Corvette: The Beginning
The Chief Designer at GM, Harley Earl, drives the LaSabre concept car to Watkins Glen. This is where he discovered and fell in love the Jaguar XK120. So his ideas began to take shape in 1951. The Chevrolet Corvette would soon become a reality.
On January 17th, 1953 Chevrolet unveils the Corvette dream car at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. This was the kickoff for GM’s Motorama that year. This car shows’ title came from a small yet very maneuverable naval escort ship called the EX-122.
During that same year, on June 30th to be exact, the first production 1953 Corvette comes off of the assembly line in Flint, Michigan. They capped production at 300 units, each one possessing the iconic Polo White combined with the Sportsman Red for the interior and exterior color scheme. This Vette’s powered by a three carb “Blue Flame” inline six with 150 hp and a two-speed Powerglide transmission. The only additional options during this year are a heater and AM radio.
On January 1st in 1954 Corvette production began at the GM Facility in St. Louis, Missouri. Chevrolet chose to broaden the exterior color choices to include the Sportsman Red, Pennant Blue and Black. Beige became an addition for interior colors. They raised the straight six engine up to 155 hp. However by the end of the year just 3,640 Corvettes are produced.
Chevrolet introduces the small block V-8 in 1955, placed between the fiberglass fenders, and offering a three speed manual as an option. At the close of the year production totaled 700 units and the six cylinder became the past.
1956 brought about several firsts in the car production world. Factory installed, removable hardtops are offered, exposed headlamps become an added feature to the exterior. You’ll notice sculpted side coves, roll up windows, and seat belts as dealer installation option. Exactly 111 consumers chose to spend just under $200 on a high lift cam. The two four barrel carbs added power to the 265-cubic-inch V-8. Karl Ludvigsen , from Sports Cars Illustrated (at this time), considered this Corvette highly credible. Finally GM is building a sports car.
Chevy brings a redesigned hood including louvered vents and a speed of 160 mph in 1958. 1960 provides the option for an aluminum radiator. 1961 is the first year that Corvette uses four round taillights and the aluminum radiator becomes standard. The changes of that year are mild however it means the exhaust doesn’t exit through the body work anymore. Finally we arrive at 1962. This is the last year for the exposed headlamps and the solid rear axle. The engine grows an additional 327 cubic inches.
Bill Mitchell restyled the Chevy Corvette to resemble his 1959 race car. The arrival of the Sting Ray is big and includes the famous “split-window” fastback design and hidden headlamps. This style last for only one year. It’s smaller, offers electronic ignition, and independent rear suspension with one single transverse leaf spring. Next Chevrolet introduces the Z06 equipment option for only 199 Sting Ray models.
We’ll see you in two weeks for the continuation of the Chevrolet Corvette: Past, Present and Future. So make sure that you set your reminder to check out our next article.