There is little doubt about it the Corvette is an icon of the American sports auto scene. A forerunner to what became a whole genre in US cars. It spawned many progeny and whole sets of the US automotive field and indeed whole ranges of models at the other 2 domestic automotive companies onshore in America and even some of the exotic imports. Yet few often relate Corvettes and the exotic Corvette “Stingray” to the Chevrolet Division of General Motors or even simply as a Chevy product. Corvettes seem to reign in their own world, with their own market and product image and yet capture most American males as their dream vehicle. You wonder indeed why now there is not a Corvette SUV model at factory dealer Chevrolet showrooms. Yet what is the history and historical development of the product?
Indeed Chevrolet’s interest in the two seater sport car motoring in modern time’s dates from 1951, when styling Chief Harley Earl was just beginning to think and indeed dream about such machines. The first mock up of a new two-seater car to be called “Corvette” was completed early on in 1952. General Motors rushed it into production at the beginning of 1953 and it became a “cult-car, North America’s only domestic sports car, only of for the exception of the less exotic on the road Ford Thunderbirds of the mid 1950’s, ever since. In 1953 apart from its short wheelbase and overall very sporty looks and appeal, its major technological innovation, at its inception, was a non-metallic fibre-glass body shell. Seen now as a major innovation for Corvette and a credit to Chev engineers – instead it was borne out of logistical necessity to save vital time in tooling between a somewhat delayed decision to go ahead with the project and time span of first deliveries to Chevrolet dealerships out in the field.
Since 1953 to present there have basically all in all been four basic classic Chevrolet Corvette styling runs of products and models. This includes the first run of what might be called “bulbous” machines of the year between 1953 and 1962. Next in the lineup were the classic machines to die for – that is the Corvette Stingray models which saw production output between the years of 1962 to 1967. In the middle what could be described as the “even more Europeanized “cars of 1967 through to 1984.
It is often forgotten but in terms of engines and power plants the first Corvettes had not powerful V-8s but rather the “Blue Flame” in-line six cylinder engines. True V08 were not introduced into the lineup until 1955 and then not as standard but as a factory option. This was speedily followed by fuel injection in 1957, four-speed transmission and limited slip differential – both of which again being sold not as standard material but rather as factory “options”. It’s amazing how the product grew both as a powerful icon on the road and as a vehicle models itself. It was as if marketing back in Detroit Chevrolet head office was clueless to its market and what customers “wanted”.
Yet to their credit – or perhaps due to internal squabbling and infighting in Chevrolet Division management meetings the product rolled on to evolve into what it became – the very concept and emblem of the powerful American car on the roads and highways of America. It seems that at that point every red blooded American male had as their dream car – a “Corvette”.