1956-57 Corvette: Nice History Lesson

1 year 8 months ago - 1 year 8 months ago #595 by JP
JP created the topic: 1956-57 Corvette: Nice History Lesson

Somewhere during 1953-55, the original idea for the American Sports Car got lost. Instead of a small, fun-to-drive car with a base price about the same as a Chevy sedan, what emerged was a puffy, well-equipped showboat priced at close to…gulp…$3,500, which was close to $1,500 more than one of the lower-priced three other models. Certainly the Corvette was not something many college kids could afford, except those Ivy League kids, maybe.

And unfortunately, Chevrolet’s initial VIPs-only marketing plan had not been the right maneuver. Surprisingly, the targeted doctors, lawyers and other big buck makers just didn’t take a liking to the car. Huh? Many focus groups later, yup later, the participants said the two seater wasn’t very comfortable, especially with those side curtains, and it wasn’t very fast. So, take that! Well, it certainly wasn’t like other American Cars, but it wasn’t exactly like the European style sportster either which should have meant something!

In the short time that the car had been introduced it had failed to find a niche market. Now that’s a problem. Because of this, many Chevrolet executives were content to say, “We tried, oh well.” Let history have its day and let’s move on. Why?

Can you say “T-Bird?” Ford’s Thunderbird, a two seater, had arrived at the apex of the battle between these two manufacturing giants.

Ford did the dump it and sell it routine to get its sales beyond the other company’s success. They completely filled their dealers’ lots with cars and the pricing war was on, baby. Chevrolet pushed its peddle to the metal and pushed back with its own deluge of cars to be sold. A lukewarm Corvette was not the solution to the war they had hoped for. This battle began in 1953 and it ensued for 18 months until the number crunchers could give the final counts in 1955. Until then the media blitz was on and both companies claimed to have the biggest market share but, who really knew?

Nevertheless, slow sales and dealerships sitting on their unsold earlier model Corvettes did not deter the designers from pushing on. The response to this problem was engineers who stayed up late, drinking a lot of coffee musing over the next component that would spark a fire in the hearts of all car lovers out there. They were determined to force a 50 caliber bullet out of a pea-shooter. And they pulled it off!

The high-performance market was about to get a gentle kick in the tail. Out came the 265-cid small-block V-8, which is one of today’s most revered engineering feats in automotive history. It did for Chevy what the flathead V-8 had done for Ford two decades earlier. From here the designers added their touch to the car and the first “classic” Chevy built for speed, road handling agility, and affordability had been birthed. The 1955 Chevys were unleashed on the market and the people consumed. The cars sold like crazy! The small-block was instrumental to the Corvette’s “renaissance” which experts say actually occurred with the 1956 models. (Experts, experts…everyone thinks they’re one. 1955, 1956…you pick it. When it comes to Corvettes, we’re all experts. You love the car enough to follow it for years? Then you’re an expert. Welcome to the club.)

We’ll talk more about the Chevy engine and its impact on the company’s future but let’s first have some fun looking at the cars. Yup, info is fun, but ogling (now boys, the right thing) is better. Enjoy the following 1956 cars.

Last Edit: 1 year 8 months ago by JP.

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