30 June 2011

1960 Corvette


1960 was a banner year for car history. The Big Three all introduced their new designs which , except for Chevrolet's, would define , more or less, Americaan cars for the next three decades, I'll examine the Ford Falcon, Chrysler Valiant and the less lasting Corvair in future sessions.

One thing that Chevy did have that lasted was the Corvette. Already 7 years old, the C1 design would have a few more years to go, and the '60 model was close to the pinnacle of that design.

When the Chevrolet Corvette debuted in mid-1953, no one could have imagined that this quirky plastic-bodied car would still be selling almost 60 years later. As of 2010, there have been seven generations of Corvette:

C1= 1953-1962

C2= 1963-1967

C3= 1968-1982

C4= 1984-1996

C5= 1997-2004

C7= 2005-

The 53-55 Corvettes had a different body and is really a quite different car than the later C1s. We'll look at the earlier ones later.

By '60 the Corvette was preety much locked into the title as Americ'a's Sports Car. Ford had attempted to compete with their Thunderbird, but by the end of the 50s they'd thrown in the towel and turned it into a "Personal Luxuary Car", which was successful in its own right and had many imitators. To be fair, the T-bird was probably much more of a success and asset to Ford than the Corvette has ever been to GM.

So in 1960, 4 or 5 years before the advent of muscle cars, if you wanted a domestic sports car, you got a Corvette.

You could go from zero to sixty in under 9 seconds, not impressive by today's standards but not bad for a street auto 50 years ago.

But this blog isn't so much about performance and nuts & bolts as it is about style and automotive culture.

Here's a page from the 60 Corvette brochure.

By 1960 the lines of the Corvette were less clutter by chrome geegaws which had reached their height with the '58 model. Like all Corvettes, it offered a passnger compartment grudgingly, a tight cockpit with a useful passenger grab bar. Trunk space was limited, but then this wasn't intended as a family truckster. In the fall of '60 an iconic TV show premired, "Route 66" which featured 2 guys travelling 'cross country from adventure to adventure in a blue Corvette. Of course, it would have been more practacal and comfortable had they taken a station wagon, but it just wouldn't have had the same flair.

And flair really has been a Corvette trademark for six decades now. They are fast as hell, but really, when do you ever use that performance on the street? They're uncomfortable and hard to get into unless you're an agile athelete. They are sky high in price and insurance premiums. But hell, we still love 'em and at least for me, they're still the true American Sports Cars.

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