WebCars! The Corvette Story

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Corvette Manual Transmission

Corvette Leaps into the Performance Future

1955 Corvette C1 in Gypsy Red - Three speed
1953 Corvette three speed manual transmission A few late production Corvettes, approximately 75, were equipped with a three speed floor mounted manual transmission. The remaining performance element - a four speed transmission - would have to wait for another time.
1955 Chevrolet Corvette fender emblem
Above: 1955 V8 equipped Corvettes can be identified by the gold "V" in the "Chevrolet" side marking.
1955 Chevrolet Corvette C1 in Corvette Copper
Above: 1955 Corvette in "Corvette Copper", one of only 15. Other colors included Pennant Blue (45), Gypsy Red (180) and Harvest Gold (120). Almost half of the 700 unit production (325) was Polo White. Photo courtesy of Corvette Fever Magazine.

Below: Official GM press photo of the 1955 Corvette.

1955 Chevrolet Corvette C1 press photo

Corvette Competition:

Ford Thunderbird

Classic Ford Thunderbird

Thank You, Mr. Ford

With such a disastrous beginning, how did the Corvette survive? After three model years, it did not look good. Chevrolet had a new plant capable of producing 10,000 Corvettes a year, yet only sold 700 in 1955. Customers did not seem interested and dealers, many of whom lost money on 1954 models, less so. Under most circumstances, a car company would just cut their losses.

We still have the Corvette over 60 years later because Ed Cole, the GM executive who believed passionately in the car and Zora Arkos-Duntov, the engineer who would later be instrumental in the direction of the Corvette. There was also the 1955 Ford Thunderbird.

Ford and Chevrolet fans do not normally get along. But this is one instance where Chevrolet followers should be offering to purchase their Ford counterparts a beverage of their choice. In 1955 Ford introduced the two seater Thunderbird which was classified as a "personal luxury car". Ford did not make the same mistakes Chevrolet did with the Corvette and equipped it so that it would have a market. It succeeded, which presented a dilemma for Chevrolet: should they abandon the Corvette, it would appear that they had lost in the two seat category. Corporate egos are powerful things and a new Corvette would be available in 1956.

What happened next is well known. The Thunderbird would cease as a two seater in 1958 and then go in a confused direction, gaining weight and losing performance along the way. It would disappear from the lineup and then reappear as a clone of its old self in 2002, only to disappear again after four model years. The Corvette, despite shaky beginnings, would find its groove, survive and prosper for many more years.

1955 Chevrolet Corvette C1 at Barret-Jackson Auction
1955 Chevrolet Corvette at Barrett Jackson auction, October 2008. Hammer price was $102,000.
1955 Chevrolet Corvette C1 at Barret-Jackson Auction

Note: Clicking on an image with this symbol (Boxes) will lead to a larger image.


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Corvette Spotter for the iPhone-txt
Introducing the Vette Spotter app for the iPhone.


The Vette Spotter app can identify the year of any Corvette.


All years and generations are covered, from 1953 to 2014. Over 350 photographs and detailed text are included.

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