June 28 is a
significant day in American Automotive history; it was this day in 1953 when
the first Chevrolet Corvette was hand assembled at a Chevy plant in Flint,
Michigan. The car was put into
production immediately and he first production car rolled off the assembly line
just two days later. It was one of just
300 Corvettes made that year. The Vette
is still being produced and is the longest running American car in production
at 59 years.
The Corvette was
designed and developed by General Motors’ designer Harley J. Earl. He had begun developing plans for a
competitive American sports car in 1951 during the era of the MG “T” series and
other rapidly evolving European sports cars.
The name Corvette was derived from the history of naval warfare where a
corvette is part of a class of small, fast and lightly armed vessels.
Corvette was shown as a “concept car” at a January 1953 auto show. It was so well received it was rushed into
production. As displayed at the auto
show and in the first production cars, the Corvette had a fiberglass body a 150
horsepower six cylinder engine, an automatic transmission and detachable
plastic windows. The early Corvettes had
no exterior door handles – like the Triumph TR2 of the same year – and were
designed to be opened by reaching in through the window. All 300 of the first year’s production were
white with red interiors. They did have
amenities some other cars of the period did not; a clock, cigarette lighter and
a red warning light that lit up when the parking brake was applied. The first Corvettes were underpowered with
the small 6 cylinder engine and turned 0 to 60 in a bit over 11 seconds – not
that fast even by standards of the period.
The car was priced in 1953 at $3500 – equivalent to $30,000 in today’s
In the beginning,
sales were not great Chevrolet thought about considered discontinuing the
car. Fortunately for car fans, Ford
introduced the Thunderbird in 1955 and used Ford’s big V-8 to power this light
two seater. Chevrolet was not going to
fold in the face of competition and the T-bird sold 14,000 cars in its first
year of production. In 1955, Chevrolet
dropped their small block 195 horsepower V-8 in to the Corvette and the race
was very literally on. The Corvette’s
performance steadily improved along with its appeal to car fans. Over the years songs have been written about
the Corvette by artists as far apart as George Jones and Prince and featured in
over a dozen movies – it has really earned the title “America’s sports
In its 59 year
history, around 1.5 million Corvettes have been built. There are 6 series, conveniently labeled C1
through C6. The C3, or Stingray, series
made from 1968 to 1982 accounts for over half a million of the one and a half
million Corvettes made. The Corvette public is currently awaiting the C7 seriesrumored to be appearing in the 2013 model year.
If you happen to
own a 1953 Corvette in the State of Washington, you can use a collector plate
on the car. The collector plate is
permanent but does limit your use of the car to mostly ceremonial events. Your 59 year old Vette would also qualify as
a “horseless carriage” under Washington law and does not need to carry
mandatory Washington auto insurance.
However, when you consider that a 53’ Corvette sold at auction in 2007
for $440,000 our well-considered advice here at Homer Smith Insurance is that
you really ought to get the car insured.
Call us if you need help!