The First Corvette: 1953 Debuted the Iconic Car

1953 Corvette
The first Corvette was a true boulevard cruiser, without much power and with no color selection - it seemed a nice car for movie starlets. Photo courtesy of RM Auctions

The first Corvette ever produced rolled off the assembly line on June 30, 1953, as a 1953 model year car. It was an experiment for Chevrolet and it immediately caught the public's eye yet it had some drawbacks. 

The 1953 Corvette has a distinct style that has served as the foundation for all Corvettes to follow. It will only be found in Polo White and its signature red interior is unforgettable. Yet, you will not find many on the road or at auction because only 300 were produced.

GM's innovative design led to a success that few of the original designers and engineers probably hoped for. This icon of the car world is prized by those who own it. If you don't get a chance to purchase a car from this year, the Corvettes of 1954 and 1955 remained very similar.

The Story of the First Corvette

The prototype EX-122 Corvette was unveiled at the GM Motorama show in New York on January 17, 1953. Production began in the old truck factory in Flint, Michigan six months later.

The 1953 Corvette was Chevrolet's first foray into modern sports cars, and it was not well-received. Just 300 Corvettes were made in that first model year, of which about 225 remain in existence today.

All 1953 Corvettes were painted Polo White, with a black convertible top and a Sportsman Red interior. The only options available in this year were a signal-seeking AM radio and a heater. Oddly enough, both 'options' were included on every 1953 Corvette.

This two-door roadster had a fiberglass body, which made for unique placement of the radio antenna. Unlike the conventional steel bodies of the time, the antenna was able to be placed discreetly in the lid of the trunk.

The Corvette was not changed for the 1954 model year, though the car could be ordered in blue, red, or black in addition to Polo White.

 

The 1953 Corvette's Engine

The 1953 Corvette came with a 150 horsepower "Blue Flame" inline six-cylinder engine fed by three single-throat Carter carburetors. The only available transmission in 1953 was the two-speed Powerglide unit.

While the Corvette itself turned heads, the engine left a bit to be desired, especially when it first sold. It would travel from zero to 60 in about 18 seconds on the 1/4 mile. Early GM brochures touted that the car had "been clocked at more than 100 MPH at the GM proving ground."

Drivers in the 50s wanted as much horsepower as they could get, so the 150HP, two-speed engine was a deterrent for many. The engine remained for the 1954 production year and in 1955, a V8 option and a 3-speed manual transmission were available in the same body. This is when the Corvette really began to make a name for itself.

The Value of the 1953 Corvette

Due to the low production, you will be hard-pressed to find a 1953 Corvette come up for sale. Buyers who get their hands on one tend to keep it around and the car history is often well documented, showing just one or two owners in its lifetime.

An excellent condition 1953 Corvette sells today for $125,000 to $275,000. These rare sports cars have maintained their value and remained relatively steady over the years.