The Chevrolet Corvette
America's Sports Car
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Manufacturer: Chevrolet / Parent Company: General Motors / Production: 1953-Present / Body Styles: 2 Door Coupe, 2 Door Convertible / Corvette Generations: C1 (1953-1962), C2 (1963-1967), C3 (1968-1982), C4 (1984-1996), C5 (1997-2004), C6 (2005-2013), C7 (2014-2019), C8 (2020-)
In the economic boom that occurred at the end of World War II, General Motors introduced the only production sports car being offered by American automotive manufacturers at that time. American soldiers, many of whom were returning home from active service in Europe, were introduced to the C1 Chevrolet Corvette, a two seat “image” car that found immediate initial appeal as a centerpiece of the 1953 GM Motorama.
The appeal was short-lived. Within a few months of its initial introduction, Chevrolet rolled the first production 1953 Corvettes off their assembly lines. It didn’t take long for the public to realize that this first Corvette was more sparkle than substance. The car quickly earned the nickname “the plastic bathtub”, a title that was a distinct correlation between the stark white shell of its body and it’s sluggish, unimpressive performance.
Fortunately for GM, their engineers and marketing teams listened and responded to the criticism of those first Corvette owners. In the years that followed, Corvette came into its own and GM began producing cars that offered greater performance that matched the attitude and styling of its 1953 Corvette counterpart.
By the 1960’s, Corvette had developed a solid reputation both on the open road and the racetrack. With ever increasing horsepower being packed into each of these cars, General Motors had developed a car that could truly hold it’s own on race day against cars like the Shelby Cobra.
The 1963 Grand Sport Corvette, though short lived, solidified the future for Corvette – not only as a production car, but as a true American sports car. The Grand Sport, along with all of the second generation Corvette production models, captivated the hearts and imaginations of car enthusiasts worldwide and secured a future for Corvette that continues to flourish more than fifty years later.
By the early 1970’s, Corvette (along with many production model sport and muscle cars) was met with a lot of adversity. Internal issues within GM mixed with the politically charged Vietnam War, mass civil unrest, the emergence of federally mandated safety guidelines, pollution regulations, and a need for increased fuel efficiency brought into question the future of this iconic sports car.
However, with the emergence of the Mako Shark II prototype (in the late sixties) laying the foundation for the future look and feel of the third generation Corvette, GM pushed on despite these odds and the Corvette triumphed, remaining in its same basic form for fifteen years.
Because of the immense popularity of the third-generation Corvette, speculation began to grow as to how GM was going to top the durable and appealing “shark”. It wasn’t long before enthusiasts and critics alike were discussing the possibility of a mid-engine Corvette that could rival it’s European counterparts. Even so, the third-generation “Shark” kept evolving. Chevrolet continued to refine the car throughout the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s, including a hatchback model in 1982 which foreshadowed the next-generation Corvette – a car that was already deep into development by that time.
GM began production of the fourth generation Corvette in 1984. This new C4 Corvette was the first fully redesigned Corvette in 15 years. Although it lacked some of the outrageous performance of it’s predecessor, it emerged instead as a more sophisticated and practical sports car. Still, despite the notable decrease in horsepower (in early fourth generation models) due to ever increasing emission regulations, GM focused its attention instead to develop a car that focused primarily on handling. Like the generations of Corvettes before it, the new 4th generation Corvette got better over time. In 1986, Corvette enthusiasts celebrated the return of a convertible model which hadn’t been available to consumers since 1975.
One of the crowning achievements of the 4th generation Corvette was the arrival of the ZR-1 in 1990. The ZR-1 was strictly a high performance Corvette. It quickly became known as “the King of the Hill” – a title which was well earned. A true supercar in every sense of the word, the ZR-1 could run with some of the most exotic sports cars in the world including Ferrari and Porsche. However, the ZR-1 remained a surprisingly inexpensive alternative, offering comparable handling and performance for less than half the exuberant sticker prices tied to its European counterparts.
Despite the arrival of the ZR-1 and the ever increasing handling and performance of this newest Corvette, challenging financial markets and internal corporate issues left GM questioning the feasibility of Corvette’s future as production pressed on into the 1990s. Despite these concerns, the C4 Corvette continued to improve in performance and quality, improving demand for the car and opening the door for an even more advanced, more sophisticated Corvette.
