Though I am a Ford Mustang fan, I can appreciate competitors as well. The Corvette was introduced to the market just over a decade before the debut of the Mustang and is the world’s longest-running, continuously produced passenger car.
The first full-scale Corvette concept was displayed as a “dream car” at GM’s Motorama in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in January 1953. According to GM, the Corvette was named for the “trim, fleet naval vessel that performed heroic escort and patrol duties during World War II.” The Corvette was a big hit with the public at Motorama and GM soon put the roadster into production. On June 30, 1953 the first production Corvette rolled off of the assembly line in Flint, Michigan. 300 hand-built convertibles were offered that year in one color, Polo White with red interior.
Components included a clock, cigarette lighter and red warning light that activated when the parking brake was applied (a new feature at the time). The car carried an initial price tag of $3,490 and could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 11 or 12 seconds, considered a fairly average speed at the time.
Production moved to St. Louis, MO and GM started producing the 1954 Corvettes December of 1953. It could be ordered in Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red, Black, and Polo White. The cars were still all convertibles and the total production for that model year was 3,640.
Sales were lackluster in the beginning and GM considered discontinuing the line. However, rival company Ford had introduced the two-seater Thunderbird around the same time and GM did not want to be seen bowing to the competition. Another critical development in the Corvette’s survival came in 1955, when it was equipped with the more powerful V-8 engine. Its performance and appeal steadily improved after that and it went on to earn the nickname “America’s sports car” and become ingrained in pop culture through multiple references in movies, television and music.
The highest production year was in 1979 with 53,807 produced. No other Corvette model year before or since has sold so many units. The Base Corvette Sport Coupe retailed for $10,220. In June of 1981, Corvette production transferred from St. Louis to Bowling Green, Kentucky where they still are today. Since the humble beginnings of 300 models produced in the first year, there have been over 1.7 million Corvettes produced to date.