The people at the GM Heritage Center were gracious enough to deliver four of the most iconic Corvette models to Jay Leno’s Garage for the television personality’s latest video, and even GM design chief Ed Welburn took some time off to explain the significance of each of the models.
In the almost 60 years since the first Corvette was built, the model has become an American icon, a halo car for Chevrolet and an aspirational, American-built sports car for generations of buyers.
The first Corvette featured is a white 1953 model built in the same year that the original Corvette concept was famously displayed at the GM Motorama in New York City. As we’ll see in this video, back when it was launched, the Corvette was hardly the halo model that it is today.
In fact, dealers didn’t know what to do with the early and primitive sports cars, which lacked such amenities as side view mirrors, side windows and even exterior door handles. Powered by an in-line six-cylinder engine that dated to 1929 and produced a meager 150 horsepower, the first Corvettes weren’t particularly fast, either.
As Welburn points out, less than a 1,000 examples were built.
The second Corvette featured is a 1958 Chevrolet Corvette finished in Regal Turquoise and owned by GM CEO Dan Akerson. It’s an update of the original 1953 model but gets a different body, recognizable by its scalloped sides and quad-headlight design.
Powering the car is a small-block V-8 rated at 245 horsepower, and if you’re interested in it Akerson is settling it for charity at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auctions in mid-January.
The third Corvette featured in this video is the original Corvette Stingray race car from 1959.
It was originally developed to test handling ease and performance, but was extensively used as a race car. It was penned by legendary GM designer Bill Mitchell, who often used it as a road car, and it was even driven by Elvis one time. It is one of Welburn’s favorites and the car he and his team helped restore once he started at his top design post.
The fourth and final Corvette in this video is the second-generation Corvette from 1963, which was the first production Stringray.
Whether or not you’re a Corvette fan, the video is well worth the watch.