The arrival of the fifth generation C5 Corvette in 1997 marked a turning point in the evolution of “Americas Favorite Sports Car.” It was the first truly all-new Corvette since 1953. Moreover, it was designed from the outset to be a sturdy convertible. The C5 Corvette was engineered to achieve higher levels of performance, sophistication and quality than any of it’s predecessors.
The styling of this new Corvette was also a departure from earlier models. While the conceptualization of the C4 had largely been a simplification of the seventies era “Shark,” the C5 featured a more rounded and graceful appearance that helped to recapture some of the aggressive looks of the C3. Automotive critics hailed the C5 Corvette as “the best Corvette in history.”
Much like the ZR-1 before it, GM recognized the opportunity to produce a higher end Corvette and introduced the Z06 in 2001. This “high end” Corvette included an updated suspension, larger wheels and tires, revised gearing ratios and function brake cooling ducts as well as an impressive step up in horsepower with the additional of a more powerful engine that carried the Z06 to an impressive 385 horsepower. While this Corvette was superior to the ZR-1 in almost every category except speed, it was also substantially less expensive, which helped further catapult it’s popularity with automotive enthusiasts everywhere.
The sixth generation C6 Corvette was introduced in 2005. The C6 was considered more of an evolution of the C5 than an all new Corvette, although the C6 continued to take giant steps forward in the areas of performance and styling. One of the most notable changes that GM made to the sixth-generation Corvette was the return of the exposed headlamps (which had been absent from the Corvette since 1962). Along those same lines, the C6 re-introduced a somewhat “retro design” that was a throwback to the Sting Rays of the 1960s.
While the Z06 was notably absent at the initial roll out of the C6, it wasn’t long in coming. In late 2005, the 2006 Z06 Corvette was announced. This Corvette was engineered for the race track, producing performance and handling unlike any Corvette in the history of America’s favorite sports car – that is until rumors began to circulate that GM was developing an even higher-performance Corvette. Initially known only by it’s codename “Blue Devil,” General Motors began to release details of the Blue Devil project in April, 2007 and later that year revealed the “Blue Devil” was, in fact, the return of the ZR-1 Corvette. This “super-Vette” emerged from the shadows to become the fastest (and most expensive) production Corvette to-date in the history of the brand.
In 2010, General Motors unveiled the Grand Sport Edition Corvette and the Z06 Carbon Special Edition Corvette. Like the ZR-1, each of these special edition Corvettes provides consumers with upgraded and more robust performance options, greater horsepower, better handling, and a broad assortment of regular production options – from satellite radio to built in GPS and more.
On January 13, 2013, Chevrolet unveiled the all-new 2014 C7 Chevy Corvette Stingray at the Detroit Auto Show. The arrival of the C7 Corvette was the culmination of months of speculation by enthusiasts, car experts, critics, and countless fans, and was treated with more fanfare and pomp-and-circumstance than a Hollywood blockbuster movie debut.
The 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray was a true departure from its predecessor. It only shared two parts with the previous-generation Corvette – the removable roof release lever and a filter in the air filtration system. The rest of the car was completely new – including the frame structure, chassis, powertrain, and an all-new interior and exterior design. The development of this new Corvette was centered around the mantra that “form follows function.” The result was a Corvette that not only rivaled its European counterparts, but was capable of dominating them both on the racetrack and the open road.
In 2015, Chevrolet unveiled an all-new Z06 model to its lineup that was more powerful than any production Corvette that had come before it – including the sixth-generation ZR1. Boasting 650 horsepower and 650 lb./ft. of torque, this Z06 was intended for the track. It was also the first Z06 to be offered with a supercharged engine, a removable roof panel (thanks to a stronger aluminum frame) and, perhaps most noteworthy, it was the first Z06 to feature an eight-speed automatic transmission.
By 2016, rumors had already begun to circulate that Chevrolet engineers were once more at work on an all-new Corvette. As a mid-engine Corvette had been a source of speculation since the announcement of the C3 Corvette in the late 1960’s, it wasn’t long before the automotive press began circulating rumors that a mid-engine Corvette was imminent – with many “factual” claims stating the car could potentially be available as soon as 2018!
Meanwhile, production option for the C7 Corvette continued to evolve as did the available packages offered to consumers. In 2017, Chevrolet unveiled its newest iteration – the Corvette Grand Sport – at the Geneva Auto Show. The all-new 2017 Corvette Grand Sport was the culmination of the car’s motorsports-bred pedigree. Like the 2015 Corvette C7.R Pro race car, the new Grand Sport combined a lightweight architecture, a track-honed aerodynamics package, Michelin tires and a naturally aspirated engine.
