Corvette Day at Petersen Automotive Museum
From the past to the future… Corvettes were everywhere
It was in 1953 that the world got its first glimpse of the Corvette. On the 17th of January, at the New York Motorama, the two-seat convertible was unveiled. Less than six months later, on the 30th of June, the first Corvettes came off the assembly line.
Since its introduction the Corvette’s front-engine, rear-wheel-drive formula has remained but its modus operandi in the market place has changed a bit. During those six decades it morphed through six distinct generations with its seventh iteration, referred to as C7, only months away from consumer’s hands.
One of only two major celebrations marking the anniversary was Corvette Day at Petersen Automotive Museum, in Los Angeles. It took place last weekend and doubled as the venue for the 2014 seventh-generation Corvette’s West Coast debut. As you may have figured out by now, I was fortunate enough to be there.
All that and a new contact, too
This is pretty much a photo-intensive post but I’d first like to say a few things. First, the show had several components to it, there was the C7, a collection of unique historic Corvettes, and a gathering of myriad Corvettes of all ages.
The gathering, which looked to be at least 100 strong, took place in the museum’s parking structure (visitor parking was moved to a nearby building). Unfortunately I was so mesmerized by what was inside the museum, by the time I emerged, most of the car’s on display outdoor had called it a day. No matter, what I saw was awesome.
The museum had dozens of other vehicles on display, such as Ford’s 1979 Probe I concept (indicated left) and Oldsmobile’s 1992 Aerotech concept, but I’m going to hold off sharing those here. In this post, I want to focus on the incredible vehicles that Petersen managed to convene for Corvette’s two-day celebratory event.
Among them were three historically-significant non production vehicles and at least one pristine example of every generation Corvette, topped off with the C7.
Below, I’ve arranged the pictures from oldest model to newest, accompanied by a brief description; click on the pictures to see the larger version. I must apologize about the quality of some of the pictures, specifically and unfortunately the C7. There was an automatic movement detection feature turned-on on my camera and all of the hustle and bustle around the C7 had the tiny processor working overtime applying digital compensation that degraded the quality. Complicating matters, Petersen does not allow the use of tripods. The result is a grainy effect in some shots. Live and learn, I say.
Oh yeah, my new contact. Standing near the C7 was a representative from Chevy. He was interacting with onlookers and, no doubt, taking in people’s reactions to the new cherry on top of Chevy’s sundae. I eventually approached him and began to chat. After mentioning what I do, he pulled out a card and told me to feel free to contact him. Later, when I took a closer look at the card, I saw I had been talking with Chevy’s Future Product Policy and Communications Manager.
1953 Chevrolet Corvette EX-122 Motorama Prototype
This prototype was parked next to a 2013 Anniversary edition Corvette convertible. Both cars were eye candy but I couldn’t help but be humbled by standing so close to the actual Motorama prototype from 1953. Here’s the text from the accompanying plaque:
General Motors introduced their new compact car, the Corvette, at the 1953 Motorama in New York City. Built in the Experimental Department of Chevrolet Engineering, the fiberglass sports car featured a six-cylinder engine with three Carter side-draft carburetors and a special high-capacity powerglide transmission.
After a tour around the country, the Corvette was sent back to the Experimental Department and used as a test car. Following an engine swap, replacing the six-cylinder with a V8, and rigorous 25,000 mile durability test, the Corvette was torn down and inspected for production analysis. It was then reassembled, painted red and put up for sale.
As the third private owner, Kerbeck Chevrolet purchased the Corvette in 2002 and restored it to its original Motorama appearance.
The 1953 production version went on to look nearly identical to this prototype. Most changes were nuanced. An interesting little alteration was that the ray gun-shaped logos on the front fenders were essentially flipped upside down on the production car.
Of all the cars I photographed that day, this one was the most photogenic. It almost seemed to be posing for me.
1956 Chevrolet Corvette
Just another pretty face. This single headlamp front end certainly looks less aggressive than the subsequent quad-light setup but has a classic simplicity to it. A great follow-up to the original.
The plaque for this one gave a little background on the car’s owner:
Four months after receiving [a] 1956 Corvette as a graduation gift from his parent, Lawrence Wheat’s car was stolen from in front of his house. The Corvette was taken on a 90 mile per hour police chase and smashed into a retaining wall before being recovered and returned.
Wheat sold the Corvette after serving two years in the Navy and entering college, but went in search of it many years later. Unable to locate the exact car, Wheat found a similarly equipped 1956 Corvette powered by a 210-horsepower V8.
For the 1956 model, Chevrolet made vast revisions and improvements to the Corvette, including front and rear re-styling and the addition of body side coves, roll-up glass windows and exterior door handles.
Continue to page 2, below.