Tag: corvette

Corvette as a luxury car? One 1964 ad suggested it – Jeff Koch @Hemmimgs

Corvette as a luxury car? One 1964 ad suggested it – Jeff Koch @Hemmimgs


America’s personal-luxury car scene exploded in the late ’50s. Studebaker’s Golden Hawk was among the first, back in ’56. Ford’s Thunderbird helped prove the market when the four-seat Squarebird came out in ’58. By 1963, Buick’s Riviera had eased onto the scene, and suddenly most car brands wanted in on this new niche. Chevrolet naturally sought a way to capitalize on the near-luxury-car game, but the Impala was too big (and the ritzy Caprice was coming for ’65 anyway), the Nova was too small, the Chevelle was brand new for the year and just finding its feet, and the Monte Carlo was half a dozen years away.

Why not try it with the Corvette? This ad is trying to convince people to see the Corvette’s softer side. It’s printed in color, but the image is a study in black-and-white contrasts. Black suit, white dress. Black pavement, white Corvette. Black tires with whitewalls. And maybe the ultimate contrast: presenting the Corvette as a luxurious proposition.

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Is it a Cord? Is it a Corvette? Or is Marty Martino’s latest creation, the CordVette, the best of both cars? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


For a vehicle that only lasted a couple years on the market, Gordon Buehrig’s Cord 810 and 812 have sure had an outsize influence on car designers and enthusiasts ever since. David North, Stan Wilen, and Bill Mitchell packed the Oldsmobile Toronado with all sorts of design elements paying homage to the Toronado’s front-wheel-drive predecessor. Multiple customizers through the Fifties tried their hand at making a sports car out of the coffin-nose Cord. And on at least three occasions, entrepreneurs have resurrected or attempted to resurrect the Cord. So Marty Martino’s really just following in a grand tradition by building a modern Cord out of the bones of a fifth-generation Corvette.

“I never thought of this project as a ‘sport custom’ in the traditional way, but being that it’s a one-off Cord-inspired design, I now see it as a continuation of the genre,” Marty said after reading our recent story on Fifties-era sport-custom Cords.

The roots of the project date back to the late Eighties, when Automobile Quarterly ran a design contest asking for its readers to envision the Cord 810, Tucker 48, or Packard Caribbean as they would have appeared in 1990. “What really made the contest exciting to me was that it was to be judged by Alex Tremulis, Frank Hershey, Dick Teague, Bill Mitchell, Chuck JordanJack Telnack, and Dave Holls, many of my automotive heroes!” Marty said.

Marty’s updated Cord 810/812 rendering.

Marty selected the 810, and while the phone-dial wheels, wraparound indent, and jellybean taillamps all reflect the era in which he re-envisioned the Cord, the coupe managed to blend the original’s subtly stepped fastback, haunches, hidden headlamps in winglike fenders, and speed line grille in with contemporary shape and proportions. The entry made it into print as one of four runner-up designs that the judges chose. Not bad, Marty thought, considering “most of the entrants were accomplished illustrator/designers, students at Art Center, and so on,” he said.

The rendering got filed away until about a decade ago, when Marty’s younger brother, Robert, expressed an interest in building a modern Cord using a Corvette as the donor car. Robert, according to Marty, “had long held 1936 and 1937 Cords as his favorite prewar car design… and considers the Cord Sportsman the Corvette of its day.”

They figured the fifth-generation Corvette would work best for this project given that Marty had already built the PsyClone Motorama tribute car from a C5 and that both the C5 and the Cord had hideaway headlamps. Robert wanted a convertible, so the brothers found a profile shot of a C5 Corvette, laid it on a lightbox, then drafted the CordVette’s design on a blank piece of paper above the profile shot using many of the same elements and lines that Marty had incorporated into his Automobile Quarterly rendering. Marty also did a little Bondo sculpting on a 1/25-scale model of a C5 to see his alterations in three dimensions.