On November 12, 2017, Chevrolet officially unveiled the all-new Corvette ZR1 as a 2019 model. The car boasted a powerful LT5 6.2L V-8 supercharged engine which dramatically advanced the supercharging technologies first introduced in the 2009 sixth-generation Corvette ZR1 and continued with the 2015 seventh-generation Z06 Corvette. The engine, which was officially rated at 755 horsepower (563 kW) and 715 lb-ft of torque (969Nm), established an entirely new benchmark in Chevrolet performance. The 2019 Corvette ZR1 was unveiled in Dubai and was finished in the Sebring Orange Design Package.
The car officially went on sale in spring of 2018 with an initial base price of $120,900.oo, making it the first production Corvette to cost over one-hundred thousand dollars.
As for the C8 Corvette that was rumored for 2018? As the 2018 model year approached, rumors continued to circulate about an alleged mid-engine Corvette that was under development by Chevrolet. Ambitious automotive journalists, camped out at automotive tracks and testing centers around the world, began publishing “spy photos” of a heavily camouflaged coupe that became the subject of scrutiny by the Corvette community.
The 2018 model year came and went without word from GM about any mid-engine projects. That didn’t stop the rumor mills from churning out endless bits of information – from CAD drawings and alleged “insider” bloggers to dozens (eventually hundreds) of credible spy photos and videos – that added credence to the belief that a mid-engine Corvette was on the horizon.
Finally, on July 18, 2019, Chevrolet officially unveiled the 2020 Mid-Engine Corvette to the world. The car, which had been a vision of Corvette pioneers since the 1960’s, had finally become a reality. Since its introduction in July, the car has been showcased across the United States. It’s “national tour” has included Chevrolet dealerships across the U.S., as well as national Corvette events including the “Corvette Homecoming” at the National Corvette Museum and at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
It has been claimed that the 2020 Mid-Engine Corvette is sold-out and that the demand for the car is such that would-be owners are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to order one when the 2021 model becomes available. Additionally, there are other iterations of the car in the works – including a Z06 model for the 2022 model year. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of the mid-engine Corvette in the coming years, especially given the ever-increasing focus on fossil-fuel emissions, the increasing cost of petroleum and a global focus on hybrid and electric vehicles. Some speculate that the mid-engine generation may include an electric Corvette, while others have maintained that GM will re-introduce a six-cylinder option (the last Corvette to include a six-cylinder engine was the 1955 Corvette).
This much is certain – its an exciting time to be a Corvette fan. With the arrival of the 2020 Corvette coupe and convertible, the audience for Corvette has shifted from the traditional enthusiasts – mostly 50+ year olds who have been fans of the brand for decades – to an audience that includes millennials who previously saw the Corvette as an “old persons car.” Will the mid-engine Corvette attract a more global audience? Will consumers be attracted to the car’s European styling?
Time alone will tell….but the future looks bright for Corvette.
The C1 Corvette Story & Details
The need to design and develop an American made sports car really began at the end of World War II. American servicemen, still stationed overseas in England, were able to sample the joys of driving in the MG Sportscar. Developed in 1923, Morris Grate’s compact TC was crude, cramped, and powered by a tiny 1250cc engine – yet it produced quite a stir – and was a lot of fun for guys to drive and for the girls to be driven in.
Because of the popularity of the MG, other British sports cars soon followed and began finding their away across the pond to the United States, including the Jaguar XK 120, the Triumph TR, and the Austin Healey. It seemed that the British automotive market had found a marketing niche that no American car companies could match – that is, until Harley Earl decided to take on the challenge of designing an all-new sports car.
Harley J. Earl, founder and head of General Motor’s Art and Colour Section, the American auto industry’s first in-house styling department, virtually invented the “dream car” with his renowned Buick Y-Job concept, first displayed in 1938. Throughout much of the late 1930’s and 1940’s, Earl continued to invent and re-invent the conceptual dream car – opulent machines that were an extravaganza of chrome, fins, and curving lines that became immediately recognizable as some of the finest showpieces in the industry.
