It was on January 17, 1953 that thousands of Americans would see the all new Chevrolet Corvette for the very first time. The two-seater sports car, which had been developed during 1952 became the star of GM’s Motorama show at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria.
One man in the audience was a Belgian-born engineer named Zora Arkus-Duntov. Zora was so taken with the potential of the Corvette that he later wrote a letter to Chevrolet’s Chief Engineer Ed Cole. Cole, who was also impressed with Zora’s ideas, hired him as an assistant staff engineer.
The GM Motorama would tour much of America and it’s estimated that over 1.4 million Americans would see the roadster along with GM’s other offerings that year.
Realizing they had a potential hit on their hands, production of the Chevrolet Corvette was rushed to capitalize on the public’s excitement for the car. The first production Corvettes rolled out of a makeshift factory in Flint, Michigan beginning June 30th 1953 with a sticker price of just over $3,700.00.
Chevrolet made some design changes between the building of the Motorama Corvette and what would eventually become the first year 1953 Corvette roadsters. Most notable with the position of the chrome trim on the side of the cars. On the Motorama Corvette, a chrome spear pointed downward where on the production Corvettes it was changed to point upwards and the Chevrolet script that was under the spear on the Motorama car was changed to be above it.
Another interesting change was that the prototype Corvette came with external door locks but when production started they left those off.
The Motorama Corvette, known internally as EX-122, became one of the test mules for the Corvette program and at one point the Blue Flame 6-cylinder engine was swapped for a Chevrolet V8.
After a few years of test duty, Russell Sanders, who headed up the Experimental Division at GM, purchased the car. He sold it in 1959 to Jack Engle for $1,000 and the car would reside with Engle and his family until he passed away in 2001.
Today the car is owned by George Kerbeck who proudly displays the earliest Corvette inside the showroom at Kerbeck Corvette in Atlantic City, NJ.
But it was 64 years ago that the Chevrolet Corvette was introduced to America. And America has never been the same since.