If there was a college-level course on Corvette appreciation and history, the text book for the early years of the marque would be the, new, 3rd Edition of Carl Ludvigsen's classic, Corvette: America's Star-Spangled Sports Car 1953-1982.
When its first edition was published in 1973, Corvette: America's Star-Spangled Sports Car broke new ground as the first automotive history book devoted solely to a single car brand. The book's First Edition and its revised, Second Edition, published in 1977, are credited with bringing a lot of new enthusiasts into the Corvette hobby.
This reviewer purchased the Second Edition in 1978 and read it cover-to-cover in four nights. I learned more about the early history of the Corvette from that one book than any of the other Corvette-related titles I read before or after. The Second Edition has been on my bookshelf for 37 years and a frequent reference tool. In addition, the 1st and 2nd Editions of the title set new standards for research and detail which Authors writing single marque history books about other cars should have to observe going forward if their intent was an accurate discussion of the subject, be it a Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari or whatever.
While the first two Editions of this book were published by Automobile Quarterly Books, The new, Third Edition is from Bentley Publishers. Not only has it nearly twice as many pages, but it also is a larger package size. Corvette: America's Star-Spangled Sports Car now covers the history of the marque all the way until the end of the third generation, '68-'82, body style.
For the Third Edition, Author, Ludvigsen, did a lot of new research. Where the Second Edition left off with the 1976 model year, the much-revised new version of this book goes to 1982, the end of the "C3" series. Also, new for this edition are the author's insights into competitors like the Bricklin and Pantera. Newly researched sidebars describe the influential LaSalle II concept cars, Bill Thomas's Cheetah, Zora Duntov's European years, custom bodies on Corvettes, the St. Louis plant, the author's driving impression of CERV II and Corvette design icon, Bill Mitchell's, personal views on the Corvette as told to the Author when Mitchell retired from GM.
The only legitimate shortcoming we saw in Corvette: America's Star-Spangled Sports Car is its gloss-over of the 5.0-liter engine used in 1980 Corvettes sold in the State of California. The LG4, 5-liter V8 was a landmark engine for the Chevrolet Corvette, and GM as a whole, because it marked the end of the long trend of decreasing performance which began with the compression ratio reduction nine years before.
Starting with the 5.0L engine, power output of base model Vettes began an upward trend which continues, unabated, today. The 1980 California Corvettes and five other GM engines received an electronic engine control system and a 3-way catalytic converter. Known as "computer controlled catalytic converter" (C-4) the system was capable of closed loop, feedback control of air/fuel ratio, feedback control of spark advance and had a rudimentary self-diagnostic capability. While a revision of the C-4 system appeared the following model year on all Corvettes, it was the 1980 Corvette's California-only, LG4 which was the first Chevrolet V8 to use electronic controls. That began a revolution in GM Powertrain technology. The discussion of the California five-liter, because of its impact on virtually all GM engines which followed and its impact on the development of combustion controls throughout the automotive industry, should have been more in-depth.
There is very little else to criticize in this book. It was a thoroughly enjoyable, extremely informative and highly compelling book to read. Mr. Ludvigsen's style is always comfortable to read and does not get overly technical making the book a pleasure for Corvette gearheads and nongearheads alike. No serious Corvette enthusiast should leave Corvette: America's Star-Spangled Sports Car out of their reading list.
The Author, Karl Ludvigsen, has been active in the automotive industry for over 50 years as an executive (with GM, Fiat and Ford) and head of a consulting company, as well as, an author and historian. As an author, co-author or editor he has some four dozen books to his credit. Needless to say, they are all about cars and the automotive industry, Karl's life-long passion.
For more information, see the Bentley Publishers web site.