In early 1951, Earl designed the amazing Buick Le Sabre, a car which incorporated styling details of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and a car that was an outward reflection of Earl’s love for dramatic lines and styling details. Earl’s work proceeded under the codename “Project Opel.” Because of the very real concerns surrounding a potential breach in security, the site where Earl’s team worked feverishly on this car was restricted to just a chosen few.
It was at this phase of the project that Edward N. Cole, a brilliant engineer who had transferred from General Motor’s Cadillac Division to Chevrolet, took over the role of chief engineer on this project. In addition to Cole’s assignment to the project, Earl also sought out Robert F. McLean, a young sports-car enthusiast with degrees from Cal Tech in both engineering and industrial design.
McLean was given the challenging of more fully conceptualizing Earl’s preliminary designs by coming up with the basic mechanical layout for “Project Opel.” McLean decided early on to ignore convention and conceptualized the car from the back forward, starting at the rear axle as a reference point. He designed each component – from the back axle, the passenger compartment, the front bulkhead, and the front axle – as close to the ground as possible in order to achieve the low lined, ground-hugging profile that Earl had desired. The driver and passenger would sit pretty much on the floor and the car would have a roofline of only 47 inches – which was very low in that era of automotive manufacturing. Further, his goal was to develop a car that had a balanced 50/50 weight distribution which was most desirable for superior sports-car handling. Other criteria that were a requirement for a sports car included a cruising speed of over 70 miles per hour, a weight-to-power ratio of better than 25 to 1,“ample brakes, and good handling qualities”.
Earl turned to fiberglass for the basis of his car’s exterior, although early models/concepts called for the then conventional steel body. While fiberglass would offer his team of designers greater flexibility to create and mold the very complex shapes and curves that Earl loved, it also posed some real concerns – would fiberglass provide adequate structural strength and would it work in mass production? The first of these questions was “answered” quite unintentionally. Chevy had built a full size convertible (of which Edward Cole had been a member of the design team) with a fiberglass body. This car, designed and fabricated strictly for investigative research and development purposes in early 1952, was slated to be studied during high speed testing at GM‘s Milford proving grounds.
During one of his runs, the driver accidentally rolled the car but managed to escape without injury. Similarly, and quite astonishingly, the car’s body suffered no major damage. This single event convinced Earl that fiberglass would form the shell of his dream car.
Earl began aiming to have this new concept car ready for the 1953 Motorama, which was to be held in January at New York’s Waldorm-Astoria Hotel. In the postwar prosperity of 1949 America, General Motors had introduced its first Motorama to the American public, an all-out extravaganza that turned the marketing of new cars and designs into a cultural event of national proportions. Having already had great success at the 1952 Motorama with his Le Sabre, Earl recognized that the response of the public to his new concept car might serve as the catalyst to move it beyond merely concept and into production. With a deadline now driving them, McLean and the team of Chevrolet engineers continued to work incessantly to find production chassis and drivetrain components that would be compatible with the developing fiberglass body.
The need to use off-the-shelf hardware was crucial as the Motorama was rapidly approaching. Ultimately, the chassis had to be completely redesigned to make the car more rigid. Also, McLean wanted to position the engine behind the front axle instead of over it. In addition, an open or Hotchkiss drive was used in place of the traditional torque-tube drive – a first in Chevrolet history. Other firsts included the use of conventional leaf springs located on the rear axle but positioned outboard of the main frame rails for added stability, higher shock rates in the front suspension with larger diameter anti-roll bars, a quickened 16:1 steering ratio, redesigned steering arms and a steering wheel that measured an inch smaller than on production Chevys.
Earl was tasked with finding an engine that was worthy of a true sports car. Although his efforts were nearly fruitless, the engine that was selected for Earl’s new concept car was the tried-and-true 235.5 Cubic Inch Overhead Valve Six cylinder engine. This engine, known within the industry as the “Stovebolt Six” produced a mere 115 horsepower (without modification). Of course, like the rest of the car, the engine received a complete facelift, receiving a high lift, long duration camshaft, solid valve lifters, dual valve springs and cast-iron pistons for increased durability. The head castings were modified to produce an increased compression from 7.5:1 to 8.0:1. Water pump flow capacity was increased and the pump itself was relocated to allow for a larger, four-blade fan to be installed that would still clear the low hood line.
Triple Carter “YH” sidedraft carburetors were installed, each feeding a pair of cylinders through a separate choke. In all, the various changes resulted in a modified 235.5 C.I. engine that was capable of producing 150 Brake Horse Power at 4500 rpm, although the engine itself was capable of revving quite a bit higher than that. This engine would come to be known as the “Blue Flame 150.” Still, resolving the engine dilemma was only part of the equation.
