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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chevrolet Corvette History - First Generation 1953 to 1962 (C1) “Solid-Axle”

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First appearing in 1953 the Chevrolet Corvette was a unique US entry into the European dominated sports car market of the time. Although not strictly a muscle car by definition, the Corvette did use both the engine and transmission from the muscle cars of the era - it has since represented American performance for almost fifty years. There have been six generations of the Corvette so far, sometimes referred to as the C1 through to the C6 - this article will focus on the 1st Generation C1 - 1953 to 1962.

Early History
While the style of a car may be just as important to some as to how well the car runs, it was not until 1927, when General Motors hired designer Harley Earl, that automotive styling and design became important to American automobile manufacturers. What Henry Ford did for automobile manufacturing principles, Harley Earl did for car design. Most of GM's flamboyant "dream car" designs of the 1950s are directly attributable to Earl, leading one journalist to comment that the designs were "the American psyche made visible". Harley Earl loved sports cars, and GIs returning after serving overseas in the years following World War II were bringing home MGs, Jaguars, Alfa Romeos, and the like. In 1951, Nash Motors began selling a two-seat sports car, the Nash-Healey, that was made in partnership with the Italian designer Pininfarina and British auto engineer Donald Healey. Earl began ruminating about an open sports car that would sell for around the price of a mainstream American sedan (about $2,000) - he convinced GM that they to needed to build a two-seat sports car. Earl and his Special Projects crew began working on the new car later that year. Robert F. (Bob) McLean designed a general layout for the car which was given the code name "Opel." The result was the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, unveiled to the public at that year's Motorama car show.

While the car was conceived with rigorous attention to the bottom line and production feasibility in mind, it was still only intended to be part of GM's Motorama exhibit at the 1953 New York Auto Show. That is until Ed Cole, Chevy's then recently appointed chief engineer, saw it. Cole, then immersed in development of the world-changing 1955 "small-block" V8, is said to have literally jumped up and down with enthusiasm for the Motorama car. So before it even got to New York, and after some corporate machinations, the engineering to put it into production began. However the car had yet to be named - Cole called a special meeting of executives researching the name that included Myron Scott, who was the founder of the All-American Soap Box Derby and an assistant advertising manager for Chevrolet at the time. It was Scott who suggested the name Corvette taken from "Corvette” - a small, maneuverable fighting frigate.

Up until that time, the Chevrolet division was GM's entry-level marque, known for excellent but no-nonsense cars - nowhere was that more evident than in the Corvette. The first Corvettes were virtually hand built in Flint, Michigan in Chevrolet's Customer Delivery Center (now an academic building at Kettering University). Determined to keep costs down, McLean used off-the-shelf Chevy mechanical components - the outer body was made out of then-revolutionary fiberglass, selected in part because of steel quotas left over from the war and to keep tooling costs in line. Underneath the new body the chassis and suspension were for all intents and purposes from the 1952 Chevy sedan's, with the drivetrain and passenger compartment shoved rearward to achieve a 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution over its 102-inch wheelbase.

The same was also true of the "Blue Flame" inline six-cylinder truck engine, a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, and drum brakes again from Chevrolet's regular car line. Though the engine's output was increased somewhat, thanks to a triple-carburetor intake exclusive to the Corvette, performance of the car was still decidedly lackluster at 150 bhp. A Paxton supercharger became available in 1954 as a dealer-installed option, which greatly improved the Corvette's straight-line performance. However compared to the British and Italian sports cars of the day, the Corvette was underpowered, required a great deal of effort as well as clear roadway to bring it to a stop, and even lacked a "proper" manual transmission. All these factors contributed to low sales which continued to decline throughout the Corvette’s first year.

GM was seriously considering shelving the project, leaving the Chevrolet Corvette to be little more than a footnote in automotive history, and would have done so if not for two important events. The first was the introduction in 1955 of Chevrolet's first V8 engine since 1919 (a 265 in³ / 4.3 Ltr), and the second was the influence of a Soviet émigré in GM's engineering department, Zora Arkus-Duntov. Arkus-Duntov simply took the new V8 and backed it with a three-speed manual transmission. That modification, probably the single most important in the car's history, helped turn the Corvette from a two-seat curiosity into a genuine performer. It also earned Arkus-Duntov the rather inaccurate nickname "The Grandfather of the Corvette." Another key factor in the Corvette's survival was Ford's introduction, in 1955, of the two-seater Thunderbird, which incidentally was billed as a "personal luxury car" and not a sports car. Even so, the Ford-Chevrolet rivalry in those days demanded that GM not appear to back down from the challenge – thankfully they didn’t.

