In 1951 a group of Harley Earl's "Special Projects" crew began work on a GM sports car. Bob McLean designed a general layout for the car.. The project was code named, "Opel".
William Durant, the founder of GM, said a wallpaper pattern he saw in a Paris hotel in 1908 inspired the bow tie logo. Supposedly, he ripped off a small piece of it and brought it back to Detroit.
The man who named the Corvette was Myron Scott... Then Chevrolet's Chief photographer.
The Jaguar XK120 is believed to have been the inspiration for the first Corvette.
The Corvette was the first and last car with a "Wrap-Around" windshield.
Corvette was not the first to be made with a fiberglass body, but it was the first to be built by a company the size of Chevrolet.
Corvettes have been assembled in three different cities. Flint, St. Louis, and Bowling Green.
"Turbojet" as first used on Corvette engine air cleaners with a horsepower rating of greater than 390hp.
1953 to 1962
The original front emblem and horn button on the "Autorama" Corvette featured crossed American and Checkered flags. It was discovered that using an American flag on a product trade mark was against the law and the emblem was changed before the New York Motorama.
The hash faces up on front fender molding of the "Autorama", 1953 Corvette and on the actual production car it faces down.
On Tuesday, June 30, 1953 Corvette #1 Serial Number E53F001001 rolled of the assembly line, and Corvette production began.
Want the rarest Corvette ?- In 1953 the first two Corvettes, VIN Numbers 1 and 2 were said to have been destroyed, but no records prove that fact, and there are no witnesses to the destruction.
The first Corvettes were actually "rolled" off the assembly line. Chevrolet was not prepared for grounding to a fiberglass body; the cars would not start.
The first five Corvettes to come off the assembly line did not have an outside rear view mirror.
The only thing really new on the 1953 Corvette was the fiberglass body. Everything else was directly off the Chevrolet parts shelf. Because of this, the first Corvette was essentially a regular 1952 Chevrolet that looked like a million dollars!
Of the 314 Corvettes hand built in 1953 only 183 were sold because of "average" performance at such a high price, $3513 the Jaguar Xk120 sold for $3345, $168 less than the Corvette.
There are 13 vertical bars or "teeth" are in the grill of 1956 Corvettes.
One of the few ways to differentiate between a 1956 and 1957 Corvette without opening the hood is to look at the inside rear view mirror. On the 1956 model, it adjusts with a thumbscrew, on the 1957 adjustment requires a wrench to loosen the locknut.
The "Polo White" color was last used in 1957.
1957 was the first year a limited slip differential was offered as an option.
1958 was the LAST year of the tach with the "cumulative engine revolution counter" which first appeared in the 1953 Corvette. In 1958 the tach was used on 230, 245, and 250 hp cars and NOT on the 270 and 290 hp cars. The Part number is #1548631 for 1958.
Optional engines in 1956 had nine fin alloy valve covers, 1957 had seven or nine fin alloy valve covers, and the 1958 had seven fin alloy covers on optional engines.
Before 1958, the only Acrylic lacquer paint used was on the "Inca Silver" Vettes.
Sun visors became a Corvette option in 1959.
Nylon belted tires first became available on the 1960 Corvette, prior to 1960 only cotton was offered.
The 1961 Corvette was the last year to feature "Wide Whitewall" tires.
The 1961 Corvette was the first to not have the "round" nose emblem.
In 1961, the big grill teeth disappeared forever, replaced by a fine mesh.
1962 Was the last of the solid rear axle Corvettes and the last year for the power top on the roadster.
1963 to 1967
The earliest serial number air conditioned Sting Ray has a production build date in October, about 6 months before the rest of the AC cars. The reason? The owner was a GM executive and the car returned to Chevrolet for refitting with AC.
An error was made in creating the roof panel mold in 1963, using the wrong side of the dimensions, such that all roof panels were too small. This left a gap seen in the door pillar above the door latch in all but a few 1963's to 1967. The ones where it is not found were cosmetically covered up with body filler.
Power steering was first available in the 1963 Corvette.
Bill Mitchell and Zora Arkus-Duntov argued over the "Split" rear window for the new Corvette. Bill Mitchell won out for the 1963 Model, but it was removed for 1964 never to be seen again.
The 1963 Grand Sports, while originally looking much like the production coupes, had no body parts in common. The fiberglass body panels were roughly half the thickness of production panels to save weight.
The 1963 Grand Sports originally were released without fender flares, using the stock look. However, they were wider to allow a wider tire 8.25x15 rather than the stock 6.70x15 tire.
Only the driver's side vent on the 1964 Corvette is functional.
