Post-War Sports Car: Corvette Introduced

1 year 2 months ago - 1 year 2 months ago #1062 by JP
JP created the topic: Post-War Sports Car: Corvette Introduced
In America the success of imported sports cars had not gone unnoticed, but in a country where production runs are measured in millions rather than in the hundreds, there was little profit seen to be made out of small-scale production. And as yet, the sports car imports were still selling, but in quite tiny numbers. For instance, the total production of the Austin-Healey 100 between 1952 and 1956 was a mere 14,500, which was hardly worth pressing the production line button in Detroit. But look what was coming into the country...

1956 Austin-Healey 100 Roadster

1956 Austin-Healey 100 Roadster

1956 Austin-Healey 100 Roadster

General Motors got around the problem of high tooling costs for steel-bodied cars by making the body of their new sporty car in glass fiber, reinforced plastics. In 1954, this was quite revolutionary and they turned out nearly 4 000 cars in the first year despite some "teething" problems in making this novel vehicle. The new car was the Chevrolet Corvette. In original form it could hardly be called a sports car and it was really a two-seater roadster. In building the car, a standard Chevrolet chassis frame was shortened and lowered slightly, retaining the wishbone and coil spring independent front suspension and live rear axle with Hotchkiss drive. Power came from Chevrolet's famous 'Stovebolt' six, a 3.9-litre four main bearing overhead valve engine which gave a fairly healthy 150 bhp. Strangely, it was mated to the Powerglide two-speed automatic gearbox which stifled the performance some­what. However, it would still accelerate, i.e., 60 mph from a resting position in 11 seconds to a top speed of 105 mph. The plastic bodywork was well made and the shape, with its wide 'dollar grin' air intake was quite pleasing to the eye. It certainly had the makings of" a sports car and with Zora Arkus - ­Duntov of Allard fame as the guiding light it was destined for better things. See below.

1954 Corvette

1954 Corvette

Corvette 6-cylinder engine to 155 horsepower

Better things came in 1956 when Chevrolet dropped their 4.3-litre (265 cu in) V8 into the car. This was mated to a three-speed manual gearbox, while a hardtop became optional. From then on the power race was on with a vengeance and by 1957 the engine size had risen to 4637 cc, increasing to 5358cc by 1962. Power output was almost anything the buyer could afford, and certainly for a modest outlay 250 bhp was possible, which was good enough to give a 0-60 mph figure of 6 seconds and a top speed around 120mph.

1956 Corvette engine

1956 Corvette

The engine had become rather too fast for the chassis or the brakes in 1962, and for the 1963 season the car was completely revised and renamed the Corvette Stingray. Although a separate steel chassis frame was retained, the suspension was completely revised with a new independent rear suspension having lower wish­bones located by trailing arms and the drive shafts acting as upper locating arms, as on the E-type Jaguar. Springing was by transverse leaf spring. Front suspension retained double wish­bones and coil springs, with an anti-roll bar, while drum brakes were retained on all four wheels.

1962 Red Convertible Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette coupe

The standard engine was the aforementioned 5358cc (327 cu in) V8, tuned to give 360 bhp at 6000 rpm. It was mated to a three-speed manual gearbox as standard but there was also the option of a four-speed manual or two-speed automatic. Bodywork was entirely new although still in glass fiber and was available as a striking fixed head coupe or as a convertible. The coupe featured doors running into the roof section and a split rear windscreen, while the headlamps on both models retracted behind shutters. This model was capable of accelerating to 60 mph in a mere 5.3 seconds or reaching a top speed of 150 mph, depending on which final drive ratio was fitted. This model appealed very much to sporting Americans and production soon stepped up to 20,000 a year. It was also very successful on the race track and was more than a match for the then new E-type Jaguar.

1964 Corvette engine

The Stingray was an exhilarating car to drive, for its sheer brute power was almost unmatched by any other car on the road at that time. The E-­type Jaguar generally had a higher top speed but the Corvette could out-accelerate it quite comfortably and it had a better gearbox too, although brakes and steering were not in the same league as those of the Jaguar.

More to come later.

Ed’s Swap Buy and/or sell your classic car, auto parts, your business and your expertise worldwide on the internet swap meet. Give us a try. Thanks. JP

(About JP: He is the author of the book, Terrorism Defeated: God’s Plan to Win the War on Terror which was released in 2008. He loves the classic car community and has made a commitment to partner with his brother to bring you a website that is a worldwide swap meet you can visit every day on your computer to find classic car parts, cars to buy or sell, or the opportunity to link your automotive needs to one of this website’s advertisers and/or experts.)

Cheers, Fast Eddie, Founder, Ed's Swap
Last Edit: 1 year 2 months ago by JP.

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