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Lowrider Hydraulics Pioneer X-Sonic Corvette to be Restored – David Conwill @Hemmings


Back in November, we were excited to learn that Dave Shuten, of Galpin Speed Shop, will be restoring the X-Sonic Corvette to its 1960s appearance. The X-Sonic was a groundbreaking custom car in the late-1950s that not only inspired Ed Roth to begin crafting his famous bubble tops, but also helped introduce the custom-car world to hydraulics.

The circa 1960 version of the X-Sonic, demonstrating its hydraulics and sporting tunneled 1958 Dodge headlamps, but pre-bubbletop. Photos courtesy Kustomrama.

Hydraulic suspension (and its spiritual descendent, airbags) on custom and lowrider cars is commonly known today. But where and when did hydraulics make the leap from being aircraft parts to automotive suspension pieces? The answer, of course, is in post-World War II California, where two enthusiasts—seemingly separately and unbeknownst to one another—used parts found in military surplus stores to create the first suspension systems that could be impracticably low for car shows but raised for driving

One of those men was Jim Logue, a North American Aviation employee who lived in Long Beach in 1957 and took inspiration from Citroen’s factory hydropneumatic suspension to modify his 1954 Ford. The other was Ron Aguirre, a resident of Rialto, who around the same time saw a hydraulic ram being used for dent removal and thought he might use something similar to avoid future violations for the lowness of his 1956 Corvette. Today, Logue and his Fabulous X54 have faded from popular memory, but Aguirre’s bubble-topped X-Sonic persists as the poster child for “the first” hydraulics-equipped custom car.

The X-Sonic as it appeared in 1963 with bubbletop and no headlamps.

As a successful contender on the indoor-car-show circuit of the 1960s, the X-Sonic went through a few iterations and wound up heavily modified, including the aforementioned bubble top, substitution of a Turboglide transmission for the original three-speed, and even the elimination of a conventional steering wheel in favor of an electric motor controlled by toggle switches! The bubbletop and unconventional steering marked the transition of the car from street custom to all-out show car.

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The 1996 Grand Sport Corvette celebrates its Silver Anniversary – Thomas A. DeMauro @Hemmings


Conjuring up a special edition vehicle to trigger interest and promote higher sales within its model line is a well-established marketing tool that proves most successful when the result offers exclusivity in a captivating package. To those ends, Chevrolet ushered out the C4 Corvette era by offering the daringly hued, striped, and hashmarked Grand Sport coupe and convertible in 1996. Listed under RPO Z16, production was capped at 1,000 cars (ultimately 810 coupes and 190 convertibles) and its powertrain featured the new LT4 5.7-liter V-8 with the familiar ZF six-speed transmission

Borrowing its name from the five legendary 1963 lightweight Corvette race cars developed by Zora Arkus-Duntov, the 1996 Grand Sport wore Admiral Blue metallic paint that wasn’t offered on other Corvettes and a wide white stripe, both reminiscent of one of the ’63s that A.J. Foyt had raced. Red hashmarks on the left front fender of the C4 also paid homage to identifiers used on three of its C2 namesakes.

The coupe was also fitted with rear wheel-opening flares to contain its P315/35ZR-17 Goodyear Eagle GS-C tires, which were last seen on the then recently departed ZR-1, as were the P275/40ZR-17s up front. The five-spoke ZR-1 style aluminum wheels were painted black but maintained a bright outer lip, and they measured 17 x 9.5 in front and 17 x 11 out back. Convertibles retained the standard Corvette’s 255/45ZR-17s fore and 285/40ZR-17s aft on 17 x 8 and 17 x 9.5 wheels respectively (also with ZR-1 styling), thus no rear flares were needed. The brake calipers were painted black, and those in front sported “Corvette” callouts.

Embroidered “Grand Sport” lettering adorned the perforated-leather-upholstered power-operated Sport seats with lumbar support in the black or red/black interior. Floor mats and carpeting were also black.

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The Corvette Debuted 68 Years Ago – Elizabeth Blackstock @Jalopnik


On January 17, 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette prototype was unveiled at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City at Motorama. But the car that we recognize today as synonymous with (relatively) accessible sportiness wasn’t as loved when it first appeared.

