C1 Corvette (1953-1962) – The first full scale Corvette concept made its debut in January 1953. General Motor’s Harley Earl introduced the world to his latest “dream car”, the Chevrolet Corvette, as part of GM’s traveling Motorama display. Earl’s car was an instant hit as the first all-fiberglass bodied American sports car.
Later that year, on June 30, the first production Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan. There were a total of 300 1953 Corvettes – all built by hand and all in the Polo White/Sportsman Red exterior/interior color scheme. All 300 Corvettes were powered by the 150-hp, three-carb “Blue Flame” inline-six and a two-speed Powerglide transmission. The only options in 1953 were a heater and an AM radio. Sticker price was $3,498.
In 1954, Corvette production moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Chevrolet added Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red and Black as exterior color options. Beige was added as an interior option. Paint vendor documentation confirms the attempt to offer additional exterior colors, but there are no production records to confirm actual build.
Factory-installed removable hardtops were offered for the first time in 1956, and the exterior was updated with exposed headlamps, sculpted side coves, and roll-up windows. Seatbelts were offered as a dealer-installed option. Also in 1956, head Corvette Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov made his case for a Corvette racing program, but the corporate powers showed no interest.
Considered one of the greatest automotive milestone models, the 1957 Corvette was the first to combine fuel injection with a four speed manual transmission. Other C1 highlights include the 1960 Corvette, the first with an aluminum radiator, and the 1961 Corvette with new rear styling and the first ever four taillight look, which became a Corvette tradition.
The first two C1 Corvettes that rolled off the assembly line in 1953 were destroyed when Chevrolet conducted tests on them. The third, #003, survived testing and was sold to the public. It is a rare piece of automotive history. In 1990, #003 underwent a full restoration. In 2006, it sold for $1.1 million at Barrett Jackson’s Scottsdale Auction