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The 1976 C3 Corvette saw changes inside and out as GM continued to try to make the touring car quieter and more comfortable, although not all of its efforts were met with applause.
Probably the most controversial change was the incorporation of a smaller diameter, four-spoke steering wheel. The intent was to add a little more room to the cabin's close confines and to make ingress and egress easier. But the fact that this was the same steering wheel as used on the low-end and hapless Chevy Vega brought some sneers and jeers from customers.
Steel floor panels replaced fiberglass floor panels in 1976, helping to deflect not only heat from the catalytic converter but also noise in GM's continuing quest to make the C3 Corvette a quieter ride. To that end, GM also scrapped the cowl flap, which some drivers had complained was too loud, opting instead to bring more air to the engine over the radiator through a scoop.
GM also continued to lighten the C3's load, making its lighter Freedom maintenance-free battery standard in 1976. And the corporation finally was ready to market its lighter aluminum wheels, long in the works but subject to performance problems. The aluminum wheels option cost $299 for four wheels, but the spare was still a steel rim. Despite the high price tag, some 15 percent of 1976 C3 Corvettes came with the aluminum option.
Power steering and power brakes became standard by midyear, along with a custom interior trim group including leather seats. Two rear bumper styles were offered, with the Corvette letters available in recessed and nonrecessed form. CorvetteMods.com offers 1976 C3Corvette rear emblem letters.
Engine horsepower recovered a bit, with the standard L48 moving up to 180 horsepower from 165 horsepower and the optional L82 inching up 5 horsepower to 210 horsepower.
Despite the loss of the convertible from the lineup, Corvette production hit a new record, with the St. Louis plant producing 46,558 vehicles. The base price was $7,604.85.