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c. 1953 - 1983

America’s favorite sports car

It wasn't originally intended to be a production machine at all.

Ever driven an actual Corvette? Nope, not me. Dang. It might be time to reassess my life priorities. Because, frankly, it’s something we all ought to do at least once.

In fact, the vehicle that would go on to be known as “America’s sports car” wasn’t originally intended to be a production machine at all. Introduced in 1953 at the GM Motorama, reception to the lethal-looking styling was so positive that General Motors and Chevrolet commissioned its development for the market — and never looked back.

Within five years, the Corvette had become worthy of celebration in song, a tribute that would continue across the decades. This first musical commemoration was called, er, “Corvette” and was sung by, er, The Corvettes. Clearly men of few words, it is entirely possible that the band may have opened up a Chevy sales brochure, stabbed it with a quill and called it a day:

“It’s got a stick shift, quad cam, dual quads, ‘n’ supercharger,
stick shift, quad cam, dual quads, ‘n’ supercharger,
stick shift, quad cam, dual quads, ‘n’ supercharger, Ooooo.”

Quite.

Next generation

Cometh the 1960s, cometh a new Corvette. In 1961, we got a total redesign and the second C2 generation — aka the Stingray. (An aside: ever thought the Corvette looks like a shark? It does indeed. Styling director Bill Mitchel based the shape on a mako shark he himself caught.)

Popular culture continued to sit right behind the Corvette wheel. The car was the metal star of the TV show Route 66. Then, in 1963, Chevrolet hit the Americana motherlode when the Beach Boys immortalized the car in “Shut Down”:

My fuel injected Stingray’s really startin’ to go,
To get the traction I’m ridin’ the clutch,
My pressure plate’s burnin’ that machine’s too much.”

The year 1963 also saw the arrival, and then immediate departure, of the split rear window. The look was terrific; the visibility was terrible. Five years later, the car completely reinvented itself again with the muscle car looks of the third generation C3.

The fifties, sixties and seventies Corvettes managed the seemingly impossible feat of being completely different from one another while still being extraordinary and still being Corvette-cool. But when the car changed again, as with so much of 1980s design, it lost its edge — figuratively and, with its soft curves, quite literally.

But one more musical tribute was to be paid, perhaps the most famous of all, from the much-missed Prince:

“Little red Corvette,
Baby you’re much too fast.
Little red Corvette,
You need a love that’s gonna last.”

1950s
A rally of car enthusiasts in New York all driving 1950’s Corvette Convertible Stingrays made by Chevrolet.
Keystone / Getty Images
1960s
Sun, sea, surfboard, shark
Photo Media / ClassicStock / Getty Images
1962
Three promotional studio images of a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible automobile.
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
1960s
A stock photograph of a (very generous and trusting) father handing his teenage son the keys to a Corvette Stingray
H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock / Getty Images
1964
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible
National Motor Museum / Heritage Images / Getty Images
1966
Customized Flip-Front Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Bud Lang / The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images
1967
A 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
National Motor Museum / Heritage Images / Getty Images
1969
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray in a field
National Motor Museum / Heritage Images / Getty Images
1969
Smokey Drolet (Left) and Vince Giamondo (Right) co-drove this Chevrolet Corvette Stingray with John Tremblay and John Belperche in the 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway.
ISC Archives Photo / Getty Images
1969
The crew of Apollo 12 on a trio of Chevrolet Corvette Stingrays, Cocoa Beach, Florida
Ralph Morse / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1971
At the AHRA Grand American Drag Race, Don Cook drives a Chevrolet Corvette.
Mike Brenner / The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images / Getty Images
1975
Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry poses for a portrait with his Corvette Stingray
Ron Pownall / Corbis via Getty Images

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