Fifty-seven years ago, a slender white roadster rolled off a makeshift assembly line in Flint, Michigan. This was the first production Chevrolet Corvette -- and since then, more than 1.5 million Corvettes have found their way into hearts and garages across the globe.
The Corvette itself was first shown as a dream car at GM’s Motorama show, held in January 1953. Six months later, the General had built its first production example on the assembly line in Flint. Like the prototype shown at the Motorama, early Corvettes used a fiberglass body, but were saddled with the anemic 150-horsepower, 250-cubic-inch “Blue Flame” I-6 and a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. 0-60 mph sprints took around 11 seconds, and the top speed was near 105 mph.
Chevrolet built 300 Corvettes in its first year of production, all of which wore Polo White paint and a contrasting Sportsman Red interior. Each carried a base price of $3489 in 1953, but command much higher sums today. A Corvette with serial number 003 -- the earliest known 1953 ‘Vette in existence -- fetched $1 million at the 2006 Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Corvette production moved to a dedicated location in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1954. GM expected heightened demand for the car in its second year, but overshot actual consumer demand. Customers shied away from the car because it looked like a sports car, but didn’t drive like one. That changed in 1955, when Chevrolet stuffed its new 263-cubic-inch small-block V-8 underhood, creating the basic recipe that all Corvettes abide by to this day.
After 57 years of production, the Corvette is assuredly an American icon. We wish Chevy’s fiberglass folly warm wishes on its anniversary, and hope it remains in production for another 57 years.