Fifty-six years ago today, the very first production Corvettes were completed and rolled off a temporary assembly line at Chevrolet’s Customer Delivery Center in Flint, Michigan. All the Corvettes were hand-built and for the first time in a mass produced vehicle, a revolutionary material called fiberglass was used instead of steel to make the body panels.
Underneath the fiberglass were standard Chevrolet components. The 250 cubic inch Blue Flame Special 6-cylinder engine came from the truck line while the two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission and drum brakes were also found on various Chevrolet passenger cars. A triple-carb intake on the Corvette gave the 2-seater a bit more power but overall performance was lacking.
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 a black canvas soft-top, and featured 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.
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.”
Today, the 1953 Corvette is one of the most sought after Corvette models by collectors. Examples have recently sold as high as $440,000. Not too bad for a little American sports car with an underpowered straight-six and ill-fitting body panels.
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