American’s Got a Taste For Speed While Stationed Overseas…and it changed everything!
It is well established that the 1953 Corvette was the first commercially produced, American-built sports car. It was envisioned, designed, and quickly moved to production in response to a steadily increasing demand by consumers for smaller, two-seat sports cars like those discovered by American servicemen while stationed in Europe during World War II. Although it took the Corvette a few years to find its footing as a viable contender in the marketplace and on the world racing stage – its decades-long advancements as “America’s Sports Car” have fortified its place in history.
While the Corvette may have claimed the title of the first commercially produced sports car, automotive historians recognize that the Corvette is far from being the first American sports car marquee to hit the open roads of the U.S highway systems. That distinction goes to a number of aluminum- and fiberglass-bodied sports cars that predate the Corvette, including the Kurtis Sports Car (1949), the Crosley Hot Shot (1949) the Cunningham (1951), and the Nash-Healey (1951).
In the process of drilling deeper into the past of the Chevy Corvette, I had the great pleasure of meeting Geoff Hacker, a fellow automotive historian who happens to be passionate about these early fiberglass sports cars. His knowledge on the subject is impressive, and he’s dedicated decades of his life learning about these “undiscovered classics.”
While this article isn’t about Corvettes directly, it IS worth noting that many of these cars influenced the evolution of the 1953 Corvette. More than that, all of these automobiles were built by individuals like Frank Kurtis and Paul Omohundro (the duo responsible for the 1947 Kurtis-Omohundro Comet, America’s first documented post-war sports car (pictured below)). In some instances, small coachbuilding companies would partner with designers to transform their original sports car designs into a viable automobile (such as with the 1949 Edwards R-26, which was designed by Sterling Edwards and coachbuilt by Diedt & Levosky of Culver City, California.
As we continue our exploration of the Corvette (in all its iterations), we believe that understanding the history of the American sports car (as defined by the SCCA) should definitely be a part of that exploration. To that end, Corvsport.com will begin showcasing some of these amazing forefathers of the Corvette in the coming months.
We also strongly recommend you visit Geoff’s website undiscoveredclassics.com. I have included a link to a piece on his website written by Geoff, Rick D’Louby, Guy Dirkin, Rollie Langston, Raffi Minasian, Paul Sable, Harold Pace, Erich Schultz and Phil Fleming titled “The Greatest American Car Story Never Told.” The article is a great read and an excellent introduction to the pre-Corvette era of fiberglass sports cars.