When the 3rd Generation Chevrolet Corvette appeared in the market place, it was a real game changer. Offering more affordable performance than most luxury cars on the market, it became an instant sensation. The Corvette quickly sold out and the manufacturers had to increase the production line, something they hadn’t done for many years. Since then, the Corvette has stayed popular and the companies that produce them continue to win awards for their design and engineering prowess. With the rise in social media and young car enthusiasts, it’s not surprising that modern day Corvettes have started showing up on race tracks around the world. Using the same suspension, brakes and steering systems as the road-going cars, racers have been able to take this iconic American sports car and make it perform better than ever before. Because of this, we felt that it was about time that we took a look back at the history of the Corvette, including its earlier versions, and how they’re racing around Europe today.
While the 3rd Generation Corvette is most well known for its performance on the race track, it actually started out as a simple, affordable, entry-level model for the mainstream market. Essentially a rebadged Volkswagen Corrado, the original Corvette was designed to rival the likes of the Ford Model T and the Chevrolet Model B. Due to its affordability, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in November 1953 classified it as a vehicle for people of low and moderate income. When it came to marketing, Chevrolet made the most out of its new low-price offering by naming the car after the famed American flyer Amelia Earhart, a pioneer in women’s aviation. Earhart even had a special model of the Corvette made in her honor, complete with her image on the hood and personalized license plates. To this day, Earhart is credited with popularizing the term ‘techie’ when she complained about the lack of women engineers in the field while attending the 1939 New York World’s Fair. So much for marketing.
While initial sales were good, the automotive industry was in the midst of a major shift, with more and more people buying their cars from independent garages, rather than large manufacturers. Chevrolet was concerned that their prices were becoming too high, due to increased production and shipping costs, and in an effort to keep prices down, began developing smaller, more affordable Corvettes. The first of these was sold as the ‘Chevrolet Baby Corvettes,’ and despite the diminutive size of these models, they were still equipped with the basic V8 engine used in the third generation cars. In addition to this engine, the Baby Corvettes were also offered with a flathead six. The most iconic of these cars was undoubtedly the 1954 model, which was originally offered with a 300 cubic inch V8, but was later modified to offer a 240 cubic inch flathead six, in a nod to NASCAR racing. Due to their increased power and higher performance, the Flathead Corvettes quickly became known as the ‘works’ vehicles. These were the originals that paved the way for modern-day Corvettes. Unfortunately, these cars are extremely scarce these days as only around 800 units were produced, making them extremely desirable. Most original owners choose to keep their cars original and only replace worn parts, such as the brake pads and tires. So if you’re looking to add a classic American sports car to your collection, then these are definitely the ones to go for. However, if you’re fortunate enough to come across one that’s had a bit of an extended life, they can be found on eBay for prices that range between $20,000 and $40,000, depending on condition and availability. Once you’ve gotten your hands on one of these gems, it’s easy to see why so many people are looking to add them to their collection. They are very affordable, easy to maintain and have a storied history that continues to this day.
More Than Meets The Eye
While the original Corvette was manufactured at the Old Wilmington Plant in Wilmington, North Carolina, General Motors kept the production line open, even after the bankruptcy of the original plant. This meant that other parts of the country were also able to purchase parts from the now defunct Wilmington Plant, even after it had closed its doors. It was initially established in the 1930s as a facility for workers to live in while they were there, but was later adapted for use as a parts depository for the automotive industry. This is where the ‘Garage Mahal’ section of the internet meets your neighborhood. These days, the plant’s motto ‘All Parts In, All Parts Out’ is more than just a slogan; it’s a way of life for those who work there. One of the parts that is in constant demand is the front end assembly for Corvettes. This is where the grille, headlights and bumper meet and with so many original parts available, it’s easy for people to keep their cars looking like new. In fact, many who work there will polish, clean and maintain their cars as part of their employment. So it’s not only famous for its performance on the race track, but the plant itself is now a mecca for car enthusiasts looking to add a classic American sports car to their collection. It’s a place where passion meets technology and ingenuity, all in the name of fun.
Racy Bits And Interesting Tidbits
The automotive industry is a constantly evolving entity and with each new model, comes new technology and different bits and pieces that need to be used in conjunction with one another. When the 3rd Generation Corvette arrived, it was a whole different ballgame and with each new model that followed, things only got more complicated. In a nutshell, the more technology that’s packed into a vehicle, the more expensive it becomes and the further it pushes the limits of what is achievable on a car. Take the Corvette’s successor for example, the legendary C5. While many people regard the Corvette as the ultimate sports car, the C5 is where the real action is. The C5’s success can largely be attributed to its introduction of a suite of automotive technologies, including: an all-new, state-of-the-art engine, a new 4-wheel drive system, an advanced body computer that predicts acceleration and braking based on the driving style and environment, an electronically controlled locking differential, a tire traction control system and an anti-skid traction control system. These are just a few of the things that made the C5 such a popular vehicle and one that continues to grow in popularity year after year. While many people regard the C5 as the ultimate sports car, it’s also become a mecca for technology and the more expensive it gets, the more valuable it becomes.
Similarly, the 1970s saw the introduction of electronic fuel injection and computer controlled engine management systems that would eventually lead to hybrid and electric vehicles. These days, the most popular sports car is arguably the Tesla Model S and with good reason too. While it may not always be the case, more and more people are choosing to buy cars that are easy to maintain and affordable, leading to a decline in the number of people buying standard, gas-powered cars. In fact, in 2022 less than 3% of all cars sold were gas-powered models, a mere shadow of their former self. Gas-powered cars are still relatively inexpensive to purchase, but because fewer people are choosing to buy them, their prices have increased considerably over the years.
So what’s the overall takeaway from this? Well, it appears that the more that one knows, the more things they know they don’t know and with each new generation that continues to evolve, it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with the rapid technological changes that are occuring, not only within the automotive world, but across all industries. The more things change, the more they stay the same and while it’s great to embrace new technologies and try them out, it can also be very overwhelming, leading to a degree of anxiety. For someone who’s concerned about their mental health, this may not be the best time to be buying a car. It may also not be the best idea to buy a vintage car that utilizes technology that you are unfamiliar with, no matter how cool and convenient it might seem on the surface. The truth is that while cars have changed a lot over the years, they still retain a level of familiarity that makes them easy to operate and maintain. As long as you take the time to learn a few things and do your research, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting by and even if you do run into problems, you’ll have the skills necessary to overcome them. So in the end, all you need is love and a little bit of common sense and with a little luck, you can have both in ample supply. So while the future of cars is uncertain, at least these iconic American vehicles have a brilliant history that continues to this day.