National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum
 

Corvette Timeline
Chronology of Events in the History of Corvettes


Copyright © 1995-2000 Ken Polsson

  • Feel free to send me comments and suggestions of other Corvette sources to check.
  • References are numbered in [brackets], which can be found at the end of this document. A number after the dot gives the page in the source.

Last updated: 2000 July 1


 1951-1959 

1951

September
  • General Motors' chief stylist Harley Earl takes a Le Sabre to the Watkins Glen sports car race. Earl is impressed with the Jaguars, Ferraris, and Alfas, and decides to begin designing a new American sports car. [79.77] (late fall [115.40])
(month unknown)
  • Harley Earl assigns Bob McLean to draw a layout for a sports car for General Motors. [86.55]

1952

(month unknown)
  • A prototype fiberglass-bodied Chevrolet full-sized convertible is accidentally rolled during a test run. Because the body survives with little significant damage, the decision is made to adopt fiberglass for the production body material or the upcoming sports car. [84.6]
March
  • Naugatuck Chemical presents the Alembic I to General Motors, which encourages Harley Earl to speed-up his own sports car work. [104.14]
April
  • Harley Earl's crew completes a full-size plaster model of his sports car project. [104.14] [115.40]
June 2
  • General Motors executives are formally presented with Harley Earl's proposal for a 2-seater sports car. The project is code-named "Opel Sports Car". General Motors president Harlow Curtice and Chevrolet general manager Thomas Keating approve production of a sports car prototype for the 1953 Motorama. [3] [5] [42.11] [86.55] [90] [151.37] (approved in April [120.59])
(month unknown)
  • The EX-122 is named the Corvette, after a fast type of Royal Navy warship, by Myron Scott, of Chevrolet Public Relations. Strong consideration had been given to naming the car "Corvair". [4] [5] [79.53] [86.55] [90] [140.82] [151.37] (name picked from a dictionary [40.59]) (Myron Scott was an employee of Campbell-Ewald, Chevrolet's advertising agency) (Harley Earl chose the name [104.18])

1953

January 17
  • The prototype Chevrolet Corvette "Dream Car" is displayed at the Motorama show at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. [1] [3] [5] [6] [7] [20.49] [42.14] [74.72] [90] [111.2] [120.59]
May
  • The first Corvette advertisement appears. [10]
June
  • Chevrolet begins production of the Corvette on a tiny assembly line in Flint, Michigan. [42.15] [104.19]
June 30
  • The first production Corvette rolls off the assembly line at Chevrolet Plant Number 35, near Flint, Michigan. Sticker price: just over US$3000. Assembly line worker Tony Kleiber has the honor of driving the first Corvette off the assembly line. [1] [5] [6] [7] [42.8] [44.33] [53.22] [55.62] [69.S3-29] [71.S8-12] [78.54] [97.36] [100.122] [111.3] [115.42] [123.40] [128.74] [137.40] [142.16] [148.20]
July
  • Zora Arkus-Duntov begins working on the Corvette. [46.32] [104.26]
September 29
  • The automotive press get their hands on a Corvette for test and review, as the Corvette is officially released. Eight Corvettes are made available to the press at the Milford Proving Grounds. [1] [5] [79.78] [90] [111.3] (September 28 [115.42])
December 24
  • Production of 1953 Corvettes stops for the year, with 300 built in total. [115.42]
December
  • Corvette production moves from Flint, Michigan, to a General Motors Assembly Division plant on Union Boulevard, in St. Louis, Missouri. [1] [6] [7] [74.73] [104.20] [140.82]

1954

February 20
  • The Ford Motor Company shows the Thunderbird two-seat convertible in Detroit. The Thunderbird is a major part of General Motors' decision to continue production of the Corvette. [1] [3] [6] [104.20] (September [84.7])
(month unknown)
  • Chevrolet decides to change its VIP-only marketing policy for the Corvette, making it available for sale to the general public. [104.20]
September
  • A V8 engine option debuts on the Corvette. [121.56]
October 15
  • Zora Arkus-Duntov writes a memo to Ed Cole and Maurice Olley, noting that the Corvette appeared to be a failure. He suggests that to drop the Corvette would be an admission of failure. He urges General Motors not to cancel the car, but to create a separate department within Chevrolet to oversee Corvette development. [90] (October 14 [133.31])
December
  • Production of the 1954 model Corvette ends, with 3265 made, and 1076 unsold. [111.3]

1955

February
  • The basic design of the 1956 model Corvette is completed. [90] [133.35]
(month unknown)
  • Zora Arkus-Dontov is made chief engineer of Corvette. [152.23]
September 9
  • Zora Arkus-Duntov races a disguised 1956 model Corvette with a V-8 engine at the Pike's Peak Hill climb, setting the stock car record of with a time of 17:24.05. [3] [5] [79.67] [133.72] [161.47]
(month unknown)
  • A 3-speed manual transmission option is added to the 1955 model Corvette. [133.35] [28.41]

