Chevrolet Corvette

1958

  • Created in 1953 to rival the European roadsters, it was highly popular after the Second World War. Its successive models would give it an extraordinary longevity.
  • The first production automobile to use resin and fiber-glass, this sports model had a Turbo-Fire quadruple carburetor V8 engine, and never ceased to increase in power output right up to the current models.
  • With its refined lines, in spite of the chrome and embellishments, the 1958 Corvette remains the emblematic convertible of the “American Way of Life”.

Since its inception in 1953, the Corvette has been frequently updated and commercialized in many different versions. Developed to meet the American market's need for a sports car which was at that time being satisfied by European roadsters, the Corvette quickly became THE American sports car, with its big block V8s from General Motors. The '58, no doubt the most balanced version, takes pride of place in the model’s family tree.

The touring Transportation Unlimited show began in 1949, and was to presage the famous Motorama shows. The shows aimed to gauge the public’s reaction to General Motors' experimental models, which were very much ahead of their time. Harley Earl, GM's influential head of styling and founder of the Art and Color studio, wanted to design a small, sporting two-seater in the mould of the European roadsters imported after the Second World War, which were increasingly fashionable across the Atlantic. It would compete with models such as the Porsche 356, the Lancia Aurelia or the more ambitious Jaguar XK 120, a particular favourite of Earl's.

The idea took hold during the course of 1951, and Earl gave designer Bob McLean the task of preparing the first sketches. With the agreement of GM's President Harlow Curtis, Earl persuaded Chevrolet's Chief Engineer Edward Nicholas Cole to build a prototype in June 1952. Prototype EXP 122 was revealed at the Motorama Show held at New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel on 17 January, 1953. The public approval garnered for the model led to the decision to build a small experimental run.

To be continued...