(Welcome to Today in History, the series where we dive into important historical events that have had a significant impact on the automotive or racing world. If you have something you’d like to see that falls on an upcoming weekend, let me know at eblackstock [at] jalopnik [dot] com.)

Harley Earl, head designer over at GM at the time, was convinced that a two-seater sports car was the way to go, and introducing a good one could make an impression in what was then a European-dominated market. People were curious, so Chevy had to make sure it filled its expectations.

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How the Corvette’s chassis evolved over more than 60 years – Mike McNessor @Hemmings


Yes, the Corvette is about style and horsepower. But the car’s handling is what set the stage for all of those ‘Vette versus Porsche 911 magazine covers over the years. No matter what vintage, the Corvette was built with an eye toward being the best-driving sports car for the buck that it could possibly be. So, let’s put aside the fiberglass, the engines, and everything else for just a moment and look at how the Corvette’s underpinnings have evolved over the years.

Generation 1: 1953-’62 If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll find plenty to like under the first-generation Corvette. The chassis is an adaptation of Chevrolet’s 1949-’54 cars, but it soldiered on until the ’63 redesign—even after all other Chevrolet automobile front ends were updated in ’55. The earliest Corvettes bounced on front coil springs with upper and lower control arms bolstered by a stabilizer bar. While that was fairly cutting edge by prewar or immediate-postwar standards, it still used kingpins to mount the spindles, limiting the range of motion and also making accurate front end alignment tricky. Steering was accomplished by a worm-and-sector style box with a pitman arm attached to a drag link that connected to a third arm. The third arm then, in turn, moved the tie rods that turned the spindles. While the setup wasn’t complicated, it wasn’t as precise or smooth as you might expect from a sports car, even by 1950s standards. The first Corvettes also had the distinction of being the only ones equipped with a solid rear axle. The Corvette rear used a removable third member like Chevrolet passenger cars through 1964, and the housing was hung from longitudinal leaf springs with direct double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers. While not as exotic as an independent axle, it was a simple, durable, and infinitely rebuildable setup. The foundation for the original Corvette chassis was a sturdy perimeter frame with boxed rails and a massive X-member tying the two sides together. This was a common approach to eliminating chassis flex in an open-top car, but it added weight.

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Former GM Heritage Center Corvette Donated to Museum

In the late 80s, Chevrolet was not-so-secretly developing what some dubbed a ‘Super Vette.’ But at the 1989 New York Auto Show, it was the debut of the Dodge Viper RT/10, complete with a 488-cid V-10 engine that sent GM engineers on a new path to develop a ‘Viper-Killer.’ Dodge credited the ’65 Shelby 427 Cobra as the inspiration for the Viper, but the model wouldn’t be available until 1992.

By 1990, then Corvette Development Manager, John Heinricy, had three projects for his engineering team to tackle, which would affect future Corvettes:

1) Response to the Viper: The newest Corvette adversary would soon arrive, a car that was light weight, utilized simple technology, but wielded brutal power. Heinricy wanted to study ways to lighten their ZR-1, should Chevrolet need to “skin the snake.”

2) Drop the Pounds: New safety regulations added more weight to the Corvette, which in turn decreased fuel economy. With the gas-guzzler tax looming, GM faced reduced performance to make up the difference, and they couldn’t afford that either. Lightning the weight of the car would improve the speed and efficiency.

3) Ideas and Innovation: A new product would bring the team together and inspire new ideas from the development engineers.

With a common theme flowing between these ideas, it made sense to use the same car for development. A white non-saleable 1989 ZR-1, which had been used in Chevrolet’s 1990 model year media preview, was hand-picked (VIN 00081). It was one of only 84 production ZR-1s built in Bowling Green for evaluation, testing, media preview and photography. No 1989 ZR-1s were released for public sale initially, but several have since found their way into private hands.

