1958 Chevy Corvette - By Design

Robert Genat

1. Removing the fake air scoops on the front fenders required delicate maneuvering, as Harley Earl loved them on the '56 model and thought they should stay.

2. Happily, these SR-2-style louvers - but without an opening into the engine bay - disappeared for 1959.

3. This chrome strip between the twin headlights saved the world from sedan-style visors over the headlights and the loss of perhaps 15 mph in top speed.

4. I was proud of the flush badge but would have preferred something simply painted on the surface, as on the SR-2 racer. That was too subtle for Earl, and it was definitely his car.

5. A nine-tooth version of the original thirteen-blade grille kept the Corvette identity. "You wouldn't change your name just because you changed your job, wouldja?" asked Earl. "Depends on what kind of job I did, sir." He gave a slight smile, but the grille detail was preserved.

6. These outer grilles are really useless on production cars, but they served nicely for brake cooling on racing cars.

7. More Earl decoration, these side panels, fake outlets, and extra chrome strips simply added unnecessary weight and complexity, but they fit the zeitgeist of the late '50s perfectly and are much-loved today.

8. Harley Earl had me add these totally superfluous chrome bands to the rear, along with a fatter, heavier rear bumper. The bands lasted only one year, although the lumpy bumper stayed.

9. My favorite element on the baroque bolide was the flush, red covers over the tunneled '56 lamps, taken from the SR-2 Corvette and very inexpensive to implement, at the cost of four chromed screws showing.

A. Earl really liked the spindly steering-wheel rim, although he allowed a much thicker one on his son's SR-2, on the advice of Chevrolet engineering's Mauri Rose, three-time Indy winner.

B. Lap belts weren't thought to be as dangerous as they really were in the '50s, but they were at least better than nothing.

C. The zoomy concentric instrument panel was a big improvement over the original used for five years, but the tach was too small and minor gauges too low.

D. This steel grab bar could be extremely dangerous in a crash, crushing the chest or smashing teeth, depending on the size of the passenger.

Claymate

This late-1955 clay model, which was the putative 1958 split-window Corvette C2, inspired the outer grilles on the planned 1957 face-lift, with running lights between the headlamp lenses and no fake outlet on the side. Both projects featured faired, indented badges and no-visor quad headlamps for improved aerodynamics.

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