Corvette: Year by Year1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965
1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978
1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Something different began to appear on American roads: sports cars. GIs that served in Europe discovered a real affection for MGs and many other small two seaters and brought them home with them. All sorts of sports car events, from rallies to hard core races, showed a sudden burst of popularity.
The lead instigator in the birth of the Corvette was Harley Earl, the head of GM's Art and Color studio. He was a sports car aficionado, and an admirer of the Jaguar XK-120.
As the technology advanced, more modern composite materials were used and fiberglass, as used in the first Corvettes, was phased out.
Corvette started life in fiberglass form mostly out of necessity. Only 300 were made in the first production model year and fiberglass is well suited to low volume production since creating the tooling to stamp out steel panels is expensive. Labor and supply problems with steel also contributed to the decision to build a fiberglass body for the Corvette. Years later Corvette production would climb to numbers that favored steel production which was more efficient as steel bodies did not need time to cure inside of molds. Tradition, always an important factor in the Corvette story, dictated that the distinctive fiberglass body material would remain in use.
The use of fiberglass as a body material brings up another sometimes controversial Corvette subject: build quality. Through the years it has varied, being poor in the beginning and improving as customers demanded better paint jobs and fit / finish. Early Corvettes had large panel fit problems; you can even see this in the photographs, so up close and in person they are very obvious. Another problem is panel waviness. This can present a dilemma to anyone who is restoring a Corvette. Do you keep the panel as it was delivered from the factory or should it be smoothed out?
Fiberglass played another roll in the Corvette story. Certain shapes and styling themes can favor steel or fiberglass body construction; it is part of the nature of the characteristics of both materials. This explains the many distinctive styling advantages the Corvette has enjoyed over the years.