When the Corvette was first produced in 1952, The New York Times noted the fact with a small article in the newspaper. Likely, the only reason it rated mention was the body of fiberglass or “laminated glass fiber” as it was called in those days. Over the course of the ensuing six decades, the Corvette has endured and taken it’s place in automotive history.
Once upon a time the idea of an American sports car was a laughable notion. But leave it to two remarkable men to take this idea and create one of the most recognizable and long lasting sports cars in the world. Their names were Harvey Earl and Ed Cole.
Earl was the designer, beginning with models sculpted in clay and ending with a beautiful work of art to be enjoyed and admired by millions. Ed Cole was the man, the engineer whose job it was to turn the designer’s ideas into reality, actual metal, fiberglass, glass and rubber.
Earl had a list of names, about 300, from which he eventually selected the name for the new sports car, Corvette.
Early on the decision was made to go with fiberglass instead of metal to save money. Producing a vehicle made of plastic was much less expensive than doing one out of metal. Keeping costs down was a primary concern. This new car had to prove itself and become profitable or it would be mothballed.
The Flint, Michigan plant turned out just 300 vehicles in that first model year, 1953. Almost all of the body work was done by hand. Under the hood the Corvette sported a 6-cylinder engine that put out 150 horsepower, not nearly the power that the sports car guys wanted, but it was decent for a start.
Believe it or not, this first model was an automatic, though the engineer did put the shift lever on the floor to fake the look of a manual shifter. Looking back it seems strange that they wouldn’t go with a stick shift manual transmission to start with.
This early Corvette came with just the basics and I do mean basics. There weren’t any exterior door handles and no side windows. No hard top either, just a convertible. Oh and your choice of color? They took a page from Henry Ford who only made black Model T’s back in the early 20′s. With the Corvette, you could have any color you wanted as long as it was Polo White with red interior.
Sales of America’s first sports car weren’t so good so GM added an auto racer to the design team. His name was Zora Arkus-Duntov. The first thing he did was drop a 265 cu in V8 into the car which cranked out 195 hp. In 1955 GM sold 4,700 Corvettes so the chance of finding one of those used Corvettes for sale is better than if you were searching for a ’53 or ’54.