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Chevy Corvette History

Chevy Corvette History

The last  two posts were on the history of the Ford Thunderbird and the Ford Mustang,  this post is about the car that started it all – the Chevy Corvette.
In fact it could be safe to say Jaguar were firstly responsible as it is said back at the start of the 1950’s GM’s designer Harley Earl was thinking America needed a sports car because at that time the majority of sports cars sold in America were from either Britain, Germany and Italy.
On seeing the Jaguar XK120 Harley Earl liked it so much decided it had to be done, and consequently the Corvette  got underway.
Originally put together as a show car for the 1953 New York Auto Show, the Corvette attracted so much interest the decision was made,  ‘lets make it’.
Enjoy this video, there are shots of  just about every Chevy Corvette made, plus racing film.

Released in July 1953,  300 Corvettes were hand made with fibreglass bodies.  All Polar White with a black convertible top, and a price tag of $3000. But only 180 were sold.
For 1954 4 colours became available, Blue, Red, Black and White.   GM made 3,640 but again sales were slow so for 1955 just 700 Corvettes were built as GM needed to quit its unsold inventory from the previous year.

Meantime improvements were made, for 1955 the engine was upgraded from the old faithful Blue Flame 235 cub in 6 to the 265 cub in V8 as an option.  As time went on many mechanical changes were made particularly to the C1 and C2 models.
Naturally the Chevy Corvette became a popular successful race car as engine capacity and horsepower increased, and more performance options came available including fuel injection.
Other improvements included a 4 speed manual gearbox,  4 wheel disc brakes, rear independent suspension, fuel injection option, hydraulic convertible top.
The C2 model arrived in 1963 with the introduction of the Sting Ray coupe, GM continuing with the use of fibreglass.

In spite of dismal sales at the beginning, sales of the C1 model generation totalled 69, 015, and were consistent right through for the later models, except as would be expected during the hard years sales did drop quite markedly during these periods but always came back up.

Model Years and Sales shown are :

  • C1: 1953–1962          69.015
  • C2: 1963–1967        117,966
  • C3: 1968–1982       542,562
  • C4: 1984–1996       358,127
  • C5: 1997–2004       247,715
  • C6: 2005–2013       225,203
  • C7: 2014–2015          71,528         Total 1,595,026

The first major restyle came with the C3 model in 1968 with GM firmly sticking to its ‘a true 2 seater sports car and we wont change from that’.
Considering that in 1956 the Chevy Corvette came close to getting the chop GM have to be admired for keeping with their original plan and not let their design people tinker and make it into something it was not intended to be.

There are Corvette Owners Clubs wherever they were sold, and like many cars produced during the mid 195o’s -1960’s became a very favourite classic.
More early Chevy Corvette history with Jay Leno here

Special thanks to National Geographic for putting this video together, and to Wikipedia for being a great source of information.
Photos are screen shots taken from the video.