On Tuesday, June 30, 1953 Corvette #1, Serial Number E53F001001 rolled off a makeshift assembly line in Flint Michigan, a mere six months after the debut of the concept car at the GM Motorama. Production of the Chevrolet Corvette had begun albeit at the back of Chevy's customer delivery garage on Van Slyke Ave.

1953 Chevrolet Corvette
The first generation is most commonly referred to as a "solid-axle", based on the fact that independent rear suspension (IRS) was not available until 1963. The only thing really new on the 1953 Corvette was the fiberglass body; everything else was directly off the Chevrolet parts shelf. Because of this, the first Corvette was essentially a regular 1952 Chevrolet - but looked liked so much more!

From the beginning, the Corvette was unique. It was only available as a two-seater convertible in Polo White with a “Sportsman” red interior. They each had black canvas convertible tops which manually folded into a storage space behind the seats. All Corvettes were built by hand, undeniably gorgeous with its fiberglass body and somewhat innovative but as a sports car it was less than impressive.

Exterior styling featured; chrome-framed grille with 13 heavy vertical chrome bars, rounded front fenders with recessed headlights and wire screen covers, no side windows or outside door handles, a wraparound windshield, "twin pod" rear fenders and "rocket ship" taillights. Only two Regular Production Options (RPOs) were available, a heater and an AM radio.

Its chassis, with a 102 inch wheelbase, was basically a shortened passenger car unit. The chassis handled better with the Corvette's improved weight distribution, but it was still pretty much a 1952 Chevy sedan suspension underneath. That meant the front end was suspended by a primitive independent system and the rear held up with leaf springs.

The only engine available was named the “Blue Flame Special” and was an upgraded version of the 235 in³ 6 found in other Chevrolet cars of the time. It did produced 150 bhp (due to the use of a higher lift cam which provided a significant boost in torque in the mid-range) but was woefully underpowered. It was coupled with Chevrolet’s Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission and together they produced less than athletic results. However the result was a departure from typical American straight-line performance - with its light weight and a quicker steering gear giving some reflexes to the car, the Corvette boasted excellent handling and road feel. Short exhaust extensions were used on all 1953s (and early '54s) because they were prone to drawing exhaust fumes into the car through the vent windows.

Motor Trend tested one of the first Corvettes – its 0 to 60 mph time was recorded as a rather lackluster 11.5 sec. The magazine was not wholly unimpressed however with the car stating; "Probably one of the biggest surprises I got with the car was when I took it through some sharp corners at fairly good speeds. I'd heard that Chevrolet had designed the suspension so that it would stay flat and stick in corners, but I took it with several grains of salt. It sticks better than some foreign sports cars I've driven."

With limited production due to the fact that they were all hand built and assembled, the 1953 Corvettes were not only the first but also the rarest and most sought after model year - 314 cars were produced of which about 200 are still in the hands of collectors. However in 1953 only 183 were sold because of "average" performance at such a high price - $3513, this was almost 75% more than Earl had initially hoped for. The Jaguar Xk120 sold for $3345 around $168 less than the Chevrolet Corvette.

Production Numbers: Convertible: 314

1954 Chevrolet Corvette
Production of 1954 Corvettes began December 23, 1953. With few changes except for color choices the 1953 and 1954 Corvettes were practically the same. It could now be ordered in Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red and Black in addition to the Polo White (and a new beige interior was also available). However approximately 80 percent of the 1954 Corvettes were still painted white. The soft top was now also offered in beige. Minor changes were made to the window storage bag, air cleaners, starter, and locations of the fuel and brake lines. The Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission was still the only transmission available, even though it was technically listed as a $178 option.

A total of 3,640 were built this model year (now produced in an old millwork building in St. Louis) and many wound up casting their shadows across Chevy Dealer’s lots for months, even years waiting for buyers. As good-looking as the Corvette was, unless it had performance to match its appearance, buyers weren't that interested in it. A 1954 Corvette could go from 0 to 60 mph in 11 seconds and from 0 to 100 mph in 41 seconds - 1954 was the last Corvette to have a 6 cylinder engine

Production Numbers: Convertible: 3,640

1955 Chevrolet Corvette

Production of 1955 Corvettes began October 28, 1954. Corvette styling remained the same as the 1954 model. New added colors were Copper with a Beige interior and Harvest Gold (yellow) with a Green and Yellow interior. Soft convertible tops were offered in canvas and vinyl and now included White and Dark Green.

