Happy Birthday, Corvette!!
Sixty-three years ago at a small factory in Flint, Michigan on Van Slyke Road, the first 1953 Corvettes rolled off the assembly line and into automotive history. On June 30th 1953, these Chevrolet workers and executive gathered for a group photo around the VIN 001 Corvette.
In the early 1950’s, Harley Earl, GM’s head of styling, envisioned a low-cost American sports car that could compete with Europe’s Jaguar, MG’s and Ferrari. Codenamed “Opel”, the very first prototype made its debut in January 1953 at the GM Motorama show at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The great reviews and pubic acclaim for the little white roadster prompted GM to fast track the Corvette into production and the first retail models were hand assembled in the back of the Chevrolet’s Customer Delivery Center in Flint, Michigan just six months later.
Chevrolet built 300 Corvettes over the course of the 1953 model year. A uniform design allowed the workers to concentrate on putting the bodies together without being distracted by trim and equipment variations. Therefore, all 1953 Corvettes were Polo White with Sportsman Red interiors and equipped with a canvas soft-top, 6.70 x 15 whitewall tires and a Delco signal-seeking radio. Also standard was a 5,000-rpm tachometer and a counter for total engine revolutions.
Although some sports car purists took exception to the Corvette’s only available transmission – the 2-speed Powerglide automatic, the Corvette was still a decent sports car with well-tuned examples running 0-60 mph in 11 seconds and having a top speed near 105 mph.
The Corvette’s original base price was set at $3,498.00. However the general public was hard pressed to get one as most of the production was doled out to project engineers, GM executives and other high profile customers including Hollywood movie stars like John Wayne. In fact a dealer notice issued in July ’53 from the Central Office proclaimed: “No dealer is in a position to accept firm orders for delivery of a Corvette in 1953.”
The 1953 Corvette still remains one of the most sought after Corvette models by collectors. The oldest surviving example, VIN #003 was purchased by collector and Chevrolet dealer Dave Ressler for $1 million in 2006.
The Chevrolet Corvette has come a long way since that first 1953 rolled off the assembly line. While we celebrate all Corvettes on this birthday, it all started 63 years ago:
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