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The Corvette: Born 58 Years Ago Today
3 years ago
| Surprise Me

 

On this day in 1953, workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolled off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year.

 

The idea for the Corvette originated with General Motors' pioneering designer Harley J. Earl, who in 1951 began developing plans for a low-cost American sports car that could compete with Europe's MGs, Jaguars and Ferraris. The project was eventually code-named "Opel." In January 1953, GM debuted the Corvette concept car at its Motorama auto show at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It featured a fiberglass body and a six-cylinder engine and according to GM, was named for the "trim, fleet naval vessel that performed heroic escort and patrol duties during World War II." The Corvette was a big hit with the public at Motorama and GM soon put the roadster into production.

 

On June 30, 1953, the first Corvette came off the production line in Flint. It was hand-assembled and featured a Polo White exterior and red interior, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, a wraparound windshield, whitewall tires and detachable plastic curtains instead of side windows. The earliest Corvettes were designed to be opened from the inside and lacked exterior door handles. Other components included a clock, cigarette lighter and red warning light that activated when the parking brake was applied--a new feature at the time. The car carried an initial price tag of $3,490 and could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 11 or 12 seconds, then considered a fairly average speed.

 

In 1954, the Corvette went into mass production at a Chevy plant in St. Louis, Missouri. Sales were lackluster in the beginning and GM considered discontinuing the line. However, rival company Ford had introduced the two-seater Thunderbird around the same time and GM did not want to be seen bowing to the competition. Another critical development in the Corvette's survival came in 1955, when it was equipped with the more powerful V-8 engine. Its performance and appeal steadily improved after that and it went on to earn the nickname "America's sports car" and become ingrained in pop culture through multiple references in movies, television and music.

 



 

As introduced in 1953, the Corvette was mostly a thrown together experiment. Production was limited to 300 units total, so sales of the entirely new model was not a problem.

 

1953 Corvette: first off the assembly line

Above: The first Corvette reaches the end of the assembly line on June 30, 1953. The first 15 cars were built, all by hand, in the back of a customer delivery garage in Flint Michigan. The rest came from a new facility devoted to Corvettes in St. Louis which had a capacity to build 10,000 cars a year. The first two were engineering test cars and according to official records, were destroyed. Of the first 300 Corvettes, approximately 225 are known to exist today.

 



 

1953 Corvette
All 1953 Corvettes were Polo White with a red interior and a black canvas top. There were two options offered: a signal seeking AM radio ($145.15) and a heater ($91.40). Although listed as options, all 1953 Corvettes were equipped with both items. The base price was $3,498.00, including the federal excise tax and $248.00 for shipping and handling. The radio had an interesting feature: since fiberglass is electrically inert, the antenna was simply incorporated in the trunk lid. This would not be possible with a conventional steel body.

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3 years ago

Then....

 

 

 

Now... 

 

 

3 years ago

I've always loved the '68... it was my dream to have one with a vanity plate that said ZETSVET ('zette's vet)

3 years ago

Awww love the vanity plate wish! I always wanted a 280z with vanity plates that read QTs Z (cutii's Z ... For my nickname)

3 years ago

Awe! Sweet!

Well we have the "ette" thing going for us girls...  (correctly: 'zette's vette) there was also VETSVET ('vette's vette) and NETSVET ('nette's vette)

3 years ago

I later decided though that having vanity plates wasn't for me - robs too much autonomy ......... I never did get my Z car, but I did drive a little 240SX for about 6 years that was every bit as much fun especially with the sound system my hubby and sons gifted me with for Christmas the year I got it, with a 60 watt amp and sub woofer in the trunk I do still miss her ... My best friend named her Sweetheart (a very sweet ride), but she was also known as 'the Stereo' LOL

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