In the concept car that was about to show at Motorama, a controversial decision was made to use a two speed automatic transmission (instead of a manual transmission (which was already considered by most to be the norm for sports cars.)) GM engineers insisted that the decision was made because none believed that GM had a manual gearbox that was strong enough for the fortified engine. Theoretically, the car would be capable of around 110 miles per hour top speed. As Edward Cole was the chief engineer for the Chevrolet Division of General Motors, he was one of the first to see Earl’s new fiberglass-bodied concept car. Enraptured by it’s appearance, he enthusiastically promised to support Earl in his efforts to win production approval of this new vehicle.
This support went all the way to the 14th floor executive suite of General Motors. There, Earl met with GM company president Harlow Curtice and Chevrolet Division general manager Thomas H. Keating. He took the pair of a walk around tour of a full scale model of the concept car and convinced both that this car was going to be profitable product because it could be produced cheaply using mostly stock Chevrolet mechanics, but it would be striking enough to draw people into the showrooms, even if the end result was that it helped increase the sales of other Chevrolet models by bolstering Chevrolet’s sedate family car image His persuasiveness worked.
The car was approved as part of the 1953 Motorama show. At the same time, it was decided that the engineering staff should work on the car with a view to eventual production and would proceed as Project EX-122, with the final go/no go decision to be based largely on showgoers reactions. In late 1952, the Motorama show only a couple month away, Chevrolet executives began the process of naming their newest dream car. Although nearly 300 proposed names were suggested, it was Myron Scott, Chevy’s assistant advertising manager, that suggested the name “Corvette”. Defined as “a type of small, agile, 19th century warship,” the name implied speed, strength and maneuverability and was a perfect representation of the powerful and agile sports car that so many had worked to design.
The concept Corvette was a runaway success at it’s 1953 Motorama debut, and the response it received was staggering. The car, finished in gleaming Polo White with a bright Sportsman Red interior and trimmed with chrome flourish, immediately generated such an incredible buzz, (with people asking “when will it be available at my local Chevy dealer?”), Chevrolet decided to start building production model Corvettes as soon as it was possible to do so.
Amazingly, it took GM less than 6 months to fabricate the necessary tooling and begin production of the first Corvettes and they were able to roll out the first cars later that same year as 1953 models. With the exception of a few, minor updates, the Motorama Concept Corvette went to production with it’s styling virtually unchanged. The car had a uniquely masculine, muscular, almost predatory look. In short, it was stunning. The fact that Earl’s original Corvette was unmolested by the recommendations of shareholders or corporate leaders within GM – something that was as unheard of then as it is today – is proof positive of the sheer genius behind Earl’s design.
Further, it has made owning an original 1953 Corvette all the more appealing to collectors and enthusiasts, as it is not only the first production Corvette ever, but an accurate reflection of the original conceptual design that Earl created and presented to GM (and the public) for consideration and approval.
In the days that followed the Motorama, the Chevrolet Corvette – the first true American sports car – was born.
Is The C1 Corvette A Collector Car?
But what about the C1 Corvettes from a collectibility standpoint? Perhaps because of the limited numbers, and definitely because of the increasing rareness, the first-generation Corvettes (especially those in show quality condition) demand huge dollars in today's automotive marketplace. When crossing the auction block at events like Barrett-Jackson or Mecum auctions, it is not uncommon to see a first-generation Corvette sell for high-five and (often) low six-figure prices. The cars themselves are worth something because of their age and scarcity, but more than that, they are survivors from the "golden age" of the automotive industry - an era that most automotive enthusiasts agree will never be matched.
Would I trade a newer Corvette for a C1 strictly based on drivability? No. The newer Corvettes are a perfect fusion of handling, power and performance. However, would I trade a newer Corvette for a C1 based on aesthetics, collectibility and, well, just the "cool" factor?
Most definitely!! Why? Because the first-generation Corvette comes from an era in the history of the automobile industry where car's were built to be truly beautiful. The attention to the details - from all of the chrome attributes on each of those early cars - to the beautiful lines molded into the fiberglass bodies across the entire vehicle, there is little doubt in my mind that the first-generation Corvettes will continue to remain relevant even after some of the more modern era Corvettes are gone and forgotten.
