The 1953 Corvette… A factory Hot Rod
It’s hard to believe the year 2023 is almost here, and coincidentally it will be the 70th anniversary of the first Corvette which debuted initially at a concept car at the 1953 General Motors Motorama in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel on January 17th. The response from show attendees was so overwhelming that GM executives practically willed the Corvette into existence and the first production models were assembled by the end of June of that same year. Can you image an automobile brand being able to tool up and create a completely brand new vehicle assembly line from start to finish in less than seven months? That was the industrial power of General Motors in the early 1950s! These first model year Vettes were built in Flint, with all of them being Polo white (which helped mask some of the early fiberglass molding issues), black tops with red interiors, powered by a 150 HP Blue Flame straight 6 and a Powerglide automatic, which offered less-than-stellar performance. Customers only had two factory options: A heater and signal-seeking AM radio. By GM standards, a minuscule 300 cars were built for 1953, and yet despite these humble beginnings, the birth of the American production sports car had arrived.
The Corvette owes much of it’s creation Harley Earl’s fascination with European sports cars like the Jaguar XK120, but it owes just as much to the hot rod too. American hot rods were created to be street driven all week and still hit the lake beds or drag strip on the weekend, just like the Corvette. Hot Rods were created to be as light as possible, removing any unnecessary trim or bulky parts, just like the Corvette. Harley would never admit it, but perhaps the post war popularity of the Ford Model A and ’32 Roadster hot rods might have had more than a little influence on the Corvette’s creation. Regardless, happy birthday, ‘ol girl….