The automotive industry changed forever when the first production Chevrolet Corvette rolled out of a General Motors’ assembly facility in Flint, Michigan, on this day in 1953. The Corvette, a dream vehicle designed by Harley Earl, first met the public in January 1953. The prototype fiberglass bodied sports car debuted at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City during GM’s annual Motorama. The response from the crowd was enough to warrant putting the vehicle into production.
Just 300 handbuilt 1953 Corvettes left the assembly line that first year. Each was a white convertible with red interior and a black canvas top. The fiberglass body hid a mild drivetrain that consisted of Chevy’s Blue Flame six-cylinder, a two speed Powerglide transmission and drum brakes. In 1954 production grew to 3,640, but they sold very slowly. The disappointing sales were attributed to the car’s under performance. This led GM executives to consider dropping the vehicle from the Chevrolet lineup.
The introduction of the two seat Ford Thunderbird for 1955 provided Chevrolet officials with the push they needed to revamp the Corvette and keep it on the sales lot. A V8 finally became available in 1955. However, because there were still many unsold 1954 models sitting at dealerships, only 700 examples were built for 1955. Thankfully, sales grew right alongside available horsepower. It’s late blooming success cemented the Corvette as America’s sports car.