Chevrolet Corvette C1

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Chevrolet Corvette C1
Chevrolet Corvette C1
Parent companyGeneral Motors
SuccessorChevrolet Corvette C2
ClassSports car
Body style(s)2-door convertible
LayoutFR layout
ManualsService Manual
AssemblyFlint, Michigan
St. Louis, Missouri
Engine(s)235 in³ Blue Flame I6
Transmission(s)2-speed Powerglide automatic
Six-cylinder and Eight-cylinder
AssemblySt. Louis, Missouri
Engine(s)235 in³ Blue Flame I6
265 in³ Small-block V8
Transmission(s)2-speed Powerglide automatic
3-speed manual
1958 Chevrolet Corvette
AssemblySt. Louis, Missouri
Engine(s)265 in³ Small-block V8
283 in³ Small-block V8
327 in³ Small-transmblock V8
Transmission(s)2-speed Powerglide automatic
3-speed manual
4-speed manual
1961 Chevrolet Corvette with fuel injection
AssemblySt. Louis, Missouri
Engine(s)283 in³ Small-block FI V8
327 in³ Small-block FI V8
Transmission(s)2-speed Powerglide automatic
3-speed manual
4-speed manual
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 GIs returning after serving in Europe during World War II were bringing home MGs, Jaguars, Alfa Romeos, 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. 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 frowned upon.

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 brakes 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 GM's 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 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' six cylinders, the system nevertheless produced about 290 hp (220 kW). The number was underrated by Chevrolet's advertising agency for the 283HP/283 in³ (4.6 L) V8 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

Year Production Base Price Notes
1953 300 $3,498 First 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
1954 3,640 $2,774 Production moves to St. Louis; blue, red, and black are added; beige top, longer exhaust pipes
1955 700 $2,774 Both straight-6 and 265 in³ V8 engines produced; 3-speed manual transmission added late in the model year
1956 3,467 $2,900 New body with roll-up windows; V8-only; 3-speed manual transmission becomes standard equipment and Powerglide moved to option list
1957 6,339 $3,176 283 in³ V8; Optional 4-speed manual and fuel injection added
1958 9,168 $3,591 Quad-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)
1959 9,670 $3,875 First black interior and dash storage bin; only year with a turquoise top. Louvres and chrome strips from '58 removed.
1960 10,261 $3,872 Very minor changes to the interior: red and blue bars on the dash logo, vertical stitching on seats
1961 10,939 $3,934 New rear styling, bumpers, and round tailights. Grille now a fine mesh instead of teeth
1962 14,531 $4,038 327 in³ V8 engine; last year with a trunk until 1998. Grille blackened, chrome fender trim removed
Total 69,015


Engine Year Power
235 in³ Blue Flame I6 1953–1954 150 hp (112 kW)
1955 155 hp (116 kW)
265 in³ Small-block V8 1955 195 hp (145 kW)
1956 210 hp (157 kW)
1956 240 hp (179 kW)
283 in³ Small-block V8 1957 220 hp (164 kW)
1958–1961 230 hp (172 kW)
1957–1961 245 hp (183 kW)
1957–1961 270 hp (201 kW)
283 in³ Small-block FI V8 1957–1959 250 hp (186 kW)
1960–1961 275 hp (205 kW)
1957 283 hp (211 kW)
1958–1959 290 hp (216 kW)
1960–1961 315 hp (235 kW)
327 in³ Small-block V8 1962 250 hp (186 kW)
1962 300 hp (224 kW)
1962 340 hp (254 kW)
327 in³ Small-block FI V8 1962 360 hp (268 kW)

See also