The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Jive-Bomber, May 2, 2019.
Jive-Bomber submitted a new blog post:
Birth of the Corvette
Continue reading the Original Blog Post
Years ago I worked with a guy that, I kid you not that if you said something was white he would say it's black, on just about any subject.
We had gotten on the subject of Corvettes, so when he "educated" us on the first Corvette, we really knew he was full of S#/T.
Now, I'm sure someone has the definitive answer to this but this guy in typical fashion absolutely was sure that the very first Corvette body was made out of steel.
I think I know that guy.
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Actually the first corvettes were made of clay,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Side bar, a long time ago a friend of mine told me one of the big shots at Eastern Stainless Steel in Baltimore bought a new 55' (or 54") Corvette and it was delivered in a wooden crate on a railroad flat car. The new owner helped uncrate it and drove it away from the RR siding. Interesting possibility, can't say for sure if the story was true or not.....
sales of the '53s were so bad that many were sold as '54s.
I heard the opposite, that the originals were built in fiberglass to get them into production quickly with the idea of changing them to steel, but the idea was so exotic and novel people loved it and they continued to make them fiberglass.
Every time I read about the start of Corvette I'm blown away that:
1. It ever happened in the first place.
2. That they've been continually produced for 66 years.
What other American sports car can boast that longevity?
How about those layup guys with no masks ,, lunch break must of been a hoot.
That is my understanding as well. But supposedly, the reason to remain with fiberglass was economic only. But I can't reference any source on that info.
Was there supposed to be sound?
When I watched them, they were silent movies.
As a long time Corvette guy I think that 300 53's were produced. It was the 54's that did not move well prompting the 55's to be only 700 in number. If Ford had not produced the Tbird in '55 that would have been the end of the Corvette. FWIW I'm now on my 27th and 28th Corvette. Love those plastic Chevys!
Nice photo of the 1954 Corvette assembly line in St louis. The 53s that were built in Flint
Michigan all had black tops and bullet air cleaners.
Early 54's also had bullet air cleaners with later 54's having dual air cleaners rather than three bullets.
Here's where the steel-bodied Corvette story came from- He's just got his facts mixed up:
"1953 was the first year the Corvette was produced, originally envisioned by Harley Earl, the Corvette was Chevy's first entrance in the 1953 GM Motorama. The GM Motorama was GM's "dream car" show and had been used in the past to showcase the new Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs and Buick. Chevrolet had been shunned from the show because it was perceived as a car for the masses and didn't need a show. Earl had decided that the Corvette could be built using parts from existing passenger cars. It was decided that the Motorama car would be built from fiberglass because of the ease of manufacture and the production car would be built from steel. Originally the Corvette was to be a 1954 model, because of the popularity at the Motorama show it was decided to start production early.
Robert Morrison had inherited a small fiberglass reinforced plastics factory in the early 50's. He met with GM purchasing agent Carl Klein on February 5, 1953 to talk about producing the Corvette parts in fiberglass. After meeting with Chevy engineers at his plant Carl thought that they might have a deal. After not hearing from them for two weeks he got a phone call setting up a meeting to plan the production of 12,300 sets of the 103 parts needed for each Corvette. Due to a scheduling mix-up the men he was supposed to meet were not there. When he was leaving he met Elmer Gormsman getting off the elevator, Elmer was the boss of the two men who weren't there and hadn't been told about the decision to use fiberglass over steel. He told Morrison that Chevrolet had made the decision to go with steel for the Corvette. After a long night Morrison arrived home at around 1:30 AM, his wife told him someone from Chevy had called and to call anytime he got home. It was Gormsman, he told Morrison to rent the empty building he had been looking at so they could start manufacturing the first Corvette."
Great stuff thanks @Jive-Bomber
A bit of an unusual story but somewhat relevant to this thread celebrating Plastic Fantastic and it really is...
This Vette above is the last of three Vettes in this pic which so happens to be the first 3 off the line which were all destined for rigorous testing by GM
1 of those 3 survived...it seems...albeit not totally intact...The full story at the link below...
Credit to Photographer's, Owner's
I remember the SS body was made of magnesium, the development of the SS mule was for me a fascinating story of Corvette early days.
In 1960, there was this older guy in our group that had lots of money and was one of the first teenagers in high school to drive a 1953-54, 6 cylinder Corvette. I had never driven in one before or driven one, either. But, our friend knew I was kind of an auto mechanic, car guy and would ask me to come over to help him change the oil, filter and spark plugs. He said that as a reward, (he was saving money with me doing the work) I could go for a drive in the cool Corvette for a free lunch. The odd thing was the fiberglass body and strange style.
