Chevrolet Corvette C1

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Chevrolet Corvette C1
Chevrolet Corvette C1
Automotive industryChevrolet
Parent companyGeneral Motors
SuccessorChevrolet Corvette C2
Car classificationSports car
Car body style2-door Convertible
Automobile layoutFR layout
AssemblyFlint, Michigan
St. Louis, Missouri
Internal combustion engine235 in³ Blue Flame Straight-6
Transmission (mechanics)2-speed Powerglide Automatic transmission
Six-cylinder and Eight-cylinder
AssemblySt. Louis, Missouri
Internal combustion engine235 in³ Blue Flame Straight-6
265 in³ Small-block V8
Transmission (mechanics)2-speed Powerglide Automatic transmission
3-speed Manual transmission
1958 Chevrolet Corvette
AssemblySt. Louis, Missouri
Internal combustion engine265 in³ Small-block V8
283 in³ Small-block V8
327 in³ Small-transmblock V8
Transmission (mechanics)2-speed Powerglide Automatic transmission
3-speed Manual transmission
4-speed Manual transmission
1961 Chevrolet Corvette with fuel injection
AssemblySt. Louis, Missouri
Internal combustion engine283 in³ Small-block Fuel injection V8
327 in³ Small-block Fuel injection V8
Transmission (mechanics)2-speed Powerglide Automatic transmission
3-speed Manual transmission
4-speed Manual transmission
For an outline of all the Chevrolet Corvette generations see
Main article: Chevrolet Corvette

The Chevrolet Corvette C1 is a Sports car produced from 1953 through 1962. It is the first generation of Chevrolet Corvettes built and marketed by Chevrolet.



General Motors hired designer Harley Earl in 1927. Earl loved sports cars, and GI (term) returning after serving in Europe during World War II were bringing home MG (car), Jaguar Cars, Alfa Romeo, and the like. Even the small independent automaker, Nash Motors, began selling a two-seat sports car in 1951. The Nash-Healey was made in partnership with the Italian designer Pinin Farina and British auto engineer Donald Healey using Nash Ambassador engines and manual transmissions with Overdrive (mechanics). Earl convinced GM that they also needed to build a two-seat sports car. Earl and his Special Projects crew began working on the new car later that year, which was code named "Opel." The result was the 1953 Corvette, unveiled to the public at that year's Motorama car show. The original concept for the Corvette emblem incorporated an American flag into the design, but was changed well before production since associating the flag with a product was United States Flag Code.

Taking its name from the Corvette, a small, maneuverable fighting Frigate (the credit for the naming goes to Myron Scott), the first Corvettes were virtually handbuilt in Flint, Michigan in Chevrolet's Customer Delivery Center, now an academic building at Kettering University. The outer body was made out of a revolutionary new composite material called Fiberglass, selected in part because of limiting steel quotas left over from the Korean War. Underneath that radical new body were standard Chevrolet components, including the "Blue Flame" inline six-cylinder truck Engine, two-speed Powerglide Automatic transmission, and Drum brake from Chevrolet's regular car line. Though the engine's output was increased somewhat, thanks to a triple-carburetor intake exclusive to the Corvette, performance of the car was decidedly lackluster. Compared to the British and Italian sports cars of the day, the Corvette was underpowered, required a great deal of effort as well as clear roadway to bring to a stop, and even lacked a "proper" Manual transmission. Up until that time, the Chevrolet division was General Motors Corporation entry-level marque, known for excellent but no-nonsense cars. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Corvette. A Paxton Supercharger became available in 1954 as a dealer-installed option, greatly improving the Corvette's straight-line performance, but sales continued to decline.

GM was seriously considering shelving the project, leaving the Corvette to be little more than a footnote in automotive history, and would have done so if not for two important events. The first was the introduction in 1955 of Chevrolet's first V8 engine (a 265 in³ {4.3 L}) since 1919, and the second was the influence of a Soviet Union emigre in GM's engineering department, Zora Arkus-Duntov. Arkus-Duntov simply took the new V8 and backed it with a three-speed manual transmission. That modification, probably the single most important in the car's history, helped turn the Corvette from a two-seat curiosity into a genuine performer. It also earned Arkus-Duntov the rather inaccurate nickname "Father of the Corvette".

