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Homecoming for the World’s First Corvette

by Keith Cornett on May 10, 2011

Homecoming for the world's First Corvette
Photo Credit: Emile Wamsteker for Chevrolet

XP-122, better known as the 1953 Corvette concept that was part of GM’s historic ’53 Motorama, returned to the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel last Saturday to take part in a presentation with GM Global Vice President of Design Ed Welburn. Welburn spoke to the company’s international sales executives as General Motors looks to expand its sales efforts outside the USA.

The story of the World’s first Corvette is quite compelling and although its known here in the States, to many in Welburn’s audience, it was the first time they had heard the back story on Harley Earl’s two-seater sports car and the battle with GM executives to get it produced.

The story goes that Earl was inspired to design the Corvette after attending a race at upstate New York’s Watkins Glen racetrack and seeing the sporty and nimble European two-seat sports cars. Following a year or so of design work, the experimental Corvette was built.

The prototype, known internally as XP-122, made its public debut at the 1953 Motorama, the traveling car show featuring General Motors vehicles and concepts like the Buick Wildcat, Pontiac La Parisienne, Oldsmobile Starfire and the Cadillac Orleans. The Waldorf Astoria’s ballroom was the first stop of the Motorama tour and the Corvette concept would be seen by over 1.4 million people by the time the tour concluded.

XP-122 at the 1953 Motorama
Photo Credit: General Motors

Welburn told the story of how 45,000 people were on hand that first day to see the Corvette and the other concepts. The Motorama wasn’t just another car show. The event also had a revue with singers and dancers.

The Corvette was so well received that GM rushed to produce it. The first production Corvettes began rolling off the temporary assembly line in Flint Michigan on June 30, 1953.

XP-122 was borrowed for the GM sales event from Kerbeck Corvette in Atlantic City, NJ. “Kerbeck has the nameplate that reads XP-122,” Welburn said. “It attaches with Philips head screws, so I think they keep it locked in a safe.”

Following the event, Welburn took some time to sit in the Polo White Corvette while it was parked in the Ballroom. “I can’t believe I’m sitting here,” he said. “This is very emotional for me.”

New York Times

GM’s Welburn Selects Two Corvettes in List of Top 10 Chevrolets
Corvette Debuts at GM Motorama 58 Years Ago Today
Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders, and Chevrolet


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