The Genuine Corvette Black Book 1953-1996

The Genuine Corvette Black Book 1953-1996 by Michael Antonick
Published 1995, Michael Bruce Associates Inc.
126pp, paperback

ISBN: 0-933534-38-8

Acquired in a lot of books from an enthusiast.

Whenever people who enjoy cars get together, they tend to talk about cars. It may be their first car, the family hauler, or some car that was known all over town. Or maybe just the ones they read about and dreamed of. They’ll talk about the colour, and how they remember every detail, down to the engine and options it had.

But memory is a funny thing. It’s not anyone’s fault, but many times what seems ‘clear as day’ may be more like “a couple of foggy nights’. Stories emerge of cars ordered from the factory with engines that couldn’t possibly have been available, or other options never offered, that the storyteller swears are 100% true. Maybe they’ve combined a couple cars or they just heard the story incorrectly.

At the end of the day, facts are facts. When it comes to old cars, certain facts can affect everything from value to performance. And frankly, sometimes people are just interested in knowing things about cars that interest them. Many books I have read and reviewed are intended to provide the facts about certain cars, in various forms. One of the most ‘facts-based’ books in my library is The Genuine Corvette Black Book 1953-1996, by Michael Antonick, whose Illustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide was reviewed in 2015.

The Corvette has been a highly sought-after sportscar for much of its existence. Some models are quite rare, and bring big dollars when sold. For example, a red 1963 Corvette with the fuel-injected 327 engine recently sold at Barrett-Jackson for over $300,000. Originality can be a huge point for some collectors, and moreover, people simply want to know what it is they are getting. This is how books that could educate people on what to look for on a collector car came into being.

The Genuine Corvette Black Book first appeared in 1978, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the model, and has been updated almost yearly as new models have arrived. My copy is 1953-1996, which runs to the final offering of the fourth (C4) generation (note that the Corvette is now in it’s eighth generation, and is now a mid-engined sportscar). However, the books all follow the same format, each new edition adding a chapter for the latest model.

The book starts with a Glossary followed by Instructions. Yes, there are instructions on how to use this book. As Antonick points out “A great deal of data is condensed here, and it is important to understand how this information is presented and how to interpret it.” Further, it is important to remember that this book, like any other, can only contain information that is known. Antonick has done an incredible amount of research, and much of what he presents can be trusted as correct. But, when you’re discussing thousands of cars, it can happen that something was missed, perhaps undocumented, or that there was a running change in production. Sometimes it’s just a quirk of manufacturing that something is different. In fact, the author includes this tidbit…

“Former employees… tell of times when the assembly line was about to run out of parts, door trim screws or bumper bolts perhaps, and someone was dispatched to the closest hardware store to find an acceptable substitute so the line could keep rolling.”

So the point is that while this is a great source of information, it would be wrong to imagine that there would never be variations and discrepancies, and it is likely impossible for anyone to know of every single one.

After the Instructions, there is a quick Chronology outlining some major highlights for each year – major race wins, when certain engines were introduced, first time a certain option appeared, etc. That is followed by the features for each year. These appear over 2 pages for each model year, and are formatted with…

  • total production
  • the numbers – a listing of numbers, from the Vehicle Identification Number to engine suffixes to major components parts numbers that help identify the correct components for a specific year and model of Corvette
  • the facts – a bullet list of various facts that make that particular year unique, such as the introduction of a new option or safety feature, or change in styling
  • options – a list of RPO options, with description, known production quantity and MSRP, as well as bullet points illustrating notes such as option exclusions (ie options that could not be combined), packages (ie ordering an option group would include a number of individual options, or running changes (ie an option superceded by a new option during the run)
  • colours – a listing of available regular production colours, with known production quantities as well as a listing of the correct available wheel, interior and convertible top colours

After the final year of the book (in my case, 1996), the pages are rounded out by pages with a photo and the specs for each model year, including overall length, width, height and curb weight, wheelbase, tire size and track measurements.

It should be noted that the author points out that the publication is not associated with nor sponsored by Chevrolet Motor Division or General Motors. That’s not to say they aren’t real numbers or are inaccurate. Rather, they are not certified by GM to be correct. Also because the world of collector cars has become such a business for many, the author and publisher do not claim responsibility for the accuracy of the numbers presented.

So, at the end of the day, what do we have in The Genuine Corvette Black Book? Well, it’s a resource. It is really just a book full of data, designed to be useful as a reference, especially if one was looking to purchase or restore a Corvette. Like any reference, no one source should be relied upon completely. In conjunction with other resources, such as a build sheet or a car’s original invoice, it can provide a more clear picture about a Corvette in question.

Unlike a book such as Chevy Classics 1955 1956 1957, there’s no interviews with people who designed the car, or rationales about marketing or engineering. There’s not much photography to really get a visual cue about each model. A real car fanatic may get enjoyment from reading seeing each year laid out in numbers (spoiler alert, I am that fanatic). But the truth is this book is just an excellent resource – maybe not one to read cover-to-cover, but definitely something you’ll find yourself referring to again and again.

Pros: a fairly concise book that presents a trove of Corvette data in an easy to understand way; a valuable resource for Corvette enthusiasts
Cons: almost no photography; each edition becomes out-of-date when the new model is released (though obviously is still valuable for the years it would cover)
Where to find it: the official site, bookstores, eBay and Amazon

You may also enjoy…
Chevy Classics 1955 1956 1957
Legendary Corvettes: ‘Vettes Made Famous on Track and Screen
1975-77 Chevrolet Corvette

6 thoughts on “The Genuine Corvette Black Book 1953-1996

    1. Mark Post author

      Just out of curiosity, how often do you update your copy of this (or others of this type of) guides? I know you aren’t likely to be buying another Vette but I know you follow the developments of the model fairly keenly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rulesoflogic

        I try to buy a new one every three years; my current one is four years old, hence the latent “need” for an update.

        I wish books like the Encyclopedia of American Cars were just updated at all, even if only every ten years.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Mark Post author

        Agreed. I realize it’s a large amount of work and publishers allocate resources where the think they’ll make the most money. But my last search for the Standard Catalog of Pontiac shows it still only goes to 2002, and they haven’t updated it to finish the run of the make to 2009. Unfortunate.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Thanks, Mark – Disaffected Musings

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