quickly became a fan favorite.

For the model year 1961, the exterior of the Corvette underwent a facelift, marked by the removal of the ‘teeth’ that had graced the grille area. For 1961, the grill was finished with a hue of argent silver. The front headlight bezels were also given a paint job to match the car’s body. At the rear, a radical new look was unveiled, complete with four taillights – a tradition that would continue to be featured on Corvette models for years to come.

It was the last year for the two-tone side cove paint treatment.

It was the last year for the two-tone side cove paint treatment.
It was the last year for the two-tone side cove paint treatment.

In 1961, a distinct alteration from the Corvette’s past models occurred as the exhaust began to vent beneath the car instead of out of the rear body panel or bumper.

Unlike previous models, the 1961’s lower rear convertible soft top was crafted out of aluminum instead of steel.

Dimensions

The wheelbase measures 102 inches, while the overall length of the vehicle stands at 177.7 inches. With the soft top-up, the overall height is 52.2 inches, while the same with the top-down is 50.2 inches and 52.1 inches with a hardtop. At the door, the height is 33.5 inches, with a ground clearance of 6.7.

Exterior Color Options:

The '61 Corvette offered a range of exterior colors, from the exclusive Jewel Blue to the more conventional Tuxedo Black, Fawn Beige, Roman Red, Sateen Silver, Honduras Maroon, and Ermine White. Some cars were also finished with colors that were not available on the standard palette, while a few were left in primer. All the soft tops had black headliners, while the tops came in either black or white.
The ’61 Corvette offered a range of exterior colors, from the exclusive Jewel Blue to the more conventional Tuxedo Black, Fawn Beige, Roman Red, Sateen Silver, Honduras Maroon, and Ermine White. Some cars were also finished with colors that were not available on the standard palette, while a few were left in primer. All the soft tops had black headliners, while the tops came in either black or white.

The 1961 Corvette boasted seven distinct colors for the exterior: Tuxedo Black, Fawn Beige, Roman Red, Jewel Blue, Sateen Silver, Honduras Maroon, and Ermine White. The most exclusive was the Jewel Blue, only available in 1961. Additionally, seventeen cars were finished with colors not offered on the standard palette or left in primer. Lastly, all soft top headliners were black, while the tops were either white or black.

1961 Corvette Exterior Color Options

CODEEXTERIORQUANTITY
Tuxedo Black1,340
Ermine White3,178
Roman Red1,794
Fawn Beige1,363
Sateen Silver747
Fawn Beige1,363
Honduras Maroon1,645
Jewel Blue855

Interior Specs

The 1961 Corvette offered four luxurious vinyl color choices: black, blue, fawn, and red. Each interior was luxuriously upholstered with foam rubber padded all-vinyl trimmed bucket seats and safety belts for comfortable and adjustable seating for two passengers, accompanied by long, padded armrests on each door and safety reflectors in door sidewall panels. The convenience of the windows being able to be cranked operated or upgraded to a power-operated option, plus a vinyl-covered, padded instrument panel, passenger assist bar, aluminum and vinyl sidewall trim, and a competition-type steering wheel, truly make this Corvette the car of your dreams. To make matters even better, the door sills in this year’s model were crafted in a single piece instead of the two-piece design from the year before.

The 1961 Corvette was created with style and comfort as top priorities, creating a unique driving experience that is still celebrated today. Not only does the classic design provide a sense of ease and pleasure when out on the open road or in the city, but it also includes modern features like directional signals, two-speed electric link-driven windshield wipers, an electric clock, a parking brake alarm, a courtesy light, sunshades, a push-button windshield washer, an ashtray, and a glove compartment with key lock. Additionally, those looking for an extra touch of luxury could opt to add a transistorized push-button signal-seeking radio and heater.

1961 Corvette Interior Color Option

CODECOLOR
Black Vinyl (3,487 built)
Blue Vinyl (1,331 Built)
Fawn Vinyl (1,662 Built)
Red Vinyl (4,459 Built)

Wheels and Tires

In 1961, the Corvette was fitted with either the standard Blackwall tires or the optional whitewall tires for a bit more pizzazz. Whitewalls were a tad wider, with measurements of 6.70 x 15 inches, while the standard tires came in at 6.50 x 15 inches. As it happened, this was the last model year where whitewall tires were offered, with three varieties to choose from: U.S. Royal Air Ride, B.F. Goodrich Silvertown and Firestone Deluxe Champion.

In contrast to the conventional full discs, the RPO 276 had one-half-inch wider wheels and adopted small 1960-passenger car hubcaps.

