In January of 1953 a car was unveiled at the GM Motorama that was soon to change history, the Chevrolet Corvette. Designed as a show car, the 1953 Corvette was Polo White with a red interior. Due to an overwhelmingly positive response to the car, it was rushed into production in June of that year at GM’s Flint, Michigan production facility. All ’53 model Corvettes were built by hand and sported the available 235 cubic inch V6 engine. To increase performance the engine was given a 3 carb modification, as well as a dual exhaust system. The powerplant could produce 150 horsepower and was paired with a two-speed automatic transmission. Despite the initial reaction, reviews of the ’53 Corvette were mixed.
In 1954 there were few changes made to the Corvette, a revised camshaft design did provide for a horsepower increase, bringing its power rating up to 155 hp. ’54 was not a good year for the Corvette though and only 3640 units were sold, in ’55 only 700 units were sold and many critics began to doubt the sustainability of the model.
GM took the hint however and seized the opportunity to give the public what they wanted from this sporty new design model, more power! In ’55 the Corvette was equipped with the 265 cubic inch V8 which produced 195 horsepower and was paired with a 3-speed manual transmission. With this upgrade in place, the recovery of the Corvette sales figures began and soon customers would be flocking to buy GM’s new hotrod.
1956 marked the first major styling change for the Corvette. This was the year that the scooped-out side design was introduced and what would soon become the distinctive look for these original ‘Vette’s was born. To compliment the new look of the Corvette, in 1957 it recieved a major performance upgrade. The 283 cubic inch engine was paired to the car with the added benefit of being fuel injected. The 283 cu.in. engine was mated with the 4-speed manual as an option, and the public responded by buying over 6000 units.
The 1958 Corvette is probably one of the most recognizable cars of all time and was nearing it’s ultimate styling evolution with the introduction of the four headlight model. In 1959 the evolution was complete and the Corvette became sleeker and even more refined. For a softer ride rear-trailing radius rods were added and the car could reach a speed of 60 mph in a mere 6.6 seconds, with a top speed of 128 mph. This last model of the decade also came equipped with sun visors and a concave instrument panel to reduce reflective glare. Within those first few years the Corvette established itself as a force to be reckoned with by competing auto manufacturers, though no one could have imagined the long-reaching success the Corvette would achieve over the coming decades.