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1953 Chevrolet Corvette : Classic Cars

There is a capsule history of the Chevrolet Corvette that runs throughout this issue. The history has been divided by years of similar cars, rather than the traditional generation (C1, C2, C3, et al) delineation. For example, C3 Corvettes encompass the years 1968 through 1982, but our mini history separates the ’68-’72 models from the ’73-’82 models based on the significant horsepower differences. Due to space limitations and the minimal changes between some years, not all models are illustrated.

The history of the Chevrolet Corvette is long and varied. Many excellent books have covered the subject. The goal of this article is to provide a capsulated overview of those incredible fifty-five model years (the Corvette has actually been in production for fifty-six years, but there wasn’t a 1983 model).

The Chevrolet Corvette got its start as a design concept in the summer of 1952. Legendary GM designer, Harley Earl liked European sports cars and thought a two-seater Chevrolet would be a good idea. With the backing of Chevrolet Chief Engineer, Ed Cole, the project made it to the 1953 GM Motorama. The display at the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City in January 1953 generated an incredibly positive response.

The Corvette was rushed into production and debuted on June 30, 1953. The name Corvette was chosen from a huge number of suggestions. A Corvette is a small, lightly armored warship. The Corvette roadsterwas designed to be small and agile, too, so the name was a good fit.

The use of fiberglass for the bodies was a radical idea. Fiberglass had been used in limited applications on kit cars and boats. Fiberglass worked well with the very short ramp-up time for the Corvette and it turned out to be a signature feature of all Corvettes.

Mechanically, the first Corvettes borrowed heavily from contemporary Chevrolet passenger cars. That accounts for the 235 cubic inch straight six-cylinder engine and the two-speed Powerglide transmission. The Corvette was marketed as a sports car, but its performance really made it more of an open-air cruiser than a racer. That reality changed with the introduction of the 1956 Corvette, the car that can be credited with making the Corvette America’s sports car.

Differences between the first three years of Corvettes are minimal. The most significant change was the availability of the new 265-cubic inch V8 in 1955. That engine almost wasn’t enough to keep the slow-selling Corvette in business, but the tremendous success of the new 1955 Ford Thunderbird (and the highly competitive Chevrolet/Ford rivalry) provided enough of a reprieve to bring the 1956 Corvette to market. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Sources : 1953 Chevrolet Corvette Photo | 1953 Chevrolet Corvette Article


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