Did You Know?
The original front emblem and horn button on the “Autorama” show circuit Corvette featured crossed American and checkered flags. It was later discovered that using an American flag on a product trade mark was against the law and the emblem was changed shortly before the New York Motorama.
Parts Bin Car?
Interestingly, there are rumors that circulate to this day that claim the C1 Corvette was developed as a "parts bin" car (meaning that it was cobbled together using existing hardware from other GM automobiles. While there are elements to this claim that are accurate (the early "Stovebolt Six" six-cylinder engine, for example, was a standard powerplant used in a number of cars during that era), the majority of the car - including its frame and suspension - were uniquely designed for the Corvette.
All first-generation Corvettes (from 1953 thru 1962) ride on a setup that was designed by Maurice Olley, GM's top suspension man during the early 1950's. Considered one of the best in the industry, Olley worked closely with Zora Arkus Duntov to develop a suspension platform that would make the Corvette a competitor on the racetrack. The design work that went into the frame, suspension and braking systems of the C1 Corvette transformed the car from a "wiggle wagon" (as Duntov had once described the original 1953 Corvette) to a track worthy competitor. Moreover, with the exception of some bolt-on parts and mounting points, the frame, suspension and brake platform remained nearly identical from the 1953 Corvette thru the 1962 model year.
It is also interesting to note that the Corvette body panels that were originally developed and fabricated for the 1953 Corvette by a fiberglass company in Ashtabula, Ohio were only manufactured thru 1955. When the Corvette was redesigned for the 1956 model year, the car shared virtually no body panels with the earlier model. Subsequently, with each revision to the Corvette, new panels were created and re-created, making the first-generation Corvette the only model in the brands history to see such complete and radical changes to its body design.
As stated earlier, the arrival of the second-generation Corvette Stingray in 1963 included a number of notable improvements over the first-generation models. It wasn't long before the C2 became recognized as a superior car to the C1. Subsequent generations of America's beloved sports car have certainly continued to carry that stigma forward. Today, as the next-generation model approaches, there are significant declines in the sales of the outgoing model. While it's never been documented, this "out with the old - in with the new" concept definitely seems to be an important part off the Corvette marketing strategy.
The C1 Corvette Model Timeline
1953 - 1955 Corvette
The first Corvette ever built was introduced in 1953. Developed by Harley Earl, the Corvette was introduced to compete with the two-seater sports cars that American soldiers were bringing home with them from Europe. The car was visually stunning for its time but its small "stovebolt" six-cylinder engine was under-powered and the car quickly gained a reputation as being an over-priced "rolling bathtub." From 1953-1955, the car sold a total of just 4,640 units, and the general consensus in those early days was that the Corvette was finished.
Fortunately for Corvette, a Belgian engineer by the name of Zora Arkus Duntov had taken notice of the car at the 1953 GM Motorama. He drafted a letter to the executives at Chevrolet describing those elements of the car that worked and making a number of recommendations to improve the car's power and performance capabilities.
After joining Chevrolet in 1954, Duntov became involved with the Corvette program. By 1955, working in cooperation with then Chevrolet Chief Engineer Ed Cole, the pair developed the all-new 265 cubic-inch small bock Chevy V-8 engine and paired it to a three-speed manual transmission. This new setup improved the performance of the 1955 Corvette considerably but the car's reputation significantly hindered sales. Worse still, Ford had introduced the 1955 Ford Thunderbird which was considered by most automotive enthusiasts of that era as a "more refined two-seater" automobile than the Corvette. Ford sold 16,155 Thunderbirds that year while Chevrolet managed to sell just 700 Corvettes.
While production of the Corvette was nearly stopped after Chevrolet's year-over-year failure to sell the little sports car, the Ford Thunderbird proved to be at least partially responsible for its survival. By late 1954, both GM management and the engineering/design staff behind the Corvette knew that the car needed an overhaul. While Harley Earl's original design had a pleasant appearance to consumers, it lacked the aggressive stance that many of its competitors shared.
1956 - 1957 Corvette
For 1956, the design team behind the Corvette introduced an entirely new body design that immediately captured the attention of the American public. The 1956 Corvette suddenly had the "wow" factor that the earlier version had been lacking, and sales increased from 700 units in 1955 to 3,467 units in 1956 and to 6,339 units in 1957. These numbers were still significantly less than the number of Thunderbirds sold each year by Ford, but it proved that the engineers at Chevrolet were on the right path.