Sales fell to just 700 units in 1955, leading to a push within GM to kill the Chevrolet Corvette. However, Zora Arkus-Duntov, an engineer on the Corvette team since 1953 and a former European road racer, was determined to save the Corvette and make it a contender. He started by giving the Corvette the two things it needed the most, more power and better handling.

The year 1955 brought the single most important development in the history of the Corvette, Chevrolet's brilliant small-block V8. Originally displacing 265 in³ it was rated at 195 bhp. There was also the option of a 3-speed manual transmission. The performance was still less than scintillating - a V8 powered 1955 Corvette could go from 0-to-60 mph in 8.7 seconds and from 0-to-100 mph in 24.7 seconds but the potential was obvious. The new V8 models used a 12-volt electrical system while the 6-cylinder cars used a 6-volt electrical system. The easiest way to differentiate the 1955 model is the "V" in Corvette is enlarged and gold colored signifying the V-8 engine under the hood.

Duntov drove a prototype V8 powered Corvette to a new record in the Daytona "Measured Mile" at just over 150 mph which gained some much needed recognition for the Corvette. The Corvette was officially saved and Duntov would be remembered as "The Grandfather of the Corvette" for his efforts.

Production Numbers: Convertible: 700

1956 Chevrolet Corvette
Production of the 1956 Corvette began November 4, 1955. In 1956 the Corvette received its first major styling change; a new body was designed for the car which changed it from a country club style sports car to a true American hot rod. A lot of people would have been perfectly content if Chevrolet had frozen Corvette styling with the 1956/7 model. Changes included the all-new body with better integrated styling. Although the same basic grille was kept, there were new front fenders with chrome-rimmed headlights; external door handles; roll-up windows; chrome-outlined concave side body coves and sloping, taillight-integrated rear fenders. Inside was styled like a cockpit with the bucket seats surrounded by a body-colored frame that divided the passenger space. Upholstery colors were limited to beige or red, but six nitro-cellulose lacquer body colors were available - they were Onyx black, Polo white, Venetian red, Cascade green, Aztec copper, and Arctic blue. The dash layout remained the same as in the past and a removable hardtop was offered as an option for the first time. The 6 cylinder engine was dropped and the 265 in³ V8 was now standard, though it was still rated at just 195 bhp.

As lovely as the 1956 Corvette was, what really ignited the legend that year was that GM began racing it. Chevrolet general manager Ed Cole and Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov decided it was time for the Corvette to go racing. Zora drove one car to a two-way average of 150.583 mph at Daytona's Flying Mile. John Fitch also set a record of 90.932 mph for the standing-start mile at Daytona and 145.543 mph in the production sports car class. During that same competition, the best a Ford Thunderbird could do was just 134.404 mph. In the spring of 1956, at Pebble Beach, a dentist from California, Dr. Dick Thompson finished second overall and first in class in a sports car road race. Thompson went on to take the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) 1956 championship with his Corvette. With the racing came a change in the Chevrolet Corvette advertising which now heralded the car's performance and competition credentials.

It was the 1956 Corvette that established the two-seater as a legitimate performance machine and as an American icon. While the chassis was very much a carryover from previous Corvettes, the 1956's new body was very definitely not. Many enthusiasts consider the 1956 and the barely changed 1957 Corvette, as the most aesthetically pleasing body style of the pre-1963 Corvettes, while others will claim that it was the best styling of all time. One of the few ways to differentiate between a 1956 and 1957 Corvette without opening the hood is to look at the inside rear view mirror. On the 1956 model it adjusts with a thumbscrew, on the 1957 adjustment requires a wrench to loosen the locknut.

Production Numbers: Convertible: 3,467

1957 Chevrolet Corvette
Production of the 1957 Corvette began October 19, 1956. Visually the 1957 model was virtually identical to the 1956 but inside a four-speed manual transmission (T-10) was available for the first time. Seven colors were available: Onyx Black, Polo White, Aztec Copper, Arctic Blue, Venetian Red and Inca Silver – there were also three optional color choices for the side cove: White, Silver and Beige. Among the standard features were: an outside rearview mirror; dual exhaust; all-vinyl bucket seats; three-spoke competition-style steering wheel; carpeting; electric clock and a tachometer.

