We can all take a trip down Memory Lane with “car guy” Jay Leno of The Tonight Show and Ed Welburn, vice president of design for General Motors, during an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage.
With Corvettes definitely in the news these days because of the impending unveiling of the C7, GM decided to throw a little fuel on the fire and send four of their most important cars in the General Motors Heritage Center collection to Leno’s garage for The Tonight Show host to drool over.
And drool he does.
“I wish you could leave them!” Leno tells Welburn.
First up on the video is a 1953 Corvette, one of just 300 ever built. Though primitive in many ways compared to future Corvettes, Leno and Welburn both agree that the fiberglass car was a trendsetter and that its styling has aged well. Welburn even says in some he likes the car’s design better now than 15 or 20 years ago. “There’s something that’s very pure and very clean,” he says.
While the ’53 was a pet project of Harley Earl’s, Welburn wonders if he could have even fit in the small Corvette since he was such a big man.
Next, we see a special 1958 model, which is actually the boss’s car – for now. GM Chairman Dan Akerson will be auctioning it off at Barrett-Jackson in January to raise money for the Habitat for Humanity chapter in Detroit.
Then we come upon what Leno considers one of the most valuable cars in GM’s collection – the iconic 1959 Corvette Sting Ray race car that inspired the mid-year design from 1963-67 (and influenced every Corvette since, even the C7, according to Welburn). He says one of the first things he did after taking over design was to have the car restored, though the interior where Dick Thompson sat behind the wheel remains just as it was.
And speaking of steering wheels, Jay had to remove the Sting Ray’s just to climb into the car and crank it up to reveal some rumbling that is just sheer music to a Corvette fan’s ears.
We all may have seen photos of this car for years, but here we finally have a chance to hear it run! “Talk about a piece of history!” Jay yells.
The Stingray has an illustrious history, winning the SCCA national championship in 1960, and Elvis even drove it in his movie, Clambake.
Finally, Jay gets a look at another icon in the Corvette world – a red 1963 Split Window Coupe that features knockoff wheels and fuel injection. Leno recounts the story of a friend who actually went to great expense back in the day to have his ’63 split removed to make it look like a ’64. Whoops!
As the video ends, Leno, with Welburn beside him, drives off in Akerson’s 1958.
“What’s cooler than stealing the boss’s car?” Leno cracks. “Let’s see what two four-barrels sound like. All right!”
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