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C1 The First Generation

The original Corvette had the standard Chevrolet inline six cylinder engine as its power plant. As already mention on the introductory page this was a 235 cubic inch engine with a rated 150 hp and tied to a 2 speed Powerglide automatic transmission. Not what I (or anyone else) would consider this to be a world class sports car, but you have to start somewhere. The 1953 Corvette was equipped with two hood releases, one for each side of the hood. The valve cover for the Corvette was altered from the standard cover on other Chevrolet's. The Corvette cover was flattened at the front to allow for hood clearance. The fuel lines as well as the brake lines ran on the outside of the frame rails, later models (1954) relocated these line to the inside of the frame. All of the surge tanks in the '53 model year consisted of a smooth surface. The first year for Corvette saw a total run of only 300 cars and you could get them in any color a long as it was Polo White with Red interior. A little known fact was that the first year of the Corvette production was not done on the standard GM assembly line, but rather in a warehouse area in the back of a customer delivery garage in Flint Michigan. Thus begins the C1 generation, sometimes referred to as the solid axle generation.

With the first production run for Corvette complete it was time to start on the 1954 model, and the assembly of these cars was shifted to the actual assemble plant in St. Louis were they continued to be assembled until 1981 when Corvette assemble was transferred to Bowling Green Kentucky. The 1954 model did not change in appearance from the 1953 model with the exception of added color options. You were no longer stuck with Polo White only, but you now could order a new Corvette in Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red, Black and of course Polo White. Plus and added bonus was that you could get a Beige interior with the Pennant Blue, while the rest were done in Red. After about 500 of the new '54 Corvette's were assembled, the two hood releases were changed to a single release. Except for a few early models the surge tank was altered from the smooth surface tank to one that had two bands formed into the tank. A total of 3,640 were produced, but sales were down. At a cost of almost $3,500 and the lack of performance most buyers were not real interested.

In 1955 General Motors introduced into the line of cars including the Corvette probably one of the most important and historical changes to their power plant with the introduction of the 265 cubic inch V8. This all new engine package turned the Corvette around from a meek and mild sports car to something that made people sit up and take notice. The 265 V8 was rated at 195 hp, not much compared to today's standard and those monster motors to come, but compared to the 150 hp Blue Flame six it was a substantial improvement. However with no real change to the Corvette body and even with the new V8 the Corvette was still equipped with the 2 speed Powerglide transmission. A total of only 700 cars were produced in 1955 and all but 7 were produced with the new V8. The electrical system was changed from the 6 volt to a 12 volt system. All Corvette's that were equipped with the new 265 V8 could be identified by a gold "V" attached over the small "v" in the Chevrolet on the front fenders.

With the introduction of the 1956 Corvette the two-seater sports car became a legitimate performance car. The body was a totally new design with the introduction of the now famous Corvette side coves, more chrome, a more rounded rear trunk and rear fenders and a redesigned interior. The base engine remained the 265 cu. in, but you now had the option of three different horsepower ratings, from a base 210 hp to the optional 225 or a real stomping (for its time) 240 hp. The 1956 model year introduction of roll-up windows with an optional power assist. Auxiliary hardtops were first made available with the '56 model year. Seat belts became available also with this model year, as a dealer installed item. Duel point distributors were used on all the models except the base 265/210 engine package. A total of 3,467 Corvette's were produced in 1956.

In 1957 the body remained basically identical to the previous year, however you now had the option of a 4 speed manual transmission and the all new 283 cubic inch engine replaced the 265. Also available was a fuel injection system that up the horsepower rating to 283 hp or one horsepower per cubic inch. If the fuel injection was not your thing you could order a duel quad setup that produced either 250 hp or 270 hp. The base 283/220 hp engine had painted valve covers and all others had cast alloy covers with either seven or nine fins. Three option positraction rear gears were made available, and they were 3.70:1, 4.11:1 and the 4.56:1. Again the seat belt option as available with mounting provisions supplied but installation by the dealer. Production increased to 6,339.

The 1958 model had an extensive redesign including new body panels, and a new instrument panel. This was the first year of the duel headlights. The hood had nonfunctional style louvers and twin chrome spears on the trunk deck. The new instrument panel had a large 160 MPH speedometer with secondary gauges on either side. Two tachometer were available, a 6000 rpm version was for the 230, 245 and the 250 hp engines, while an 8000 rpm version was available for the 270 and 290 hp engines. A passenger grab bar was built into the passenger's side. Seat belts became factory installed and no longer a dealer installed option. The grill in the '58 model had nine teeth instead of the thirteen as in the past. Paint was now done with an acrylic lacquer. Production was up to 9,168.

