Iconic Cars Of The Past

Some of the most beautiful machines ever built

No. 2 - 1953 Chevrolet Corvette

1953 Chevrolet Corvette image

The Chevrolet Corvette is still a popular sports car, racking up impressive sales figures, but when the first model (the C1) was launched in 1953, it very nearly didn't make it. It was arguably rushed into production too quickly but nevertheless it initially received a good welcome from the American buying public. Huge numbers of GIs had returned from Britain, bringing with them MG and Jaguar sports cars so designers in the USA quickly realised that there was a market to be exploited.

A number of concept cars had already been built using fibreglass body panels; but the Corvette was the first production car in the USA to do so. Initially around 300 were built in a hastily built assembly-line, situated in an old factory which was designed to build trucks; this was merely meant as a stopgap measure until a purpose-built factory could come on stream. The decision to use GRP (glass reinforced plastic) for the body panels was initially driven by the need to start production quickly, and the intention was to eventually replace this with pressed steel; however public opinion seized upon the advantages of fibreglass very quickly, and the GRP manufacturers made it clear that they were capable of producing car bodies on a very large scale, and so the decision was made to stay with it.

In 1954, with the new factory fully operational, more than 3600 C1s were built. Improvements to the 3.8 litre, six cylinder engine gradually gave increases in both top speed and acceleration and by 1956 a Corvette could manage just a whisper short of 130 mph, with an acceleration of noughtt to 60 in under nine seconds. The savings in weight which resulted from replacing a pressed steel body with a lightweight fibreglass one went a long way towards achieving this.

After a shaky start, and a possible end to the project, the Corvette C1 became a very successful sports car and production only ended when it was replaced by the next generation, the C2 Sting Ray. Later generations continue the tradition and the Corvette is still manufactured, and still looked upon worldwide as one of the most desirable vehicles for the young, and the young at heart.


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