The first generation is commonly referred to as a solid-axle, based on the fact that independent rear suspension (IRS) was not available until 1963.

Fuel injection

The first generation started in 1953 and ended in 1962, with the noteworthy addition of optional Fuel injection in 1957. This new induction system first saw regular use on a gasoline engine two years prior on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing" roadster. Although the Corvette's GM-Rochester Fuel injection system used a constant flow style fuel injection system as opposed to the diesel style nozzle metering system of the Mercedes' Straight-6, the system nevertheless produced about 290 hp (220 kW). The number was underrated by Chevrolet's advertising agency for the 283HP/GM Small-Block engine (4.6 L) V8 engine one hp per in³ slogan, making it one of the first mass-produced engines in history to reach 1 hp/in³. In 1962, the GM Small-Block was enlarged to 327 in³ (5.4 L) and produced a maximum of 360 hp (268 kW). Other early options included Power windows (1956), hydraulically operated power convertible top (1956), four speed manual transmission (mid 1957), and heavy duty brake and suspension options (1957).


Zora Arkus-Duntov started development of CERV I (Chevrolet Experimental Racing Vehicle) on 1959, which was later unveiled in public at Riverside International Raceway in November 1960, under the name CERV I (Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle).

Oldest unit

The oldest Corvette in existence is believed to be the EX-122.[1] The EX-122 was a pre-production prototype that was hand built and first shown to the public at the 1953 GM Motorama at the Waldor Astoria in New York City on January 17, 1953. That car can now be seen at the Atlantic City Showroom and Museum of Kerbeck Corvette.

Production notes

YearProductionBase PriceNotes
1953300$3,498First year production starts on June 30; polo white with red interior and black top is only color combination; Options standard until 1955 for the car were interior door handles; "clip in" side curtains were a substitute for roll-up windows
19543,640$2,774Production moves to St. Louis, Missouri; blue, red, and black are added; beige top, longer exhaust pipes
1955700$2,774Both Straight-6 and 265 in³ V8 engines produced; 3-speed manual transmission added late in the model year
19563,467$2,900New body with roll-up windows; V8-only; 3-speed manual transmission becomes standard equipment and Powerglide moved to option list
19576,339$3,176283 in³ V8; Optional 4-speed manual and Fuel injection added
19589,168$3,591Quad-headlight body and new interior. Fake louvres on hood and chrome strips on trunk lid. Number of teeth in grille reduced to 9 (from 13)
19599,670$3,875First black interior and dash storage bin; only year with a turquoise top. Louvres and chrome strips from '58 removed.
196010,261$3,872Very minor changes to the interior: red and blue bars on the dash logo, vertical stitching on seats
196110,939$3,934New rear styling, bumpers, and round tailights. Grille now a fine mesh instead of teeth
196214,531$4,038327 in³ V8 engine; last year with a trunk until 1998. Grille blackened, chrome fender trim removed


Engine Year Power
235 in³ Blue Flame Straight-61953–1954150 hp (112 kW)
1955155 hp (116 kW)
265 in³ Small-block V81955195 hp (145 kW)
1956210 hp (157 kW)
1956240 hp (179 kW)
283 in³ Small-block V81957220 hp (164 kW)
1958–1961230 hp (172 kW)
1957–1961245 hp (183 kW)
1957–1961270 hp (201 kW)
283 in³ Small-block Fuel injection V81957–1959250 hp (186 kW)
1960–1961275 hp (205 kW)
1957283 hp (211 kW)
1958–1959290 hp (216 kW)
1960–1961315 hp (235 kW)
327 in³ Small-block V81962250 hp (186 kW)
1962300 hp (224 kW)
1962340 hp (254 kW)
327 in³ Small-block Fuel injection V81962360 hp (268 kW)

See also


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