The 1959 production year found the body much like the previous year except the fake louvers on the hood was removed as well as the chrome spears on the trunk deck. The "T" shift handle with positive reverse lockout was introduced on the 4-speed transmission. Engine combination were all based on the 283 cubic inch engine with horsepower rated at, 230 for the base model all the way up to 290 hp for the fuel injected engine. Production was up slightly over the 1958 model year to 9,670.

The 1960 model year remained the much the same as the previous years. This year was to be the last year that the taillights would be formed into the rounded rear fenders. It was also the last year of the tooth type grill. Aluminum radiators were used for the first time, but only on the 270 hp and the 290 hp engine options. Production continued to increase with this being the first year to see over 10,000 corvette's produced to a total of 10,261.

The 1961 received an exterior styling change, as mentioned earlier, the grill lost its teeth and a mesh style grill was incorporated. The bezels around the headlights were now painted to match the body color. The rear of the car was redesigned with four taillights what has become a Corvette tradition. A new aluminum cross flow radiator was introduced, but some of the 1960 style radiators were used in the early production run of the '61. The exhaust exited below the body instead of through the body or rear bumper as it had in the past. The 4-speed transmission was now in an aluminum case. A total of 10,939 Corvette's crossed the assembly line which again is an increase over the past year.

The 1962 model year would be the last year of the C1 or solid axle cars. With it came a new engine package. Gone was the 283 and in came the 327 cubic inch engine and with the new engine came greater horsepower ratings. The base engine package was rated at 250 hp and the top of the line was rated at 360 hp. The body remained much like the 1961, except the side coves were done in the body color and the bright trim as gone. In the cover the simulated vent was changed to a single louver instead of the three spear type vents on previous years. This model year would be the last year of a trunk until the C5 generation. This was also the last year of the exposed headlights, generators, powered convertible top (until 2005) and solid axles. All of the tachometers were distributor driven in 1962. Production numbers were well above the last year with a total of 14,531 produced.

All of the paint colors used on the C1 Corvettes were simply referred to in their generic name with one exception. The '55 model year used actual code numbers for the paint color. Here are the following C1 paint options available for each year. One last point, although I have listed not only the paint codes and numbers produced in each available color, for each year, these numbers are do not always match those of the total number of units produced. This is caused by record keeping issues, but they are very close.

C1 Paint Codes

1953

Polo White - 300

1954

Polo White - 3,230
Pennant Blue - 300
Sportsman Red - 100
Black - 4

1955

567 - Polo White - 325
570 - Pennant Blue - 45
573 - Corvette Copper - 15
596 - Gypsy Red - 180
632 - Harvest Gold - 120

1956

Onyx Black - 810
Aztec Copper - 402
Cascade Green - 290
Arctic Blue - 390
Venetian Red 1,043
Polo White - 532

1957

Onyx Black - 2,189
Aztec Copper - 452
Cascade Green - 550
Arctic Blue - 487
Venetian Red - 1,320
Polo White - 1,273
Inca Silver - 65

1958

Charcoal - 1,631
Snowcrest White - 2,477
Silver Blue - 2,006
Regal Turquoise - 510
Panama Yellow - 455
Signet Red - 1,399
Tuxedo Black - 493
Inca Silver - 193

1959

Tuxedo Black - 1,594
Classic Cream - 223
frost Blue - 1,024
Crown Sapphire - 888
Roman Red - 1,542
Snowcrest White - 1,354
Inca Silver 957

1960

Tuxedo Black - 1,268
Tasco Turquoise - 635
Horizon Blue - 766
Honduras Maroon - 1,202
Roman Red - 1,529
Ermine White - 3,717
Sateen Silver - 989
Cascade Green - 140

1961

Tuxedo Black - 1,340
Ermine White - 3,178
Roman Red 1,794
Sateen Silver - 747
Jewel Blue - 855
Fawn Beige - 1,363
Honduras Maroon - 1,645

1962*

Tuxedo Black - N/A
Fawn Beige - 1,851
Roman Red - N/A
Ermine White - N/A
Almond Beige - 820
Sateen Silver - N/A
Honduras Maroon - N/A

*The units painted in the different colors for the '62 model year were not recorded of most of the information was lost.