Many thought that Chevrolet had finally got their sports car right for 1957, as the Corvette finally gained power to go along with its outstanding styling and road feel. The big news was the availability of a 283 in³ 283 bhp fuel-injected V8 the Corvette's first true powerful engine (A bored out version of the 1956 265 in³ V8). It came in four versions - the base form had a four-barrel carb and was rated at 220 bhp. Next came an early fuel injected version rated at 250 bhp and then the dual four-barrel carb 283 rated at 270 bhp. But late in the model year, in May 1957, the true performance version of the 283 made its debut. Sporting an advanced fuel injection system (also available on the Bel Air) the new "fuelie" 283 produced 283 bhp.

The Corvette's continuous-flow fuel-injection system was a joint effort of Zora Arkus-Duntov, John Dolza and General Motor's Rochester Division. This fuel-injected Corvette had now reached the magical one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch high-performance bracket which of course was played up by the advertising media. The top engine probably made more than that, but the ad agency loved that one cube, one pony hook. A 283-hp fuel-injection 1957 Corvette could go from 0-to-60 mph in 5.7 seconds and from 0-to-100 mph in 16.8 seconds, it had a top speed of 132 mph. Only 1040 of the 1957 Corvettes were fuel-injected.

For those that wanted even more performance, Chevrolet offered two option packages. The RPO 579E got the buyer the fuel-injected 283 in³ V8 with cold-air induction and a big tachometer on the steering wheel. Whereas the race only competition suspension package RPO 684 which was strictly for off road (track only), included heavy-duty springs, shocks, and roll bars, 16.3:1 quick-ratio steering; a Positraction rear axle; special brake cooling equipment; and Cerametallic brake linings. Dick Thompson and Gaston Audrey won the 12-hour Sebring Race in Corvettes and Thompson took the SCCA B-production championship for the second year in a row

Suddenly, the Corvette was one of the world's truly quick cars with handling to match. “Motor Trend’s” Walt Woron wrote at the time: "The function of the fuel injection system was notable. Starts were quick. Pumping the throttle didn't pump raw gas to the cylinders, so you can't flood it. Throttle response is instantaneous. No maneuver could flood or starve the engine - and I tried with violent cornering and hard braking".

Production Numbers: Convertible: 6,339

1958 Chevrolet Corvette
Production of the 1958 Corvette began October 31, 1957. Both the interior and exterior of the Chevrolet Corvette were significantly restyled for 1958.There were now four chrome-rimmed headlights with fender length chrome strips running between each pair of lights. The grille was similar to the previous year, but had four fewer vertical bars. Three horizontal chrome strips were added to the new cove and a couple of vertical chrome bars decorated the trunk. The wraparound front and rear bumpers were now larger with the addition of a bumper exiting exhaust. Controversial fake louvers were also placed on the hood. There were six exterior body colors offered: Charcoal, Silver Blue, Regal Turquoise, Signet Red, Panama Yellow and Snowcrest White.

The interior changed dramatically, the gauges were clustered together in front of the driver, rather than spread across the dash as before. A center console and passenger assist (sissy) bar were added and seat belts were now made standard equipment (They had previously been a dealer-installed option in 1956 and 1957). This model Corvette was the last year of the tachometer with the "cumulative engine revolution counter" which first appeared in the 1953 Corvette.

Again, the engine bay could be filled with any one of four different variations on the 283 small-block. At the base was the single four-barrel version now making 230 bhp, dual-quad versions were rated at 245 and 270 bhp and the “fuelie” engines now made either 250 or 290 bhp. A 1958 Corvette with the 283 in³ V8 fuel-injected 290 bhp could go from 0-to-60 mph in 6.9 seconds.

This year had the most exterior chrome and was considered the flashiest Corvette ever built (some believe it marred the exteriors appearance), it was also the heaviest of the C-1s. Heavy and garish or not, the 1958 Corvette was a hit and Chevy built 9,168 examples - for the first time say some sources GM made a profit with the Chevrolet Corvette.

Production Numbers: Convertible: 9,168

1959 Chevrolet Corvette
Cleaning off some of the chrome excess resulted in the much cleaner-looking 1959 Corvette. It was the same as the 1958 except for minor improvements - the fake hood louvers and vertical chrome strips on the trunk were removed. Otherwise the car was very much a carryover from the previous year.

Interior changes included redesigned bucket seats and door panels, the armrests and door handles were in different positions, a fiberglass package tray under the “sissy” bar and there were concave gauge lenses which helped reduce any reflections. The optional four-speed manual transmission had a T-shaped reverse-lockout shifter with a white plastic shifter knob. A tachometer, outside rearview mirror, seat belts, dual exhaust and electric clock were among the standard features. Sun visors became optional. There were seven exterior body colors offered: Tuxedo Black, Classic Cream, Frost Blue, Crown Sapphire, Roman Red, Snowcrest White and Inca Silver. Interior colors were Blue, Red, Turquoise and Black (for the first time).

