Corvette Concept Car – The First Years

Concept cars often tend to get lost in the tides of time, especially the Corvette concept car models which belonged to such a historically long-lived brand. We’ve benefited from the wondrous features and marvels of the Corvette for well over half a century now, but none of this would have been accomplished without the chivalrous sacrifice of the concepts, sketches, and ideas that built the foundation for the super-cars beloved by all.

When we talk about concept cars, we refer to every build that is, more or less, a prototype. They serve as a general idea for the final outcome and whatever this final outcome actually is depends on the success of the concept car. Some get scraped, some get a drastic makeover, some never see the light of day again and get lost in time, and some are lucky enough to become the skeleton of one of the models rolling out of the gates of a production line.

The Original Corvette Concept

Harley Earl, the GM Styling Chief, sparked the blazes that would become the giant Corvette wildfire. The comparison is a bit of a stretch, but it was through his ideas that an empire was forged. He came up with three car models – two of them were created for showing, having been displayed at Waldorf-Astoria in 1953. The third one was pretty much a guinea pig, a fiberglass prototype that managed to spark a surprisingly positive reaction from the public. This one was know as EX122!

Because of the success of the prototype, production for the upcoming releases was sped up and fiberglass was wholly incorporated into the final models, albeit in a different shape. The fiberglass weighed a lot more on the concept car than on the final release. Regardless, from the very first moment of its creation, a Corvette concept car managed to pave the way for America’s Speed Car as we know it.

Concept Cars of the Following Year

There was a time when, in 1954, GM considered to kick off a line of Corvette-based prototypes. One was called the Nomad and the other the Corvair. Along with the two concept cars, a third one was hauled through the gates of the factory, one which featured a detachable hardtop.

The styling of the Nomad fell into the hands of Carl Renner, who opted to primarily keep the lines of the 1953 prototype while including some changes of his own. The two-door automobile kept the slim of its predecessor concept car, choosing, however, to extend the doors. The push-buttons present on the doors were swapped for something a bit more traditional – the classic door handles.

The interior design and its stylish apparel definitely blended in with the trends of the period. The upholstery of the seats showcased a relaxing combination of blue and white, painted over silver leather. A white headliner loomed atop and was garnished by chrome bows, whose decorative properties gave the Nomad an edge of classiness.

As for the Corvair, it was definitely a distinctive piece, all with its panoramic windshield and the interior ventilation complimented by a triad of rectangular inlets bended in the fenders. Interior air was filtered by exhaust pipes which were mounted on swept C-buttons, traditionally left to the mercy of the driver through the implemented manual buttons.

There is little doubt that the only Corvairs to be build were two, one colored in a deep red shade and the other strongly reeking of a turquoise hue. If you suddenly thought that you’d like a color makeover for your Corvair, you might have found yourself in a bit of trouble, as changing Motorama car colors wasn’t the most common of things.

The Year of the Corvette Impala

The result of a colaboration between Bob Cadaret, the one also responsible for the design of the 1956 Corvette, and the previously mentioned Carl Renner can be easily sorted under the “what it could have been” category.  If it had managed to make it through the next step, it would have been the precursor of what a five-passenger Corvette sports car would look like.

corvette impala photo

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There were many features included in the power package of this prototype, some of which were a breeze of novelty for the already constantly reshaping and reinventing Corvette. Among some of its notable options, we take note of the 225-hp Super Turbo-Fire V8 engine the power windows, the tinted panoramic wraparound, or the wire wheels garnished with chrome plates.

In its early stages, the 1956 Corvette concept car strongly resembled a shade called Aegean Turquoise Metallic, one which would later become the color that clothed the outside of 1958 Chevrolets. Why it wasn’t passed down to Corvettes is unclear, but its place as a prototype managed to further the development of a model nonetheless.

The Early Stingray Concept

The XP 700 came from the head of Bill Mitchell, the one who that year followed in succession to Harley Earl as the GM Styling Chief. It, arguably, was one of the prototypes with the biggest impact, features and elements from its design being eventually distributed among a variety of future models. Noteworthy is the fact is that its outline was ultimately used for the 1961 and 1962 main Corvette models and it also paved the way to the Stingray as we know it.

Dual lights, fender treatment, the rear end characteristic to the Stingray, and the rocker panel trip that eventually became essential elements in the models that followed were all borrowed from the XP 700.

The Two Mako Sharks

Despite being prototypes, these names echo with a lot of familiarity for Corvette enthusiasts who are aware of the impact they had on the future builds. The first Mako Shark model, another idea materialized by Mitchell and his designing staff, was the pivot for the styling of the brand new 1963 Corvette, which is arguably one of the most popular Corvettes in the history of the brand (and in the history of cars per se). Its successor, the Mako Shark II, influenced in turn another line, the 1968 model that followed several years after.

Look for another mind blowing article on the Corvette Concept car – the next generation!

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