The first major tire size change in Corvette history occurred in 1965. Tire size changed from 6.70x15 to 7.75x15
While the 427 was developed first, the 396 went into the Corvette, Chevrolet, and Chevelle in 1965 due to a GM policy restricting them to less than 400 cubic inches.
The 396ci 425hp engine lasted only one year 1965.
1965 was the first year to have two separate hoods - the smooth small block hood and the bulge of the big block hood.
The 1966 Corvette was not eligible in SCCA Trans Am, due to the upper limit of 5.0 liter on engine displacement. Chevy's only eligible car was the Corvair.
1967 was the first year to have three hoods: the small block hood, the big block hood, and the L-88 hood, even though externally the L-88 looked like the regular big block hood.
In late February and early March, 1967, some small blocks received the big block hood due to an industrial accident with the small block hood mold. These were not given the hood stripe.
The "GM Mark of Excellence" sticker appeared in one year only- 1967.
Federal law mandated the removal of spinners from wheels in 1967, so the knock off wheel of 1963-66 was replaced with a bolt on wheel.
1967 was the first year "Vinyl" was offered as an optional exterior covering for the hardtop.
The '67 model was the first to have the "tank sticker", or the build sheet, attached to the gas tank.
The maximum install fuel tank capacity was offered in the Corvette from 1963 to 1967, 36 gallons.
An option was offered in 1967 that lasted for only three production years.. A speed warning indicator.
The '67 LeMans Racer was "DRIVEN" to the track from the airport (in place of being trailered) was because the trailer was chuck full of parts!
1968 to 1982
Pontiac almost beat Chevrolet to the Coke bottle design body, with their 1965 Banshee, a two seater convertible sports car that would have been hefty competition for the Corvette. GM stopped it, and then Pontiac president John DeLorean later became president of Chevrolet.
T-top does not refer to the shape of the roof, but rather it is short for Targa Top. The original design was a pure Targa but body flex demanded the center bar, discovered late in the design.
Due to policy changes in Chevrolet, Corvette was treated like all other car lines for the first time, and quality dropped drastically. With bad publicity in most magazines, policy was re-thought and Chevrolet quickly restored independence and quality to Corvette within a few months, but all 1968s carry the stigma of being "the worse quality" of all Corvettes.
All big block manifolds were redesigned to actually sink into the lifter valley as the hood clearance was less than in '67 and back. As such, a 1965 to 1967 big block intake manifold won't fit in a 1968 or newer Corvette with a stock hood and air cleaner.
The exception to the above was the L-88. It retained the high rise manifold and also received a special hood, which was externally different this time.
Emission control equipment was installed on the first 1968's in the fall of 1967 even though the federal law required it only as of January 1, 1968.
1968 was the first year AM/FM stereo was offered as an option.
1968-1972 the coupe's rearwindow was removeable for more of a true convertible experience
The Sting Ray name was not used on the 1968 Corvette, but returned in 1969… Spelled Stingray.
Corvette had its first all aluminum engine in 1969 as the ZL-1. It was not the first GM automobile to do so, beaten by the Corvair in 1960 and the Buick 215 V8.
In 1969, the ignition lock was moved from the dash to the steering column. It would remain there until 1997 when it was returned to the dash.
The LS7 engine option, which was never installed in the 1970 Corvette was $3000.
No Corvettes were painted Black at the factory from 1970 to 1976.
The only outside difference between the 1971 and a 1972 Corvette is the appearance of the amber front turn signals and vertical chroming on the egg-crate grills both on the 1972 - that's it. Minor stuff most people miss.
1972 was the only year for Corvette "Big Block" engines in the 1968 to 1972 range to have no horse power sticker on the air cleaner lid.
"Pewter Silver" was only offered as an exterior color in 1972.
The 1970 - 1972 Corvettes were the last to feature chrome bumpers front and rear. In 1973, the front bumper changed to body-colored flexible plastic. In 1974 the rear bumper followed suit.
In 1973, aluminum wheels were again available as an option, but the same problem that plagued the 1963 aluminum wheels, the inability to hold air, kept these out of the hands of customers until 1976.
The rear view mirror in the 1974 Corvette was increased to a width of 10".
The last true dual exhaust was installed in 1974, after that, everything went through a catalytic converter.
1974 rear bumper was 2 pieces, 1975-1982 used a one piece unit.
The awesome 454ci engine was only offered for 5 years.. 1970, 71, 72, 73, and 1974
Gymkhana Suspension was first introduced in the 1974 Corvette.
1974 was the last year the Corvette would be produced to run on "leaded" gasoline.
1975 first year for HEI distributor.
1975 was lowest production year for convertibles for those years that offered both convertibles and coupes.
1976 Corvette used the same steering wheel as a Chevrolet Vega for the "Sport Wheel" Option.
1977 last year for the notch back shark.
