Beloved The World Over Chevrolet’s Corvette Remains A Grand Tradition
When it comes to selecting a favourite “super car”, the American built Corvette heads up the list for many car collectors and enthusiasts. Now in its sixth generation this sports car has evolved over the years and changed with the times only enough to keep it up to date style wise. A Corvette has been used as the official pace car for the Indianapolis 500 eleven times, with 2012 being the most recent. A Corvette C6 ZR1 was given the honour and driven by TV cooking show host Guy Fieri.
Back in 1953 the new Corvette began as a stunning concept car
Finding a need for a vehicle that was something besides a stodgy sedan or a coupe or full sized convertible the designers at General Motors, headed by Harley Earl designed and built a concept car that was first introduced at GM’s 1953 Motorama. The name Corvette comes from a manoeuvrable yet small warship with the same name. Currently manufactured in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the commonwealth of Kentucky has proclaimed the Corvette as its official sports car. There is a National Corvette Museum which holds historical documents relating to the car as well as tours, exhibits, and an annual anniversary celebration. Late 1953 saw the introduction of the Corvette as a two-seater convertible production car. There were only 300 original models built, all in the colour polo white.
1953 to 1954 Corvettes were eye-catching but not so fast!
This first generation “Vette” had the popular Powerglide automatic transmission (2 speeds) and an inline six cylinder engine only during those first few years of production yet people found them attractive because they were unique. Beginning in 1954 they added the option of a V8 engine with the popular 4.34L (265 cubic inches), making them more competitive on tracks and street racing competitions. Always priced on the high end these first Corvettes sold for (without options) $2774. which was even more than a Cadillac or a Jaguar. General Motors had big plans for their new sports car and built an entirely new assembly plant at St. Louis, Missouri. This plant was designed to turn out 10,000 new Corvettes per year but the buying public was not so eager to pay the price for the two-seat sports car. When GM built 3,640 Corvettes for production year 1954 only about one third of those were actually sold and dealers found the only way to “move” them was to lower prices, far below the cost of making them.
By 1963 Corvette was a hot seller with a hot new shape!
The Corvette Sting Ray series began in 1963 with an entirely revamped body style and power plant. Always a hit with a totally fibreglass body, the Sting Ray did resemble somewhat a stingray fish. Dubbed the second generation Corvette, the body style continued from 1963 through 1967. Fastback with a large rear window which was split in two with a pillar running down its centre (for model year 1963 only), the Sting Ray could boast as much as 270 kW or 375 horse power. Such options as disk brakes on all four wheels, fuel injection, stiffer suspension more like a true racing car, and independent rear suspension helped increase sales of the Corvette every year.
Succeeding generations improve the Corvette image
Once its popularity was assured the Corvette only got better and became more in demand. Third generation (1968-1982) saw vast changes and more racing wins. Fourth generation (1983-1996), fifth generation (1997-2004), and finally the sixth generation (2005-2013) each saw improvements and fine craftsmanship. The Corvette continues with a front mounted engine and the C6 2013 models will be the last of that styling. Retooling at the Bowling Green Kentucky plant will see some changes yet again for the C7 Corvette and the venerable Corvette will be reborn again.