The Chevrolet Corvette is an iconic American automobile that has rightfully taken its place among the world’s most prestigious sports car models. Originally introduced in 1953, the C1 was developed to address the growing presence of cars like the MG Roadster, Triumph TR and Austin Healey on American Highways.
The C1 Corvette Concept
First generation Corvettes are known for their distinctive rounded edges and stylish curves. Starting in 1956, scalloped sides added a unique elegance. The C1 Vette was a collaborative effort between Harley Earl, Edward Cole and Robert McLean. Working from Earl’s early concepts, McLean designed the car from the back forward. Every component was engineered individually, including the back axle, driver’s compartment and the entire front bulkhead. The design was developed with tolerances intended to give the car a low, ground tracking profile. The C1 Vette had a cruising speed of 70 mph, solid brakes, precise handling and a weight to power ratio of 25 to 1.
C1 Corvette Features
The most distinctive feature of the first generation Corvette was its fiberglass body. Earl’s early concept called for conventional steel, but the designers became enamored with the flexibility fiberglass provided for creating the curves and shapes that gave the car its stunning appeal. Earl had concerns relating to the safety and durability of fiberglass, but an unintended rollover incident left the body intact and convinced the design team that fiberglass was an acceptably resilient material.
To add structural rigidity, the chassis was ultimately redesigned, and the engine was moved behind the front axle. Outboard mainframe rails were added along with larger diameter anti-roll bars. Finally, the steering ratio was adjusted to 16:1 for better handling and performance.
Under the Hood
Finding an engine that would be compatible with the design and still appropriate for a sports car was difficult. In the end, a 235.5 cubic inch six cylinder overhead valve engine was selected. Known as the “Stovebolt Six,” it produced a paltry 115 horsepower, which became a significant issue for prospective buyers. To address these concerns, the engine was modified to include solid valve lifters, dual valve springs, cast iron pistons and a high lift, long duration camshaft. The changes resulted in an engine output of 150 horsepower at 4500 rpm. Improvements in subsequent years lead to the introduction of a fuel injected 283 cubic inch small block V8 that produced 315 horsepower.
C1 Collectible Value
The first generation C1 Corvette is a highly sought after classic sports car. All models made between 1953 and 1962 are rare and expensive. Nearly every salvageable car has already been restored. Average prices range from $54,000 for a 1962 model to $185,000 for a 1953 model.
How much would you pay to take the first Corvette ever made for a spin?