The 1961 Corvette featured standard 15-inch steel wheels with full-wheel covers and optional whitewall tires. A heavy-duty suspension option was available, which included stiffer springs and shocks and larger diameter sway bars, as well as 15-inch aluminum knock-off wheels.

Additionally, the 1961 Corvette featured drum brakes with the option for power assist. The brakes were a four-wheel design, with 11-inch drums in the front and rear.

Overall, the 1961 Corvette’s wheels and tires contributed to its sporty and stylish appearance while also providing solid performance on the road.

Optional Equipment

The 1961 Chevrolet Corvette was available with several optional equipment packages that allowed buyers to customize their sports car to their liking. Let’s take a closer look at some of these optional extras.

The RPO 687 Heavy Duty Brakes and Steering package featured several components, including special front and rear shocks, air scoops/deflectors for front brakes, finned brake drums with cooling fans, metallic brake linings, a quick-steering adaptor, and air scoops for rear brakes. In order to utilize RPO 687, customers were required to order either RPO 354 or 468 and RPO 675.

LPO 1625 (a 24-gallon fuel tank) necessitated the hardtop in place of the soft top, as the tank took up a section of the stowage area normally reserved for the folding top.

A total of 5,680 RPO 419 auxiliary hardtops were made available, with 2,235 of them being provided instead of the originally planned soft tops free of charge.

Another popular option was the RPO 440 Two-Tone Exterior paint scheme. For an extra $16.15, buyers could choose from six different color combinations, including Roman Red/Ermine White, Sateen Silver/Ermine White, and Honduras Maroon/Ermine White.

The RPO 426 Power Windows package was another option that many buyers chose. For $59.20, drivers could add power windows to their Corvette, making it easier to operate the side windows from the driver’s seat.

A range of other options were also available, including a hardtop for $236.75, a Positraction rear axle for $43.05, and a four-speed manual transmission for $215.20.

Overall, these optional extras allowed buyers to customize their 1961 Chevrolet Corvette to their liking, making it a true one-of-a-kind sports car.

1961 Chevrolet C1 Corvette Options

RPO#DESCRIPTIONQUANTITY$ RETAIL
867Base Corvette Convertible10,9393,934.00
101Heater10,671102.25
102AM Radio, Signal Seeking9,316137.75
242Positive Crankcase Ventilationn/a5.40
276Wheels, 15×5.53370.00
2906.70×15 Whitewall Tires9,78031.55
313Powerglide Automatic Transmission1,458199.10
353283ci, 275hp Engine (fuel injection)118484.20
354283ci, 315hp Engine (fuel injection)1,462484.20
419Auxillary Hardtop5,680236.75
426Power Windows69859.20
440Two-Tone Exterior Paint3,36816.15
468283ci, 270hp Engine (2×4 carburetor)2,827182.95
469283ci, 245hp Engine (2×4 carburetor)1,175150.65
473Power Operated Folding Top442161.40
675Positraction Rear Axle6,91543.05
6854-Speed Manual Transmission7,013188.30
686Metallic Brakes1,40237.70
687Heavy Duty Brakes and Steering233333.60
14086.70×15 Blackwall Tiresn/a15.75
162524 Gallon Fuel Tankn/a161.40

Production Numbers

The 1961 Chevrolet Corvette continues to be highly sought-after among collectors. An impressive 10,939 were manufactured in 1961, with sales reaching a historic high.

The majority of Corvettes produced in 1961 had a base 230-horsepower engine. However, a small number of special high-performance versions were also produced, including the fuel-injected 283 cubic inch V8 engine. 

If you’re interested in owning a 1961 Corvette, it’s important to keep in mind that certain colors and options are rarer than others. For example, the Roman Red exterior color was the most popular choice for 1961 Corvettes, with 3,178 produced. Other popular colors included Ermine White (2,401 produced) and Tuxedo Black (1,792 produced).  The rearrest color was Sateen Silver, with only 747 produced.

The power-operated folding top, RPO 473, only was chosen by 442 people, making it a very rare option.

Knowing these production numbers can help you make an informed decision when searching for a 1961 Corvette to add to your collection. A rarer color or options package may increase the value of the car. Regardless of the specific details, owning a 1961 Corvette is sure to bring a sense of pride and admiration.

Prices

The 1961 Chevrolet Corvette was priced at $3,934 for the base model with the 283-cubic-inch engine and a manual transmission. Adding the Powerglide automatic transmission option brought the price up to $4,038. 

Optional upgrades such as power brakes, power steering, and a hardtop could add anywhere from $43 to $236 to the price tag. The fuel-injected 270 and 315 horsepower engine option costs an extra $484.

