The first Corvette came from the pen of the great Harley Earl and was introduced in 1953 filling a gap in the market for a moderately priced two-seater American sports car. To mark its debut 300 polo white C1 Corvette convertibles were hand-built while a factory was prepared for a full-scale 1954 production run. Steel was still in short supply following the Second World War and fibreglass was chosen as a body material. This helped to keep the weight down, however under the body the components were inherited from less sporting cars in the range. This included a Blue Flame six-cylinder engine, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, solid rear axle and drum brakes.
By 1956 the Corvette had been developed into a proper sports car. With a 210 horsepower V8 and a 3 speed manual gearbox it could brush off the sluggish reputation of the earlier car. It also had a new look with prominent headlamps and a distinctive side-vent. The new engine was lighter and more powerful than the earlier model allowing it to set a new land speed record for a production car of 150 mph. The event held at Daytona Beach wrote the Corvette name into the history books as it graduated to the big-league of sports cars. The speed record was then followed up by setting a new hill-climb record at Pike’s Peak – the 12.5 mile prestigious American motoring event.
The ’56 C1 Corvette also featured wind-up windows and a much better convertible top with a power-opening option. By ’58 there were quad headlamps and an updated instrument panel but the recipe stayed much the same right up until 1962 when the C2 Corvette was released.