Today, the name Corvette is synonymous with style, speed and performance, but when the car was introduced, the story was a little different. In the early 1950s, Chevrolet and parent company General Motors lagged behind their rivals in almost all respects, and were looking for something to differentiate themselves. The 1953 Chevrolet Corvette was introduced at the GM Motorama, to praise from both the public and the automotive press. GM sensed that they had a winner on their hand, and produced the car in record speed, going from a clay model to full production in 15 months. The result was a beautiful, European-styled little roadster with a fiberglass body that looked absolutely stunning.
If only things had stayed that way, looking all rosy and perfect. But alas, it wasn’t to be. In a move prescient of many others to come in the future, General Motors delivered a car that looked good, but that took everyone that liked it for an unpleasant, expensive ride. In a time when the V8 was king, the Corvette was equipped with a 3.8-liter, straight-six engine that produced 150 horsepower, and that was paired to a two-speed automatic transmission, to general derision. Performance wasn’t that bad, with a top speed of 103 miles per hour and a 0-60 time of 12 seconds, but it was a far cry from the car everyone wanted the Corvette to be. Customers wanted a V8, and a stick-shift manual transmission, and a car that wasn’t so darned expensive! The 1955 Corvette sold within a few dollars of a Cadillac, and it really didn’t offer that much.
To its credit, General Motors heard its customers, and the following year, they got all their wishes. The appearance on the scene of Ford’s Thunderbird is also thought to have had something to do with it. Even back then, GM behaved like it owned the market, and only when it risked getting kicked in the private parts by the competition did it adjust its tune. Eh. Anyways, the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette (sold as the 1955 model), for all its fault, is still an extremely desirable car, at least for collectors, as only 700 were sold.