It may be hard to imagine, but the iconic Chevrolet Corvette, America’s Sports Car…is rapidly approaching its 70th birthday. The Corvette made its debut as a concept car on January 17th, 1953, wowing crowds at the General Motors Autorama in New York City. Since then, the Corvette has evolved through 8 generations (C1 through C8) of design changes. While they have not been equally compelling or successful, each has taken its place in American and worldwide automotive history. Here is a brief look.
The Birth of the Corvette
The Corvette was designed to bring Chevrolet out of an early 1950s sales slump. The American sportscar was developed under the name Project Opel, with the name Corvette being taken from a speedy warship, and just happened to match well with the name Chevy.
The 1953 Corvette was pieced together using fiberglass panels and was equipped with a 235 cubic inch, straight-six engine paired with a two-speed automatic transmission. The engine, which produced 115 hp in its sedans, is tuned to generate 150 hp in the Corvette. The public gave a cool reception to this original Corvette and just 300 were produced beginning in June of 1953.
By 1954, Chevy moved production from Flint, Michigan to St. Louis, Missouri. While Chevy made changes to the Corvette, adding paint color choices and more, sales were still disappointing, reaching just 3,640 in 1854.
It was the following year, when Chevy decided to jam its powerful 265 cubic inch V8 engine under the hood of the Vette, that sales began coming to life. That ’55 Vette also had a well received 3 speed manual transmission available. With more power and a bit more of a sports car feel to it, the Corvette was beginning to get its footing.
In 1956, a new camshaft design boosted power from 185 to 210 hp. Things power up again when Chevy adds a larger 283 cubic inch engine with an available fuel injection option. Now producing 283 horsepower (when well equipped), the 1957 Corvette continues to gain fans as its sales build.
The 1958 through 1960 editions added a new front end and seating for four. More creature comforts are added. The years 1961-1962 mark the end of the first generation Corvette, with an even larger V8 engine now producing as much as 360 horsepower.
Sales of the 1962 Corvette approached 15,000 and were about to take a big leap in 1963 with the introduction of the second generation (C2) Corvette, the Stingray. Those who were either unaware of the Corvette or chose to ignore it were about to get an eyeful. Collectors were about to get another Holy Grail.
If you are in search of a vintage, classic, or collectible automobile, you are invited to see us at the Auto Boutique. This is where we appreciate the art of the automobile.