I had never seen or touched a fiberglass car body before and it was impressive. It was similar to our old surfboard techniques and underneath, had the smell of raw fiberglass. The Corvette technique in fiberglass was closer to what my friend in the boat building business did with fiberglass hull spraying. Leaving a strong, smooth finish, but, lighter than metal.
a similar model with red upholstery and trim.
After the all of the maintenance was done, we went for a hamburger and fries lunch at Oscars in Lakewood. His house was in the Eastside of Long Beach and closer to Oscars, than the two restaurants in Bixby Knolls. It was odd that he lived outside of our downtown Long Beach high school area, but was allowed to attend. He finally felt bad for me as we crammed into the small seats. I kept telling myself that it is a sports car, after all, so it did not have the room and comfort of the 1958 Impala. After the lunches, he always asked me if I wanted to drive the Corvette back to his house. Of course I jumped at the chance.
The drive back was not as exciting as cruising in my black 1958 Impala. But, it was an open top sports car, was a different experience and I thanked him for letting me drive. The acceleration was not as quick or fast, but with the open top, it sure felt like it. I told my self that for the future, I would not fit in any Corvette for a long cruise. (a year later, I had a 1960 V8 Corvette experience that was more impressive.)
GM stylist Harley Earl takes the LeSabre dream car to Watkins Glen race.
Impressed by the European sports cars, he decides to design an American sports car.
Final design work completed on GM's sports car.
Work begins on producing a full-size model.
Harley Earl's crew completes the full-size plaster model.
It goes on display in GM's private viewing auditorium.
Ed Cole, Chief Engineer of Chevrolet shown the plaster mock-up.
He promises full support to Harley Earl.
Cole is one of the first Chevrolet people to see the model
June 2nd 1952
GM executives presented with Harley Earl's proposal.
GM president and Chevy manager approve prototype for 1953 Motorama.
The project's code name is "Opel".
June 12th 1952
Chevy's director of R&D, Maurice Olley, creates sketch for the new frame
July 3rd 1952
GM and Chevy issue work orders for two Motorama bodies and one test body.
Also and 2 full-size passenger cars for testing of the sports car drivetrain.
GM Engineering Parts Fabrication is directed to produce two Opel bodies.
Sept 27th 1952
General Motors begins officially using name Corvette for new sports car.
Oct 3rd 1952
GM Parts Fab finishes building prototype full size fiberglass passenger car body.
Mold for prototype Corvette completed.
Nov 18th, 1952
Prototype full size fiberglass convertible is accidentally rolled during test run.
Body survives with minor damage, impressing engineers.
Dec 12th 1952
Body for the first Motorama Corvette is completed.
Dec 22nd 1952
Motorama Corvette is completed with a build cost estimated at $55-60,000.
Jan 15th 1953
Second Corvette prototype completed, ready for mechanical testing.
Jan 17th 1953
GM Motorama opens to the general public in New York City.
GM announces 200-300 test run Corvettes would be built before July.
March 4th 1953
GM management authorizes pilot line production to build 300 Corvettes.
June 16th 1953
Engineering instructs first production Corvette as a development car.
The second car to become a Proving Ground demonstrator.
First production Corvette is completed.
Corvettes #004-006 are the first sold going to DuPont Company executives.
Sept 28th 1953
General Motors Proving Grounds near Milford, CT
Chevrolet unveils the Corvette to an invited group of fifty automotive press journalists.
Fourteen Corvettes are made available to the press for test and review.
Sept 30th 1953
To date, fifty Corvettes delivered to buyers.
Oct 7th 1953
The actor John Wayne receives Corvette #051.
McCulloch Motors begins fitting 1953 Corvette #024 with a supercharger.
Dec 24th 1953
Production of 1953 Corvettes ends, with 300 built in total.
Dec 28th 1953
Production of 1954 model Corvettes begins in St. Louis, MO
The X122 Corvette was built in 1952. For years this car was owned by a former GM employee and spent many years in the Finger Lakes Region near Rochester New York. During that time it was driven and yes it had been repainted red. This car had also been designed with a V-8 engine that was later introduced with the Tri-5 Chevy cars. Around here everyone called it a 1952 Corvette. I remember my Brother and I seeing This Corvette a couple times at local car shows. GM was also known to come to town and transport the car to events around the country. The car was later purchased by a car dealer Kerbeck Chevrolet and has been beautifully restored to it's original condition.
One good thing is that they weren't still born like some other automotive products. They've stood the test of time like similar other, now OT, cars that are still around to this day. Like them they've been reincarnated a few times over the years
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