Estimates released by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of the Census show that the median income of families nationwide in 1961 was approximately $5,700, while households headed by college graduates earned an average of $9,300. Interestingly, despite its status as a luxury sports car, the 1961 Corvette’s base price was only slightly higher than the average annual salary at the time. This helped contribute to the Corvette’s popularity and made it an achievable dream for many car enthusiasts. 

Today, a well-maintained 1961 Corvette can sell for anywhere from $40,000 to over $100,000, depending on its condition, rarity, and options. However, the feeling of driving one of these iconic American sports cars is priceless.

1961 Corvette Photos

An eye-catching 1961 Chevrolet Corvette Big Brake Fuelie (LOT S193) will be auctioned off at the Mecum Indy 2023 event. This impressive vehicle is powered by a Fuel-Injected 283/315 HP V-8 engine and is widely recognized as the highest combined-scoring 1961 Corvette among Bloomington Gold and NCRS judging standards.

Despite the highly contested 1957 American Manufacturers Association ban on racing, Zora Arkus-Duntov, the lead engineer of Corvette, and his development team still persistently worked to incorporate new race-derived performance enhancements to the vehicle. For improved cornering, they added anti-roll bars, and both the clutch and radiator were redesigned using lightweight aluminum material. Thanks to these additions, the Corvette saw greater success on the race track, which then subsequently led to increased sales.

Below are some photos of the 1961 Chevrolet Corvette for sale at the Mecum Indy Auction

1961 Chevrolet Corvette Fawn Beige Fuel-Injected 283-315 HP V-8 VIN 10867S106485 has only 334 miles on it.
1961 Chevrolet Corvette Fawn Beige Fuel-Injected 283-315 HP V-8 VIN 10867S106485 has only 334 miles on it.
This rare 1961 Corvette with fuel injection, which is part of the Keith Busse Collection, is even more uncommon due to the fact that only 233 cars had the optional RPO 687 Big Brake/special steering package.
This rare 1961 Corvette with fuel injection, which is part of the Keith Busse Collection, is even more uncommon due to the fact that only 233 cars had the optional RPO 687 Big Brake/special steering package.
This vehicle is equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission, a Positraction system, highly-durable finned brake drums with integrated cooling fans, Big Brake air ducts, and a set of RPO 276 15x5.
This vehicle is equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission, a Positraction system, highly-durable finned brake drums with integrated cooling fans, Big Brake air ducts, and a set of RPO 276 15×5.
This 1961 Chevy Corvette boasts an exquisite Fawn Beige exterior, complete with a contrasting black soft top and an additional Fawn Beige hard top. The interior is elegantly finished in beige.
This 1961 Chevy Corvette boasts an exquisite Fawn Beige exterior, complete with a contrasting black soft top and an additional Fawn Beige hard top. The interior is elegantly finished in beige.
This highly-regarded Corvette model has achieved numerous awards and certifications, such as Bloomington Gold and induction into the Bloomington Gold Special Collection. Its success in NCRS judging is unparalleled, receiving Top Flight National, Top Flight Regional, and the Duntov Award scores of 99.5%, 99.7%, and 99.5%, respectively, as well as the Performance Verification and Ladies Choice awards.
This highly-regarded Corvette model has achieved numerous awards and certifications, such as Bloomington Gold and induction into the Bloomington Gold Special Collection. Its success in NCRS judging is unparalleled, receiving Top Flight National, Top Flight Regional, and the Duntov Award scores of 99.5%, 99.7%, and 99.5%, respectively, as well as the Performance Verification and Ladies Choice awards.
The exterior of this 1961 C1 Corvette is Fawn Beige in color and features a black soft top and a Fawn Beige hard top. Its interior is also beige in color.
The exterior of this 1961 C1 Corvette is Fawn Beige in color and features a black soft top and a Fawn Beige hard top. Its interior is also beige in color.

The Mecum Indy auction is held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center May 12-20. 2023. According to the estimations of LOT S193, this ’61 Chevrolet Corvette Big Brake Fuelie is likely to cost between $175,000 and $200,000.

At the Mecum Kissimmee 2022 auction, Lot F117, a Sateen Silver 1961 Fuel-Injected Corvette with a 283/315 HP engine and a Duntov Mark of Excellence, was sold for an impressive $264,000.

At a Mecum auction, the most expensive sold 1961 Corvette was the Back to Back SCCA B-Prod National Champion Gulf Race Car at Monterey in 2013, which was bought for an astonishing $1,400,000.

If you’re interested in acquiring a 1961 Corvette, look no further! Our Corvettes for Sale Classifieds may have just what you need. Don’t hesitate to browse our selection today.

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