|Automobiles of Arizona
Friday, January 18, 2008
|1953 Chevrolet Corvette|
Specifications: 150bhp, 235 cu. in. inline six-cylinder engine, three-sidedraft carburetors, Powerglide automatic transmission, independent A-arm suspension, coil springs, semi-elliptic leaf springs and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102"
In the early 1950s, a team of GM engineers headed up by Harley Earl went to work trying to create a fiberglass bodied car that had the appeal to compete with European sports cars.
Harley Earl had excelled at swooping design since the 1920s and designed aircraft-looking features into the car, including round dials blended into a curved dash, all of which was sheltered under a roofline that stood just under 47 inches tall. The six-cylinder engine was positioned farther toward the rear, which gave the flat hood a long, sleek appearance. By the time it was ready to be unveiled, it is reported that GM had spent over 1.5 million dollars on the project.
Dubbed the Corvette ‘Dream Car,’ it debuted at the GM Motorama show held at the stylish Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City with astounding results. Following the first weekend of the Motorama event in New York, over 300,000 people had seen the car and spent $800,000 on GM products. Concluding Motorama’s US tour, GM stated that over four million people had seen the car.
From the time General Motors announced the Chevrolet Corvette concept car in January 1953 till it was finally made available to the public, it continued to capture the hearts and imaginations of a public ravenous for fast, sporty two-seaters.
Most of America's young men had just returned from the war in Europe and sports cars were one indelible automotive impression they brought home with them.
Production of the two-seat roadster started in June 1953, and by year’s end, a total of only 300 Corvettes rolled off the assembly line. This first year of Corvette production signified an important technical milestone; GM was the first American car manufacturer to successfully mass-produce a vehicle whose underpan and bodyshell was made entirely of fiberglass.
The Corvette featured GM’s ‘Blue Flame’ inline six 235 cubic inch engine, with triple carburetors and dual exhaust. The engine’s respectable 150hp was transmitted to the road via a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. All 300 cars built in 1953 were visually identical, finished in Polo White with a Sportsman Red interior. The car was fitted with subtle pieces of chrome trim, which ran along either side, as well as wire meshing covering the headlights.
Compared to the Jaguar XK 120 and the MGA of the time, the Corvette was proportionally smaller, yet more responsive and superior in handling. Unable to resist its magnetism, virtually every auto enthusiast felt compelled to get behind the wheel of the new Corvette. Even though its initial success was impressive, it is doubtful that even those at GM could have thought the Corvette would achieve the success it has over the six decades it has been in production.
The example presented here, number 268 of the 300 built, is finished in traditional 1953 Corvette colors and has only 45,763 original miles. Its history dates back to the mid-1970s when it was purchased by a respected early Corvette specialist from Pennsylvania. The complete, body-off concours quality restoration commenced in the early 1980s and is fully documented in photographs, which accompany the car in the sale. Following its completion, the Corvette went to several shows and earned its AACA National Senior First Prize in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1986. The current owner acquired the car in 2001 and has kept it in his climate controlled private collection ever since.
At one car show, the Corvette was signed by the “Father of the Corvette”, Zora Arkus-Duntov, on the fender and the dash; a picture of Arkus-Duntov signing the car is included with the Corvette. Additionally, it was featured on the cover of Cars & Parts magazine, (June 1986, volume 29, number 6) – a copy of which accompanies the car. It is worth noting that the car still retains its custom license plate, as seen in the magazine.
Although the restoration is starting to show slight signs of ageing, this is only evident up close, and having been properly maintained and stored for all these years, the Corvette remains very presentable..