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Was Chevy’s rear-engine XP-819 really a contender for the Corvette badge, or was it something else entirely – Jim Koscs @Hemmings


One word might best sum up the arrival of the 2020 Corvette, the first mid-engine model in the Chevy sports car’s nearly 70-year history: finally! Mid-engine Corvettes had been teased as engineering cars, prototypes and concepts for more than 50 of those years. If your car magazine collection stretches back to the late 1960s, you likely have issues promising “the next Corvette” as a mid-engine car. Since then, there have been six generations of front-engine Corvettes and, as social scientists could point out, two generations of humans.
The half-century lineage of mid-engine Corvette teasers was on display at this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in March. Nine of those cars were gathered in the same place for the first time ever, including Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle I (CERV I), CERV IIGS-II, CERV III, XP-819, XP-895, XP-987 rotary Corvette, the Aerovette and the Corvette Indy.
Among the group, and even among rotary-engine ‘Vettes, the Chevrolet Engineering XP-819 had long seemed to be an outlier due to its rear-mounted, not mid-mounted, V-8. The XP-819’s recently completed restoration by Corvette Repair in Valley Stream, New York, has confirmed, however, that this car was a critical link in the Corvette’s evolutionary chain. Even if testing proved the rear-engine location to be unworkable, the XP-819’s legacy could be found in other engineering, design and safety ideas applied in Corvettes stretching into the 1990s.
This important, intriguing engineering car would have disappeared for good but for the efforts of several passionate Corvette enthusiasts since the 1970s. The restoration itself could better be described as a heroic rescue-and-rebuild, such was the XP-819’s severe state of disrepair and deterioration. “Of all the cars we’ve ever done, this was the most difficult and the most challenging,” says Kevin Mackay, owner of Corvette Repair. The shop is renowned for restoring historic Corvette racecars and ultra-rare production models.

I Was There: How I got to be a part of the split-window Corvette design team @Hemmings


Joe Feko Junior Detailer
Chevrolet Engineering Center
In the fall of 1961, I was an engineering student at General Motors Institute (now Kettering University). The school offered a cooperative education program that had me alternating between classes in Flint, Michigan, and work assignments at the Chevrolet Engineering Center in Warren, Michigan.
At Chevrolet, I worked on the drawing boards as a junior detailer. Detailing is the final step in the process of creating engineering blueprints for the manufacture of parts and components for new vehicles. Vehicle design starts in the design studios and, in those days, when a concept was finalized, the entire vehicle was drawn on large metal plates called layouts. This contained all vehicle information including all parts and sub-assemblies. Detailers took information from layouts to create individual parts drawings.
As a junior detailer, I was usually assigned to relatively easy tasks such as making drawing revisions, minor drawing corrections, and various drawing updates. Experienced detailers worked closely with the engineers and handled the more difficult and complex parts. They often made design-improvement suggestions during the detailing process. Detailers made design refinements and added the information required to make a finished engineering document. Detailing also served as a review process where parts were examined for conformance to design and manufacturing standards.

From “Blackjack” to Stingray: The Inside Story of How the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Came to Be – Paul A. Eisenstein @TheDetroitBureau


The original prototype was a “clown suit” hiding the plan to bring out a mid-engine supercar.

Original Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov helped develop these concepts: (l-r) CERV I, CERV III and CERV II.

With the launch of the new, eighth-generation Corvette, Chevrolet finally gets what it – and many fans – have long wanted: a mid-engine design that can truly compete with some of the world’s best sports cars.

Mike Petrucci, the lead development engineer, stands alongside an early C8 “mule.”

It’s been a long time coming. Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette’s first chief engineer, began tinkering with the concept way back in 1960 with the CERV I concept vehicle. He described it as “a design without limit” and an “admirable tool,” contending that it showed GM “what to put in Corvette.”

Throughout the years, Arkus-Duntov and his successors would continue to tinker with the mid-engine concept, launching additional prototypes like CERV II and CERV III. But it would take until the middle of this past decade before senior management at General Motors finally gave the idea the go, according to Mike Petrucci, who served as lead development engineer on the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, or C8.

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