First Generation Corvettes (1953-1962)

The Birth of the Corvette – June, 19531953 White Corvette

As the 1953 Corvette emerged, it was very appealing to the eye, plus with the fiberglass body, Corvette became the only vehicle of its kind right out of the factory! Still in all, it wasn’t perfect by no stretch of the imagination. Its chassis was stolen from the ’52 Chevy sedan with some improved weight distribution. The front end suspended by a primitive independent system while the rear was held up with leaf springs. The 235-cubic-inch six cylinder motor boasted 150 horsepower with some beefy carburation and hit 0 to 60 in under 12 seconds!

Priced at just under $3,500, the ’53 Corvette sticker ran almost 75 percent more than Harvey Earl had initially planned. Getting a late start in the Flint, Michigan’s assembly plant meant that only 300 Polo White vehicles were built. Stepping up to the 1954 model (now produced in St. Louis), Corvette could now be ordered in Sportsman Red, Pennant Blue, and our ever popular black, as well as Polo White. Chevrolet built 3,640 Corvettes in 1954 and some waited patiently for buyers…months and in some cases, even years! As sharp looking as the Corvette was in ‘54, unless it had performance to match, buyers weren’t that interested in it.

Corvette Gets More Horsepower

The small block V8 was implanted into the Corvette in 1955. This 265 cubic inch motor was rated at 195 horse power boasting 0 to 60 now in 8.5 seconds! Still with several ’54 Corvettes still hanging around dealer lots, Chevy only produced 700 cars in 1955 and about 98% of them were powered by the new V8.

Corvette established the two-seater as a performance machine and an American icon by 1956. The new body look, chrome teeth filling its mouth to its round rump of a trunk, Corvette was beginning to take shape. A removable hardtop was offered as an option for the first time. Horse power kicked up to 210 allowed Chevy to begin racing the Corvette in competition. Also a first was a three speed manual transmission. This would give Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette’s chief engineer a solid start to begin going fast!

1956 Chevrolet Corvette

1956 Chevrolet Corvette

With a compression ration bump up and some reworked cylinder heads, Arkus-Duntov was able to achieve 255 horse power at Florida’s Daytona Speedweeks in February 1956. More racing continued to ravish the Corvette and with this came serious changes to how the Corvette’s performance would be advertised.

Shifting from three to a four speed manual transmission was really what the 1957 Corvette was all about. The ever famous 283 cubic inch motor was introduced, birthing 220 horse power in its standard form. Options were added for dual-quad carburetor and shot the horse power up to 245 or 270 with Rochester mechanical fuel injection!

It seemed that overnight the Corvette became one of the world’s truly quick cars achieving top speeds of 130 mph. Throttle response is instantaneous. The “Fuelie” as it was nick named soared to a new record of 5.7 seconds in the 0 to 60 trials. The dashboard of the ’57 was graced with a 140 mph speedometer. Everything seemed to be going right.

We Need More Chrome!1958 Chevrolet Corvette with Lady

With chrome popping everywhere, the 1958 Corvette had some major interior and exterior changes to its body restyling. Simulated hood louvers, side scoops, and twin headlights were a few of the exterior appearance changes. Now four options to the power plant were offered. Chevy’s small block 283 was around the corner to of breaking 300 horse power with the fuelie now cranking out 290 hp. Corvette was not becoming a hit and over 9,000 vehicles were produced in that year.

Gone were the fauve hood louvers for 1959 resulted in the much cleaner look to Corvette. Most of the car remained much like its ’58 big hit predecessor. Chevrolet now pushed the car to just under 10,000 vehicles in production.

‘60’s appearance didn’t look much different from the ’59, except when you looked under the hood! That 283 small block fuelie commando was now busting out with 315 horse power! With all that raw power, a rear stabilizer bar on the solid real axil helped keep her on the ground and Chevrolet once again pushed the envelope to now more than 10,000 Corvettes on the road.

1961 Chevrolet Corvette

1961 Chevrolet Corvette

With a “design dentist” pulling out all the teeth of the front grill on the 1961 model and a swooper duck tailed rear end, this Corvette stated, “I’m Different!” to the world. One other significant and rare option available for the ’61 model was a 24 gallon fuel tank…probably designed to take on Route 66 all in one shot!

The Famous small block 283, now available on the ’62, was in for a major expansion, growing in size to a whopping 327 V8 cubic inch monster. The four-barrel higher output versions easily made 300 and 340 horse power available for Corvette lovers. The dual-quad option was dropped, but the fuel injection system was back and it was now rated at a thrilling 360 hp.

Some Corvette enthusiasts claim the ’62 to be the greatest Corvette ever. Certainly no one can argue that it was fastest and the most innovative of the first-generation Corvettes. It would appear that Chevy had some new ideas up their sleeve and a new Corvette was overdue.

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