“Road & Track” described the 1959 Corvette as "a pretty package with all the speed you need and then some." A 290 bhp fuel-injected Corvette with the 4.11 rear axle could go from 0-to-60 mph in 6.8 seconds; from 0-to-100 mph in 15.5 seconds It did the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds at 96 mph and had a top speed of 124 mph.

Production Numbers: Convertible: 9,670

1960 Chevrolet Corvette
The 1960 Corvette didn't look much different from the previous model but the rated outputs of the fuel-injected versions grew to 275 bhp and a full 315 bhp. This Corvette saw an increased use of aluminum in its manufacturer. A new aluminum clutch housing cut the Corvette's weight by 18 pounds. Aluminum cylinder heads and an aluminum radiator were also introduced, but later withdrawn. Ride and handling were improved with a larger-diameter front anti-roll bar and a new rear anti-sway bar helped tame the solid rear axle a somewhat.

Standard equipment included: tachometer, sun visors, dual exhaust, carpeting, seat belts, outside rearview mirror and an electric clock. Buyers could choose from eight exterior colors: Tuxedo Black, Ermine White, Tasco Turquoise, Horizon Blue, Sateen Silver, Cascade Green, Roman Red and Honduras Maroon.

For the first time over 10,000 Corvettes were built - 50% were sold with a detachable hardtop and 52% also now had a four-speed manual transmission.

Production Numbers: Convertible: 10,261

1961 Chevrolet Corvette
This model edition saw a new simplified mesh grille without the previous versions' "teeth" and a new "duck tail" rear end designed by Bill Mitchell – Harley Earl's successor as vice-president of design. This design was a predecessor to the Sting Ray coming in 1963 and added more space to the Corvette's trunk. The 1961 model also saw the first use of Corvette's now trademark quad taillights and the exhaust now exited under the car, rather than through bumper ports. These exterior styling changes quickly set the new 1961 Corvette apart from its predecessor. However except for the styling updates this model carried over almost unchanged from the 1960 Corvette.

Standard equipment also now included a lockable rear-seat storage area, a new aluminum radiator and a temperature-controlled radiator fan. One rare option that could now be ordered was the 24-gallon oversize fuel tank. Seven exterior colors were available: Tuxedo Black, Ermine White, Roman Red, Sateen Silver, Jewel Blue, Fawn Beige and Honduras Maroon. It was the last year for those 1950s favorite, wide whitewall tires on the options list and the last year a contrasting color could be ordered from the factory for the side coves. Most 1961 Corvettes, 64% now had a four-speed manual transmission and 52% came with a detachable hardtop.

A 1961 Corvette with a 283 in³ 315 bhp solid-lifter fuel-injected V8 and the 3.70:1 rear axle could go from 0-to-30 mph in 2.6 seconds; from 0-to-60 mph in 6.0 seconds and from 0-to-100 mph in 14.2 seconds. It did the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds at 106 mph and had a maximum speed of 140 mph.

Production Numbers: Convertible: 10,939

1962 Chevrolet Corvette
The most noticeable style changes for 1962 were the removal of the side cover chrome trim, a blacked-out grille and ribbed chrome rocker panel molding leaving this model almost completely devoid of chrome. 1962 Was the last of the solid rear axle Chevrolet Corvettes and many other things including the power top on the roadster, curved windshield and four wheel drum brakes. The trunk and exposed headlights disappeared for decades only returning in 1998 and 2005 respectively.

Big news came in the form of a big engine for 1962 as the GM 283 small-block V8 grew to 327 in³ (5.4 Ltr). The base four-barrel engine now knocked out 250 bhp with higher output versions available in 300 and 340 bhp versions. The dual-quad option was dropped, but the fuel injection system was back and it was now rated at a thrilling 360 bhp (268 kw) making it the fastest of all the C1s.

The Corvette was a true sports car, as power steering, power brakes, and air condition were not available as options. Due to the racing ban of 1957, Chevrolet was not allowed to support factory racing. Because of this, "The Grandfather" of the Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntoz slipped in several serious racing parts on to the Corvette options list. Performance buyers could now order hot "Duntov" camshafts, thermo-activated cooling fans, and aluminum-cased transmissions. Also available was a special racing package, called "Sebring."

