It is that time, folks! Our award for the best Corvette of the 1950s is… drumroll please… the 1957! In a decade full of firsts, the 1957 Corvette manages to stand out among its peers. Starting under the hood, Chevrolet bored out the 265 cube V8 from the ’56 model and the resulting engine is still legendary today; the 283 which, for the first time in Corvette history, was able to produce one horsepower per cubic inch in top-spec, fuel-injected, form.
The powerful Fuel Injected V8 was just one of many performance improvements that Zora and Co. implemented in the 1957 Corvette. A four-speed manual transmission (RPO 685) was offered for the first time along with Zora’s first “racing special” option in RPO 684, the heavy-duty suspension package. 684 added “heavy-duty” items including springs, front anti-sway bar, shock absorbers, a tighter steering ratio, a Positraction rear end, cooling fans, and ceramic/metal brake linings with finned ventilated drums. Unfortunately, these options were one or all of three things: expensive, too hardcore for most people, or unknown to the general public, which led to low production numbers.
A total of 756 “fuelies” were produced. The 4-speed was installed in 664 ’57 ‘Vettes, and the heavy-duty suspension was ordered for just 51 units (a unicorn with all three options will be crossing the block at Mecum’s Kissimmee sale the first week of the new year, bring all of your dollars if you want to take it home for your collection!).
The 283/283 could reach 60 MPH in just 5.7 seconds and run the quarter in 14.3 seconds, extremely impressive numbers at the time but it is on the track where these cars proved unbeatable. At Sebring (before the AMA Racing Ban), two production model 1957 Corvettes won the GT class (taking 12th and 15th places overall) while beating the former “world’s fastest car,” Mercedes-Benz 300SL (which we talked about in our 1953 piece of this countdown) by 20 laps!
Even though it had been outsold by Ford’s new Thunderbird 16,155 to 700 in 1955, 15,631 to 3,467 in ’56, and 21,380 to 6,339 in ’57, the ‘Vette’s untouchable status on the track was one of the major factors in Ford pulling of the plug on the two-seat T-Bird after ’57. The second-generation T-Bird’s new 2+2 layout was a financial success for Ford, even though they would permanently be out of the sports car game, selling a remarkable 37,892 units in 1958. This was a number the Corvette couldn’t come close to until 1969 when a nearly 36% increase in sales saw 38,762 Stingrays find new homes.
The Corvette debuted in 1953 and got its first V8 in ’55 but we think that the 1957 model was the first time that our favorite car offered everything that we have come to expect from America’s Sports Car; world-class performance and technology, stunning looks, and a price that working-class people could realistically strive for, all on top of the fact that it sent Ford back to the drawing board with a car that many thought would shutter the Corvette factory just two years prior. For those reasons, we crown the 1957 Corvette our best of the 1950s.
Stay tuned next week as we tackle what might be the most difficult decade of Corvette production to rank, the 1960s! The Swingin’ ’60s saw the final three years of C1 production, the entire “Midyear” generation, and two of the best years of the “Shark” C3, we can feel the pressure already!
See all of our Corvette of the Decade Features:
- The Best Corvettes of the 1950s: No.3 – The 1953 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1950s: No.2 – The 1959 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1950s: No.1 – The 1957 Corvette
Photo Credits: CorvetteImages.com