C1 Corvette

The initial failure that became a great success

C1 Corvette Image

The Chevrolet Corvette nearly didn't really happen. First of all the name was initially intended to be the Chevy Opel; a marketing decision however soon change that. Back in the 17th century corvettes well light, fast and highly manoeuvrable ships; just the image that Chevrolet wanted for their new car. It was probably one of the most successful name changes in history.

This car was a revelation to the American public in more than one way. Firstly it was the first real production sports car, wholly made in America; and secondly it was the first American production car to have a whole fibreglass body. A prototype was designed by a gentleman named Harley Earl who had noticed how many American soldiers, returning from the war in Europe, brought back British and Italian sports cars; there was clearly a market for this type of product and he succeeded in convincing General Motors that they should build one. Putting this prototype on display to the buying public in New York in 1953 raised a great deal of interest and so production was started quickly; but perhaps too quickly. Glassfibre was chosen for the bodywork initially because it enabled them to get into production quickly. Many of the parts were reused from other models to keep costs down. There were teething problems, reviews were mixed and sales at first were disappointing. Performance, from the 3.85 litre in-line six cylinder engine was usually described as 'lacklustre. There were also problems with the fibreglass body which tended to leak and flexing sometimes cause doors to open whilst the car was in motion! The price also was a problem; initially these cars were handmade which pushed up costs considerably. With only 300 sold in it's first year consideration was given to dropping the project completely.

GM decided to soldier on though. Eventually a purpose made factory came on stream in 1953/4 and quality improved although sales were still disappointing.

Further design modifications and a more powerful engine improved the desirability of the car dramatically however; an initial top speed of 100 mph in 1953 increased to hundred and 29 mph by 1956, and acceleration from 0 to 60 went from 11.6 seconds to less than nine seconds. By 1962 this been reduced still further to less than six seconds! The Corvette had become a serious challenger to all but the most expensive European supercars.

Since those days the Corvette has gone through many improvements and model changes and it is still in production today in it's eighth model.