Available options on the Sebring included:

• 15x5.5 inch wheels at no charge
• direct-flow exhaust system at no charge
• 24-gallon fuel tank ($118.40)
• four-speed gearbox ($188.30)
• Posi-Traction rear axle ($43.05)
• sintered metallic brake linings ($37.70)
• heavy-duty suspension ($333.60)

The most desired option was the 327 V8 "fuelie" rated at a massive 370 bhp which cost $484.20.

With a low 3,080 pound curb weight, a 327/380 equipped Corvette had a power-weight of just 8.6 lbs per horsepower, the lowest ratio ever, up to that point. A 1962 Corvette with a 327 in³ 360 bhp fuel-injected V8 and the 3.70:1 rear axle could go from 0-to-30 mph in 2.5 seconds; from 0-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds and from 0-to-100 mph in 13.5 seconds. It did the quarter mile in 4.5 seconds at 104 mph and had an estimated maximum speed of 150 mph

For the first time since 1955 Corvettes were offered in solid colors only which were Tuxedo Black, Ermine White, Roman Red, Sateen Silver, Fawn Beige, Honduras Maroon and Almond Beige. The wheels were available in Black, Beige, Red, Silver, or Maroon - the last time buyers had a choice of wheel colors was in 1957. In subsequent years wheels would only be offered in only a single color. Standard features included: electric clock, dual exhaust, tachometer, heater and defroster, seat belts, outside rearview mirror and windshield washer.

There are many Corvette enthusiasts who claim the 1962 with its exterior style changes to be the greatest Corvette ever. In a lot of corners it is touted as certainly being the best of the first-generation solid rear axle Corvettes — however the chassis was still closely related to the 1952 Chevrolet sedan and a new Corvette was overdue..

This 2nd generation Chevrolet Corvette was to be called “The Sting Ray” or C2 and would run from 1963-1967.

Production Numbers: Convertible: 14,531

Did you know..?

• The original concept for the Corvette emblem incorporated an American flag into the design, but was changed well before production since associating the flag with a product was frowned upon. On January 12, 1953 just four days before the new Corvette's introduction at the Motorama on Januray 16th, the GM management team informed the styling team that the front emblem and the horn button containing the likeness of the American flag had to go. It just wasn't proper to have a country's flag in an automobile emblem not to mention being against the law. Overnight, new emblems were fabricated and installed on the Motorama car. When the first Corvette was shown to the press at the Motorama in New York City, the front emblems and horn button contained a black and white checkered flag and a red Chevrolet bow-tie and fleur-de-lis.

• William Durant, the founder of GM, said a wallpaper pattern he saw in a Paris hotel in 1908 inspired the bow tie logo. Supposedly, he ripped off a small piece of it and brought it back to Detroit.

• The first Corvettes were actually "rolled" off the assembly line. Chevrolet was not properly prepared for the grounding to a fiberglass body; the cars would not start!

• The Jaguar XK120 is believed to have been the inspiration for the first Corvette.

• Automobile Magazine called the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray the "coolest car in history" and Sports Car International placed it at number 5 on their list of the Top Sports Cars of the 1960s.

• The "GM Mark of Excellence" sticker appeared in one year only - 1967.

• The Sting Ray name was not used on the 1968 Corvette, but returned in 1969… Spelled “Stingray”.

• No Corvettes were painted Black at the factory from 1970 to 1976 and "Pewter Silver" was only offered as an exterior color in 1972.

• The 1978 Pace Car was Black and Silver because it photographed well - back then, most magazine articles and ads were still done in Black & White. The Corvette has been selected as the Pace Car at the Indianapolis 500 ten times: 1978, 1986, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Chevrolet Corvettes of note:

• The oldest surviving production Corvette is serial number E53F001003. This historic, one-time GM "test mule" is the third 1953 Corvette to ever come off the Flint assembly line and is known as "double-o-three" to Corvette enthusiasts. It was sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction on January 21, 2006 in Scottsdale, AZ, for USD $1,000,000.

• In 1953 the first two Corvettes, VIN Numbers 1 and 2 were said to have been destroyed, but no records prove that fact, and there are no witnesses to the destruction. However, the oldest Corvette in existence is believed to be the EX-122, a pre-production prototype that was hand built and first shown to the public at the 1953 GM Motorama at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on January 17, 1953. That car can now be seen at the Atlantic City Showroom and Museum of Kerbeck Corvette.

• Another noteworthy 1953 Corvette belonged to actor John Wayne. VIN: #51 was delivered to Wayne on October 7, 1953. It is currently on display at the National Automobile Museum (formerly the Harrah's Collection) in Reno, Nevada.

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