In 1953, the first production Corvette was built at the General Motors facility in Flint, Michigan. Tony Kleiber, a worker on the assembly line, is given the privilege of driving the now-historic car off the line.
The Corvette’s performance as a sports car was disappointing relative to its European competitors, and early sales were unimpressive. GM kept refining the design, however, and the addition of its first V-8 engine in 1955 greatly improved the car’s performance. By 1961, the Corvette had cemented its reputation as America’s favorite sports car. Today, it continues to rank among the world’s elite sports cars in acceleration time, top speed and overall muscle.
Harley J. Earl, the man behind the Corvette, got his start in his father’s business, Earl Automobile Works, designing custom auto bodies for Hollywood movie stars such as Fatty Arbuckle. In 1927, General Motors hired Earl to redesign the LaSalle, the mid-range option the company had introduced between the Buick and the Cadillac. Earl’s revamped LaSalle sold some 50,000 units by the end of 1929, before the Great Depression permanently slowed sales and it was discontinued in 1940. By that time, Earl had earned more attention for designing the Buick “Y Job,” recognized as the industry’s first “concept” car. Its relatively long, low body came equipped with innovations such as disappearing headlamps, electric windows and air-cooled brake drums over the wheels like those on an airplane.
After scoring another hit with the 1950 Buick LeSabre, Earl headed into the 1950s–a boom decade for car manufacturers–at the top of his game. In January 1953, he introduced his latest “dream car,” the Corvette, as part of GM’s traveling Motorama display at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The sleek Corvette, the first all-fiberglass-bodied American sports car, was an instant hit. It went into production the following June in Flint; 300 models were built that year. All 1953 Corvettes were white convertibles with red interiors and black canvas tops. Underneath its sleek exterior, however, the Corvette was outfitted with parts standard to other GM automobiles, including a “Blue Flame” six-cylinder engine, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission and the drum brakes from Chevrolet’s regular car line.
If you stepped into any U.S. car in the first half of the 20th century, it's likely the late Harley Earl directly or indirectly influenced its design. Now a well-heeled buyer will be able to step into one of his actual cars. Mecum Auctions has announced it will offer Earl's own custom-built 1963 Chevrolet Corvette convertible at its Chicago auction Saturday, Oct. 12. The pre-sale estimate for the car is $1.5 million to $2 million. Earl worked at General Motors from the 1920s through the 1950s and rose to vice president. His flamboyant designs have resulted in him roundly being considered the godfather of U.S. car aesthetic.
Earl's contributions to the industry include tail fins, the Corvette, the practice of using concept cars to tease future models and planned obsolescence from one model year to the next. Earl retired from GM in 1958. In 1963 the automaker built a custom Corvette as a gift for his decades of work. He owed it for two years, Mecum said. The car was originally a red convertible, probably used as a test car by GM. It was painted metallic blue, with custom blue leather seats and white trim, Mecum said.
It was then customized with pieces that wouldn't land on production Corvettes until 1965, including the hood, four-wheel disc brakes, chrome trim and the exterior badging. Other changes include the rare multi-piped exhaust running out the side of the car, just behind the front wheels. Only three other Corvettes are known to feature such a design.
Other custom flourishes made in Earl's honor are a dashboard in front of the passenger with a series of gauges. The dials show lateral acceleration, altitude, inside and outside temperatures, and vacuum pressure, Mecum said.
Officials at the National Corvette Museum will make lemonade out of lemons on Thursday when they mark the one-year anniversary of a sinkhole that damaged or destroyed eight models of the classic sports car but proved a surprising boon for the museum. The sinkhole, which cratered a showroom floor, could have been catastrophic for the Bowling Green, Kentucky, museum. Security camera footage capturing the collapse generated more than 8 million views on YouTube and garnered worldwide media attention.
The buzz generated didn't stop there as more than 250,000 people visited the museum last year, representing a 67 percent spike from 2013. That led to a need for more staff, museum spokeswoman Katie Frassinelli said. "We just started having different challenges that we never faced before," she said. "But it was a good thing because it meant additional revenue for the museum."
That's why officials are holding a "lemonade toast" to mark the anniversary. Initially, museum officials wanted to get the cars out quickly and safely and make repairs to the museum. But as the story gained traction, visitors were interested in seeing the sinkhole itself.
So, Frassinelli said, officials held off on filling the hole until November. That work was completed last month, and the floor is close to being completed and ready for exhibit.
A lucky man has astonishingly escaped being crushed when his jet black Chevrolet Corvette Z06 crashed into the rear of a semi truck on a Los Angeles highway. What's even more amazing is the fact that the driver only suffered minor injuries.