For Corvette collectors and enthusiasts alike, June 30, 1953, is a birthday of sorts. That was the day that the very first Corvette rolled off of the “assembly line.” The term assembly line is used rather loosely here, because the first 15 Corvettes were actually built by hand in the rear of a service garage in Flint, Michigan.
Ultimately, a total of 300 of these now-iconic, fiberglass-body convertibles would be built for the 1953 model year. The remainder were assembled at a new St. Louis plant that could potentially build thousands more every year. It was a fortuitous decision to build Corvettes in such an expansive facility given the dramatic rise in popularity that soon followed. It is believed that more than two-thirds of those original 300 1953 Corvettes live on to this day.
The Chevy Corvette debuts at the 1953 New York Auto Show
The Harley Earl design first appeared as a concept car at the 1953 GM Motorama exhibit at the New York Auto Show. The unique design was greeted with enthusiasm. The executive decision was made to go forward with a regular production vehicle.
The Corvette got its name from a small, maneuverable navy ship referred to by the same name. Certainly, this brand-new concept in sports cars lived up to its namesake. Small and maneuverable it was.
Re-engineered Power Plant
To power the all-new Corvette, a 105-horsepower V-6 “blue flame” engine was employed. Engineers made numerous changes to the existing design to bump the power rating all the way up to 150 horsepower at 4,500 rpm. Three carburetors with bullet-style air cleaners, an aluminum manifold, dual valve springs and a cylinder head with a higher compression ratio were all used to add power. A high-performance camshaft was also employed in the inspired engine upgrade.
The Corvette debuted in an era before independent rear suspension was commonplace. It featured a solid rear axle. The antenna for the optional, $145 AM-only radio was built into the trunk lid because there was no steel body to generate signal interference. The $91 heater was the only other option.
One Color Scheme
The 1953 Corvette convertible carried a base sticker price of $3,498.00. Not bad for a hand-built little dynamo, but still more than $32,000 in today’s dollars. Buyers were expected to wholeheartedly embrace the white-red-black color scheme. In fact, they had no choice. Every 1953 Chevrolet Corvette featured a “Polo White” paint job, red interior and a black top.
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