Better still, Ford had decided to withdraw the Thunderbird from the two-seater market. It is commonly believed that the Corvette had performed so well in open competition throughout 1957 that it had forced Ford to “throw in the towel” on it’s two-seater Thunderbird. Chevrolet believed that the absence of the Thunderbird would help escalate sales of the upcoming 1958 models to numbers in excess of 10,000 units.
The 1957 model was also the first Corvette to offer multiple engine options to consumers. A 283-cubic inch engine replaced the 265-cubic inch engine which had been developed for the 1955 model. This modified engine delivered an impressive 220 horsepower when coupled with a four-barrel carburetor. Dual four-barrels took it to 245 horsepower (and 270bhp.) Better still, consumers could also purchase GM‘s newly developed “Ramjet” fuel injection system which yielded 259 horsepower (or 283 bhp).
1958 - 1960 Corvette
As well received as the 1956-1957 model had been, General Motors had created a mandate for its 1958 model lineup that stated all GM cars "must now include the new corporate four-headlight look."
So, for the 1958 model year, the Corvette was reworked again. The 1958 Corvette marked the end of Harley Earl's involvement with the program. As Earl had always been a fan of chrome, the 1958 Corvette received a number of chrome flourishes all over the car's exterior. Additionally, the car grew heavier by 200 lbs, longer by 9.2 inches and wider by 1.7 inches. Despite the increase in size and weight, and despite some questionable placements of chrome trim on the car's body (especially the "suspenders" on the rear-end,) sales of the 1958 Corvette showed considerable improvement from the previous model year, jumping up to 9,168 units in 1958.
With the exception of a reduction in chrome trim, the 1959-1960 models were virtually identical to the 1958 Corvette. However, the 1959 Corvette is still "celebrated" for being the last model year to sell less than ten-thousand units in a given model year. In fact, the 1959 Corvette came in just short of ten thousand units at 9,670 cars sold in 1959. The following year, the 1960 Corvette finally broke the 10,000 unit barrier by selling a total of 10,261 units.
1961 - 1962 Corvette
The final iteration of the first-generation Corvette arrived in 1961. It featured body-lines that were definitely a prelude to the second-generation Corvette Stingray, which was already in the design phase at that time. The car's front end was almost identical to the 1958-1960 Corvette except for the car's grille, which replaced the chrome "teeth" of the earlier models in favor of a mesh grille. The car's back end was a much different story.
Bill Mitchell, who replaced Harley Earl as General Motors Vice President of Styling (design), had been working on a number of upgrades to the first-generation Corvette based on the "Corvette Stingray" prototypes he'd been developing. As Corvette sales had continued to increase year over year, GM's executives decided to review some of Mitchell's designs. It wasn't long before they'd made the decision to green light another re-styling of the Corvette for the 1961 model year.
The back end received a distinctive "ducktail" design that had been virtually replicated from Mitchell's prototypes and XP-700 show car model. The rear-end redesign improved upon the car's practicality by increasing available luggage space by 20%. More significant than that (at least from the historical perspective of the Corvette brand) was that Mitchell introduced a pair of small, round taillights on each side of the license plate recess. These redesigned taillights would become synonymous with Corvette and would remain a standard feature on all future generations until the introduction of the 2014 Corvette Stingray. Both the 1961 and 1962 Corvette models were commercial successes, and the sales number proved it. The 1961 Corvette sold 10,939 units and the 1962 was the most successful of all the first-generation Corvettes, selling a total of 14,531 units that year.
The C1 Corvette Market - Sales & Auctions
C1 Corvettes for Sale. This is our C1 Corvette auction and sales area. We share upcoming auctions, recent auction results, cool C1 Corvettes we find for sale and commentary on the current market for C1 Corvettes.
C1 Corvette Videos, Pictures & Wallpapers
The C1 was a bit of stunner and these picture galleries show why. Below we have pictures of the C1 Corvette generation for you to enjoy. We have also included some great C1 corvette wallpapers that are totally free to download as well as videos of C1 Corvettes that we think you will enjoy.
While there are many Corvette enthusiasts that deny the existence of the 1983 Corvette, there is ONE example of this car. The “One and Only” 1983 Corvette resides at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky and is available for public viewing in the large domed rotunda along with many other, unique Corvettes.
DID YOU KNOW