The Birth of the Little Corvette

1953 White Corvette

1953 White Corvette

Most Corvette enthusiasts know the birthday of the Corvette was June 30, 1953 in Flint, Michigan. What most don’t know about the Corvette’s grandfather (General Motors), is that no corporation even came close to General Motors in its size, the scope of its enterprise or its profits. GM was twice as big as the second biggest company in the world, Standard Oil of New Jersey (forefather of today’s ExxonMobil), and had a vast conglomeration of businesses ranging from home appliances to providing insurance and building Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, GMCs, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs and locomotives. During the 1950’s, GM was directly responsible for more than 50% of all cars sold in the United States!

Harley J. Earl was GM’s chief designer at the time and was known to be fond of the 2 seater Jaguar XK-120. He had a dream (like us) of an open sports car that would sell for around the price of a mainstream American sedan: about $2,000. Earl was determined to keep costs low and used Chevrolet parts from other current models. The chassis and suspension, from the 1952 Chevrolet sedan’s, were adapted to give a more sportscar ride and feel. The engine was the same inline-6 that powered all Chevrolet cars at that time. A higher compression ratio, three beefier one barrel carbs that mounted to the side of the engine and a more aggressive cam were used to produced a disappointing 150 horsepower. The engine would come to be known as the “Blue Flame Special”.

Let’s Keep Costs Low

1953 Chevrolet Straight Six Engine

The Blue Flame Special

To keep tooling costs down, fiberglass was introduced to mold the body instead of pressing out steel panels. The fiberglass panels came from a small fiberglass reinforced plastics factory.  The plan would include the production of 12, 300 sets of the 103 parts needed to produce each Corvette body. In the first production year of the 1953 Corvette, only 301 units were produced mainly due to late production in the model year. Production of the 1954 model year was only weeks away. Once again to keep the price down, only one color was available for the new vehicles and they were all in white. The first model year of the Corvette were built in Flint, Michigan at a temporary facility in the rear of Chevrolet’s customer delivery garage. These are the rarest of all Corvettes. When the car first hit the public, its radical design made many people wondered if it would ever see series production. It abounded in practical touches and style with stone screens over the headlights making it look a bit vintage, a large wrap around windshield that gave it flare, and push button door handles.

Harvey Earl's Concept Corvette

Harvey Earl’s Concept Corvette

Chevrolet’s 1952 show car was so successful and its design attractive, yet practical, that is appeared, with little alteration to the public in June 1953. It was the beginning of an ear as the Corvette became an instant legend every red-blooded American male aspired to, and a legend that still in production today! The prototype, called the Motorama Car, was only originally intended to be part of GM’s Motorama exhibit at the 1953 New York Auto Show. Ed Cole, Chevy’s chief engineer needed a name the new vehicle. Cole called Myron Scott, an assistant advertising manager for Chevrolet, into a special meeting of executives researching the name. It was Myron Scott suggestion of the name “Corvette,” and the rest is history!

Thus Harley J. Earl became the very first Corvette Dreamer!


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