Chevrolet corvette C1 presentation

Body corvette C1

The Corvette C1 had a body made of fiberglass reinforced resin, which is still used on the Corvette today. This saved weight and production is relatively simple today. However, production of the plastic body was initially costly and lengthy. The engine, transmission and chassis came from other Chevrolet models.

Chevrolet corvette c1

Tail fin inventor Harley Earl had given the open two-seater with the plastic body its shape – like a predator, this Corvette showed the chrome teeth of its radiator grille. The curved fenders stretched over the wheel arches. The headlights were under a stone guard grille, and there were suggested fins at the rear. The panoramic windshield was wrapped around the sides. The symmetrically constructed painted dashboard had two semicircular recesses, the driver’s side of which contained an insert with six display instruments. Up to this point, the Corvette had no exterior door handles or side windows. In 1954, about 80% of the cars sold were painted « Polo White », about 16% were painted « Pennant Blue », and the remaining 4% of the model year were painted « Sportsman Red » and « Black ».

The first major exterior redesign of the Corvette took place in 1956. The tail fins disappeared completely, replaced by side indentations behind the front wheels and the first two-tone paint scheme in model history. Exterior door handles and side windows with window crank were another innovation of this vintage. The hardtop was supplied from the factory. The front headlights, previously integrated into the body, were now exposed and protruded somewhat, while the taillights, which still protruded on the first Corvette, were now integrated into the rear fenders. Additional paint finishes and interior colors were available. With the revised chassis, the Corvette was able to put even more power on the road. Sales figures rose to 3467 vehicles in 1956.

In 1958, the Corvette was revised a second time and equipped with dual headlights, and was also lengthened and widened by 9.2 in (234 mm). Suspension and chassis had remained basically the same, as had the single rigid axle. The 1959 version looked essentially the same as its predecessor, though that year the chrome trim at the rear and the large vents on the hood were omitted. The car offered good performance and was well equipped compared to some of its competitors, selling 9168 units. Not much changed for the 1959 model year. Some chrome trim was dropped and the seats and door panels were revised. A new rear suspension with stabilizer bar was added to the Corvette in 1960.

Sales figures continued to rise. Thus 9,670 vehicles were sold in 1959, 1960 found 10,261 buyers and 1961 then somewhat more, i.e. 10,939. In the last year 1962 of the first generation the Corvette with 14,531 sold itself best in the nine production years.

In 1961, the exterior of the C1 was redesigned one last time. In the process, the front end was carried over from the previous models. The rear, on the other hand, was changed and was now a boat tail, which was retained for the C2 series as well as still being recognizable in the following C3, C4 and C5 models. The side accentuated surfaces, which could be ordered since 1955, were dropped in 1962, and the Corvette could only be ordered in one color.

The four round taillights were also introduced by GM’s then-new chief designer Bill Mitchell in 1961. GM has remained true to this typical styling element to this day.

Engine/Driving performance

The engine was initially an only slightly modified « Blue Flame » in-line six-cylinder engine from a truck with a displacement of 3.8 liters (235 in3) with a compression of 8 : 1. Higher compression and three Carter single carburetors of type YH increased the power to first 110 imp. kW (150 bhp) and from 1954, through a modified camshaft, to 114 imp. kW (155 bhp) at 4200 min-1 and provided a maximum torque of 302 Nm at 4500 min-1. The Corvette C1 thus accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 8 to 11 seconds, depending on the source. The top speed was given as 172 to 180 km/h. However, even by the standards of the time, this performance was not that of a sports car.

That’s why Ed Cole and Zora Arkus-Duntov gave the Corvette C1 a power makeover: Instead of the previous six-cylinder engine, they opted for a « small-block » V8 with an initial displacement of 4.3 liters (265 in3) and 143 kW (195 bhp) at 5000 min-1. The first Chevrolet « small-block » V8 engine, and thus the first Corvette V8 engine, was launched in 1955. That a vehicle was powered by it was shown by a large « V » in the name « CheVrolet » on the sides of the front fenders. With this change, the Corvette developed into a real sports car with very good performance. The Corvette with the V8 engine completed the acceleration from 0 to about 100 km/h in 8.7 seconds. Duntov accelerated the Corvette to a top speed of 150 mph (241 km/h) at Daytona, which was a respectable figure at the time. In 1956, the engine was also revised. It now produced 210 bhp at 5200 min-1 with a compression ratio of 9.25 : 1 and was equipped with a Carter four-barrel carburetor. As an extra, a version with 225 bhp or 240 bhp could be ordered. These two engines were equipped with a different camshaft and two four-barrel carburetors. The 225 bhp version accelerated from 0 to around 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds.

In 1957, a new engine was again added to the C1. The V8 engine, enlarged to 4.6 liters (283 in3), already produced 208 kW (283 bhp) with the new fuel injection and was sold 1040 times (about 11%). At exactly one hp per cubic inch of displacement (the equivalent of 16.4 cm3), this was a very high figure. The two-seater with the most powerful engine accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.7 seconds; it reached a top speed of 132 mph (212 km/h). Even faster was the Corvette of the last vintage of this first model generation.

The engine lineup then finally ranged from a 169 kW (230 bhp) V8 to the most powerful engine with 213 kW (290 bhp) and fuel injection in 1958. The former accelerated to around 100 km/h in 9.2 seconds, while the latter needed only 6.9 seconds for the sprint. The most popular version, however, was the basic 4.6-liter engine, whose performance was considered adequate. Starting in 1960, aluminum cylinder heads were used on the V8 engine.

The last 1962 version of the Corvette C1 was equipped with the 5.3-liter V8 (327 in3). This was the most powerful engine ever available for the C1. Also equipped with fuel injection, it produced 360 gross SAE horsepower and accelerated the Corvette up to 241 mph. Power variants were also a 300 bhp as well as 340 bhp variant.


Initially, the car had the two-speed Powerglide automatic; a manual transmission was also available. However, sales did not increase until then-new Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov combined the V8 version with a three-speed manual transmission.

In 1957, car buyers were able to combine a manual transmission with fuel injection as an option for the first time on the Corvette. The new automatic transmission now had four speeds instead of three. In the 1960 model year, more than half of the vehicles were delivered with the manual 4-speed transmission, and in 1961 the figure was as high as 64%. From 1962, the Corvette’s automatic transmission had an aluminum housing.

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