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My Quick Rant on Corvette Style from '53 - '67

by Steve Sego, WebCars! Art Director

After WWII when some of the returning GIs brought home single purpose lightweight sportscars like the MG TC, American appetites were whetted for fun and wind-in-the-hair, open air driving.

To their credit, Chevrolet stepped up to the plate and offered the public a sweet new treat, the Corvette. And true to its name, a highly maneuverable armed escort ship (that is smaller than a destroyer) it looked somewhat nautical, also resembling in style and name the Barchetta of Ferrari. The "rocket" tail lights gives the car a sense of speed, and reflects the design theme of the era which was jets. A very clean, smooth and uncluttered design it is.

In 1956 the design became even more flowing by the loss of the protruding tail lights and the "exhaust-through-the-bumper" feature in the '57 car was an inspired touch. The taillamps, which were sunk in chromed nacelles, were okay, but left a "notch" in an otherwise beautifully flowing fender. Also, a bit offensive to the lines of the car are the non-functioning airscoops. It is reminiscent of a design detail found on boats. Thankfully, both quirks were taken care of in 1958. Gone were the scoops, and the "notched" taillights were covered by bright red split lenses. However, GM couldn't leave well enough alone, they caved to the styling phenomenon of the era: "More Chrome". The spears of the trunk are superfluous, as are the raised welts on the previously clear hood. The twin headlight treatment was carried off well, maintaining the sleekness and integrity of the car.

Then came the 1959-60 editions. Pure style and elegance. These cars are my personal favorites of the entire Corvette legacy. I can't find, nor do I wish to look too hard for any anomalies. Eye candy at its best.

And then they chopped it up.

The curvaceous, sensual lines became harder, more macho on the 1961-62 cars. This Vette seems unfinished ... in transition ... which it actually was. No longer the 1950s icon, and not yet the Mako Shark inspired next generation ... the mid-year Vettes.

What a great platform the Mako Shark was. To springboard off of into the next generation of Corvettes. All too often the production version of a concept car falls short of expectations. Thankfully, this did not happen with the 63 split window coupe. Well integrated, innovative and bold. The SWC is near perfection style-wise. The American answer to the XKE. Both the coupes outshine their topless brethren. Safety considerations tolled the death knoll for the split window. After just one year of production, the unique and distinctive, gave way to commonplace and ordinary. Once again, art suffered at the hands of a committee.

The rest of the "mid-year-vettes" soldiered on through 1967, with the most beautiful examples being the cars that were kept "simple". The design / boondoggling that ran rampant with hood innovations of the big bore cars is a touchy subject with me. Most look like pasted on afterthoughts, not worthy of the beauty of the original design. (More on this in another article) In '63, they got it right on the SWC. From there, stylistically, not much more is uphill. An argument can be made for the forward slopping side vents, but we're talking minutia. In '67, after only four short years these beautiful cars were gone. . . to be replaced by a new weapon, the stiletto shape of the '68.

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


Comments (20)

Topic: Corvette Steves Rant
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