Cover image: 2023 Corvette Z06 (Wikimedia Commons)


     For most of my life, I have been a fan of classic American cars, especially those from the mid-late 1950s. Like many of you, I have my favorites, and then my very favorite.…the 1957 Oldsmobile. There is no particular reason inherent in that car that initially made it my favorite but for me it was strangely enough more of a relationship than anything else. By that I mean it was a family sort of thing in that my parents bought a brand-new one in the spring of 1957. This made it the very first car I can remember riding in and a car that our family crossed the western United States in on vacations and family visits. I can recall having the backseat all to myself (before my younger sister was born), and the back dash served as my own personal racetrack and parking lot for my race cars. That Oldsmobile and I bonded, and it’s been that way ever since. 

     Several months ago, I wrote an article called “My Memories of the Ride.” This article could have the same title for many of you who have your own memories of THE Ride…. your ride. Your ride was likely not the two cars I wrote about, but it may just have been about another beautiful automobile – such as the Chevy Corvette. For some of you, your ride is still the Corvette as evidenced by the number of them I see around my community and beyond. 

     As I celebrated the birth of the Ford Mustang in that article earlier this year, I now celebrate the birth of the Chevy Corvette. I hope that my brief treatment of it here will inspire you to do your own research and learn more.

     In the early 1950s, Chevrolet was experiencing a sales slump. Management’s solution came from design executive Harley Earl. Having noticed many of the GIs returning home from Europe with British sports cars, it inspired in him an idea of creating an American-made equivalent. Under the name Project Opel, the idea was to design a distinctly American sports car, but with a hint of British styling. Named Corvette after a military naval ship because of its small size and amazing speeds, the new sports car had a fiberglass body, a 235-cubic-inch straight-six engine, and a two-speed automatic transmission. It received a warm reception at its debut as a “dream car” at General Motors’ Motorama at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in January 1953. 

     Seventy years ago this week, June 30, 1953, the first Chevy Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much passion among buyers for the 300 1953 model Corvettes built. It was indeed an inauspicious beginning to what would become, in the eyes of many – “America’s sports car.“ The 1953 Corvette sold for around $2,500. 

     By the end of 1953, Chevrolet moved production of Corvettes from Flint, Michigan to St. Louis, Missouri, but even by the end of 1954, Chevrolet was still struggling to sell the number of Corvettes it had the capacity to build. Evidently, performance was a key issue. So, in 1955 engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, considered the “Father of the Corvette”, helped introduce the car to its first V-8. The 1955 Corvettes were equipped with a 265-cubic-inch, 195-hp engine with an available three-speed manual transmission. This innovation gave new life and identity to the Corvette, essentially transforming it from a small roadster to a genuine sports car.  

     Even with these improvements, it wasn’t until the 1956 model year that the Corvette experienced transformational change with the engine’s capacity increased to 210 hp. A second carburetor was made available, which raised the output to 225 horses. The front end was also redesigned to favor the Mercedes-Benz 300SL coupe, and the scalloped sides gave it a more distinctive look. 

     1957 brought even more improvements when Chevrolet enlarged the V-8 displacement to 283 cubic inches and added a fuel injection system which gave it a maximum capacity of 283 horsepower. 

     The 1958 Corvette came with a new dual headlight design and still more power. The 1961 and 1962 models rounded out the first generation of Corvettes, again with more power and minor design changes. By this time, the Corvette had secured its place in the sports car world which it has kept ever since.  

     Between 1953 and 2023, there would evolve a total of eight design generations of Corvettes, each with new features and innovations which kept the “Vette” at the forefront of American automobile ingenuity and public popularity. In June 1981, production moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky. I will never forget my experience in visiting the National Corvette Museum there in 2012. Besides having the opportunity to see many beautiful Corvettes, I also learned much about Corvette history. I hope to visit this amazing museum again one day. 

    After seventy years, the Corvette remains America’s only mass-produced sports car and the world’s longest-running, continuously produced passenger car. The current generation of the Corvette is the C8, which was released in 2020. The Corvette brand also remains on the leading edge of technology. Later this year, Chevrolet will release the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray, the first-ever “electrified,” or hybrid, version of the iconic sports car. It also features all-wheel drive, another first for Corvette. The price tag starts at about $104,000. 

     Much more could be said about the Corvette, but for now I will close with a few thoughts from those who over the years have kept a close eye on this American marvel. “But true to the American spirit, there are few car-based problems that a big V8 and lots of horsepower can’t fix, and the Corvette has followed that timeless formula ever since, much to the joy of car fans from sea to shining sea.” “One thing we know for sure, the Corvette still inspires both fierce loyalty and excitement, no small feat after seven decades.”

1953 Corvette (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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