Originally designed as a show car for General Motors’ Motorama display in early 1953, the car generated so much buzz among the public GM decided to put the Corvette into production.
Introduced late in the 1953 model year, the original Corvette was based on the chassis and suspension of the 1952 Chevy sedan, and used off-the-shelf components to keep costs down.
Only 300 hand-built examples of the 1953 model year were made, all of them in Polo White with red interiors.
Despite the huge swell of interest, the Corvette sold slowly in its first full year in mass production, with only 3,640 built, and only about two-thirds of those sold before the end of the year. The two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission and tepid six-cylinder engine weren’t exactly what the public was looking for from the first American sports car.
The Corvette finally came into its own in 1956, when Chevy coupled a 265-cubic-inch V8 powerplant with a standard 3-speed manual transmission.
Though production and sales were still slow that year, the foundation was laid for the car that would go on to sell over one million examples through 2013 — and become a part of American cultural heritage. – AJW
Chevrolet introduces Corvette, a plastic body sports car (1953)
The Chevrolet Motor division today put the low-slung Corvette through its paces at the General Motors proving ground, and revealed for the first time the company’s facilities for the production of reinforced plastic bodies.
The car appeared as an experimental model at motor shows last winter. Corvette manufacturing is now underway with an announced goal of 1,000 a month early in 1954.
In runs at the grounds, the Corvette displayed its ability to move and maneuver. High power to weight ratios, low center of gravity, and balanced weight distribution combine to provide performance and stability.
Chevrolet presented the Corvette as the first plastic-bodied automobile ever built by mass production methods.
The process involves the molding of mats of fiberglass with resinous compounds. Body parts are “cured” into panels in 61 separate molds. The parts are then bonded and riveted together to form a body shell that has the strength of steel at a considerable saving in weight.
At the outset of today’s program, TH Keating, general manager of Chevrolet, analyzed the Corvette by saying that the vehicle is not a racing car in the accepted sense that a European car is a race car.
The two-passenger cockpit is trimmed in sportsman red and polo white, to conform with the exterior finish. The powerglide automatic transmission is used. A luggage locker is provided at the rear. The car is equipped for both radio and heater. Windshield washers, turn indicators, electric clock and other conveniences are standard equipment.
Chassis ground clearance is six inches and the height at the top of the door, 33 inches. Along the overall length of 167 inches, the chassis has been designed so that the weight on each wheel is virtually equal. The special Chevrolet Blue Flame engine develops 150 horsepower, providing one horsepower to each 19 pounds of car weight.