Chevrolet Corvette C1, 1953 to 1962
To the uninitiated, the Chevrolet Corvette model range presents a bewildering array of body shapes, optional extras and engine sizes. The first series (known as the Corvette C1) was built between 1953 and 1962, and even this 'series' includes a variety of designs that are markedly different to each other. The C1 Corvettes all shared one thing: they were convertibles.
Just 300 hand- built Corvettes were delivered in 1953, the first year of production, following the model's earlier success as a show car designed by Harley Earl. All Polo white in colour with red seats, these now demand a significant premium due to their rarity. In 1956 the car was facelifted, losing its recessed headlamps and then again in 1958 when it gained quad headlamps and (for one year only) chrome spears down the boot lid. The car was once again redesigned in 1961, including a rear 'duck tail' with quad rear lights that were to become a key part of Corvette design for many years. From the first show car, Corvettes displayed the 'crossed flag' emblem: originally intended to be a US flag crossed with a chequered flag, the former had to be dropped for copyright reasons and so a Chevrolet flag was designed to include a Fleur de Lis, the French symbol of peace.
Underneath the fibreglass bodywork, the chassis and running gear of the C1 Corvettes remained fairly standard throughout its model life. Much of the conceptual development of the Corvette was driven by Zora Arkus-Duntov, a Belgian-born engineer who is known as 'The Father of the Corvette'. He drove the development of the car into a high-performance sports car, pushing up power output, refining the aesthetic design and introducing various handling options.
Early Corvettes were fitted with the 6-cylinder 235 CID 'Blue Flame' engine that remained standard until 1955, when a 265 CID V8 was offered, followed by a 283 CID engine in 1957 and a fuel- injected 327 CID engine offering up to 360bhp in 1962. In general, value increases with brake horsepower and pristine 'Fuelie' fuel injection models are the most sought-after. The engine is front mounted and drives the rear wheels through a solid rear axle.
Chevrolet Corvette C1 known issues are corrosion in the chassis, poorly-repaired accident damage to the fibreglass bodywork, stress cracks and originality: non-standard engines or paintwork can knock up to a third of the value off a matching numbers original. Advice from a recognised club is advised before purchase.
Period alternatives to the C1 Chevrolet Corvette are the Austin-Healey 100 and the Jaguar XK 150.