1956

January 1
  • The 1956 Corvette makes its debut at the Waldorf Astoria in New York for the Motorama show. [5] [37] [104.28]
January
  • Zora Arkus-Duntov, in a modified 240hp V8 powered Corvette, sets a two-way record-breaking average of 150.583 MPH at the Daytona Beach raceway. [5] [42.34] [90] [113.28] [151.35] [161.47] (255hp [79.67])
January
  • John Fitch drives a Corvette SR (Sports Racing) at Daytona Speed Week, setting a production-car record of 145 MPH. [29] [132.27] [23.40] (Sebring Racer [18.57])
February 18
  • John Fitch drives a stock 1956 Corvette at NASCAR Speed Week in Daytona. He sets a new Flying Mile record of 145.543 mph. [151.33] [161.45]
March 24
  • Four 1956 Corvettes take part in the Florida International 12-Hour Grand Prix of Endurance, at Sebring, Florida. Car No. 1, with 307-ci engine, driven by John Fitch and Walt Hansgen, runs in SCCA class C/Modified, and finishes the race, winning first in its class, and ninth overall. Car No. 5, with 265-ci engine, high performance Duntov cam and 4.11-to-1 final drive, and driven by Dale Duncan and John Eager, runs in class B/Production, but breaks an axle shaft 20 minutes into the race. Car No. 6, with 265-ci engine, 3.70-to-1 final drive, driven by Ray Crawford and Max Goldman, runs in SCCA class B/Production, and finishes the race 6th in class and 15th overall. Car No. 7, with 265-ci engine, 4.11-to-1 final drive, driven by Ernie Erickson and Chuck Hassan, runs in class B/Production, but blows a piston about 1:20 hours into the race. [79.67] [84.8] [104.29,151] [111.6] [132.65] [19.39] [141.52] [161.49]
May
  • Zora Arkus-Duntov builds the Corvette SR-2 Sebring racer. [7] [18.57]
July
  • Richard Thompson races a production Corvette to first place in C class - Production, in the Seattle Seafair race, the first SCCA National title for the Corvette. [79.69] [104.151] [133.12] [148.14]
July
  • Work begins on Project XP-64, a sports/racer built for the upcoming race in Sebring. The car is named the Corvette SS (Super Spyder), or Sebring SS. A clay model of Zora's design is made, and shown to management. [3] [25] [7] [110.79] [114.9]

1957

(month unknown)
  • The 310-hp Corvette SR-2 is entered at Speed Weeks at Daytona Beach. The car wins the standing mile run in modified class, with an average speed of 93.047 mph. [90]
March 23
  • Chevrolet enters four Corvettes in the 12 Hours of Sebring race in Florida. The Corvette SS (Super Sport), driven by John Fitch and Juan Fangio, runs only 120 miles before being retired on lap 23 due to erratic brakes and faulty rear suspension. Richard Thompson and Gaston Andrey in No. 4 finish first in GT Production class, 12th overall. A third Corvette wins Modified Production class, 15th overall. The fourth Corvette takes 16th overall. 12th place is the best showing for a car in GT class at Sebring. [90] [120.62] [104.151] [133.12,36] [141] [148.14] [29.78] [178.78]
May 1
  • A fully-synchronized four-speed transmission is first made available on the 1957 model Corvette, as a US$188.30 option. [7] [29] [84.8] [103.23] [104.31] [111.7]
June 4
  • The Automobile Manufacturer's Association passes a resolution that recommends that member companies (including General Motors) not participate in auto racing. [42.39] [104.46] (April [3])
(month unknown)
  • Chevrolet begins producing the Corvette News magazine. [8] [18.10]

1958

March
  • Two Corvettes are entered in the Sebring Grand Prix of Endurance, with one finishing first in GT category. [104.151] [133.72] [5]
July
  • Bill Mitchell assembles the XP-700, a highly modified Corvette with a long oval nose, and twin-bubble plastic roof. The rear design is later adopted for the 1961 model. [3] [30] [34] [104.136]
August
  • Sales of the 1958 model reach 9168, enough to turn a profit for the Corvette for the first time. [3] [5] [84.9]
December
  • Bill Mitchell begins work on the Q-Car, or Q-Corvette, with a rear-mounted transaxle and fully independent suspension. [7] (1957 [159.60])
December
  • Zora Arkus-Duntov, in a Corvette SS, hits 183 MPH on the General Motors Proving Grounds in Phoenix, Arizona. [12] [25]

1959

April 18
  • The Sting Ray makes its debut at the President's Cup Race at Maryland's Marlboro Raceway. The car is Bill Mitchell's personal vehicle for style testing of the Corvette. Richard Thompson races it to fourth place. The car was made from the last Corvette SS mule chassis, and rebodied by Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda. [1] [5] [12] [34] [49.122] [79.60,70] [90] [29.80]
(month unknown)
  • Jim Jeffords wins SCCA B-Production with his 1959 Corvette dubbed the Purple People Eater Mk III. [133.74] [148.14]
(month unknown)
  • Zora Arkus-Duntov begins work on the CERV I (Chevrolet Experimental Racing Vehicle). [17] [21] [30] [58.53]

End of 1951-1959


~ Jump to a Particular Corvette Year ~
1951-1959

Check my list of references for details on specific events.
Comments? Send me e-mail at: kpolsson@islandnet.com.