In 1977 crossed flags returned to the nose and sides of the Corvette.
1977 saw the redesign of the center console to accept standard Delco radios, the first year that Corvette didn't have a Corvette only radio.
The '78 Pace Car was "Black and Silver" was because it photographed well. Back then, most magazine articles and ads were still done in Black & White!
The body in 1978 was widened in the rear fender area. This was discovered by customizers when converting '78 and newer coupes to convertibles after the convertible production ended in 1975.
1979 Corvette's highest production year.
By Federal mandate, the 1980 Corvette was the first Corvette to have an 85 MPH speedometer.
1981 the first Corvette to use a computer.
The 1981 Corvette had two cooling fans to increase engine power.
In 1981, Corvettes were produced with two different types of paint. Lacquer was applied at the St. Louis plant, and enamel was applied at the new Bowling Green plant.
In 1982 fuel injection reappeared in the Corvette after a 17-year hiatus.
1984 to 1996
A total of 43 - 1983 model Corvettes were built, but there were so many quality problems with them it was decided to halt production until they could be corrected. By the time the problems were corrected, it was so late into the model year that the car was brought out as a 1984 model which was run for a year and a half. The 1983,s were never sold to the public and the only one that is known to still exist is in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY
The 1984 Corvette was the first American production car to have a 64% windshield angle.
A single transverse plastic front and rear spring first made it's appearance on the 1984 Corvette.
Twenty 1986 Corvettes were sent to Lotus in England to be converted into LT5 powered prototypes for the ZR1 project.
In 1986, Corvette offered the "Malcolm Konner Commemorative Edition" with two transmissions. A manual 4-speed and an automatic. Only 20 4-speed manual transmissions were installed at the factory.
In 1987 you could buy a Corvette without an engine installed by the factory.
A total of 30,632 Corvettes were produced in 1987. 184 of these Corvettes were Callaways, and 121 of the Callaway's were coupes.
1982 and 1987 Corvettes had something in common, 16 exterior colors were available.
The last year a CB radio was offered as a Corvette option was 1985.
In 1988 a thirty-fifth anniversary edition Corvette package was available for coupes only. It featured a two tone exterior of white with black roof bow, white leather seats, steering wheel, special interior and exterior accents, a console-mounted anniversary plaque, special emblems and other special features. Sales totals 2,050 cars.
In 1988, Corvette started using a unidirectional 17" wheel as an option with RP0 Z51 and Z52. New six slot 16x8.5 were standard with P255/50ZR16 Tires.
In 1989, the ZR1 was produced to approximately 80 cars, however, none were sold to the public. The last of these ZR1s were shipped out of the factory on Dec. 22, 1988
1991 was the 10th anniversary of Corvette production at the Bowling Green, KY plant
The LT4 exhaust system has a distinguishing feature from the LT1 system. It has a balance tube incorporated into it!
96 Grand Sports: There is a small area behind the hatch roof and in front of the panel that attaches to the rear window that is taped, not painted. It is 1" long and the tape is about 18" wide. This change was early in production. The purpose is to eliminate a problem area in the paint booth during manufacturing.
96 Grand Sports: The Grand Sport's stripe is not the same width all the way back. It gets wider as it goes up the hood, and the top is narrower, and then it gets somewhat wider in the back end.
1997 to ..
The first 200 production C5 Corvettes were painted Red, not the traditional color for the first production run.
The 1997 Corvette C5 is the first Corvette designed from the ground up to be a Corvette.. Not borrowing parts from other cars. One of the few "Off the Shelf" parts - the exterior door handles, same ones used on the Oldsmobile Aurora.
The first use of a transaxle in a production Corvette occurred in the '97. However, the first plans for one were in the Q-Corvette in 1958, planned for the 1960 model. Transaxles showed up in Corvette prototypes in the mid '60s in running models.
The first 4 speed in a Corvette was built by Borg Warner in 1957. The first transaxle in a production Corvette was also built by Borg Warner, forty years later in 1997. Both were introduced late in the model year.
Borg Warner has produced a transmission for each generation of Corvette: C1 - 1957 to 1962, C2 - 1963, C3 - 1980 to 1981, C4 - 1984 to 1988, and C5 - 1997 to 1998.
The 1997 Corvette is the first Corvette to have windshield wipers that sweep in the same direction instead of opposing directions.
November 4, 1997 - The 9752nd 1998 Corvette rolled down the assembly matching the total 1997 Model production run.
The last "Fairway Green" C5 a 1998 Model came down the assembly line November 10, 1997. The color was discontinued.
It takes 55 hours to build the new C5 Corvette, down from 70 hours for the previous C4 model.