Timeline: 7/31/81 – Last Corvette built in St. Louis rolls off assembly line.
After 27 years, 7 months and 3 days of building Corvettes, the final Corvette rolled off the St. Louis assembly line. The plant was a throwback to the days before Alfred P. Sloan and started building cars in 1920. Photos of the St. Louis factory can be seen online and in Mike Mueller’s book, “The Corvette Factories,” and can be most kindly described as “old school.”
The St. Louis plant was scheduled for renovation in the late ‘70s but to do so the facility would have to be closed for a year, so it was decided to relocate the Corvette assembly to Bowling Green. With the C4 in full development it all worked out for the best.
Quality Control on Corvettes had long been an issue, so the move to Bowling Green was a fresh start. The Last St. Louis Corvette was mighty plain; Beige exterior with Camel interior and an automatic. But it did have the optional removable glass roof panels and aluminum wheels. The only thing marking the car as “special” is a plate on the inside of the right front fender that says, “The Last St. Louis Corvette.”
The car has been sold twice along with the first Bowling Green Corvette as “book-ends” at the Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas Auction for charity in 2010 for $300,000 and again in 2011 at the Scottsdale event for $50,000. When sold in 2011 the car had 4 miles on the odometer! – Scott
Corvette Odd-Ball: Was the 1938 Adler Trumpf Rennlimousine the Genesis of the Iconic Sting Ray’s Roof?
Was Corvette Designer Larry Shinoda Inspired by an Old German Pre-WW II Racecar?
The lineage runs like this. In 1957 Chevrolet’s new general manager, Ed Cole (the engineer credited with the design of the small-block Chevy engine – the greatest, longest-in-production engine in Detroit history) decided that by 1960 ALL General Motors cars would use a transaxle to improve weight distribution, handling, and to open up interiors for more space. It was call the “Q-Chevrolets” and yes, there was to even be a Q-Corvette.
Young designer Peter Brock came up with a concept sketch that delighted styling chief, Bill Mitchell. A scale model, then a full-size clay model were created for review. One glance at the Q-Corvette and there’s no denial – it’s a prehistoric Sting Ray. Unfortunately for the Q-Corvette, the entire Q-Chevrolet collapsed on the weight of the tooling cost of the transaxles, so Peter Brock and Bob Veryzer’s Q-Corvette was dead in the water. But not for long… Continue reading
Here’s What Corvettes Mean To People
The other day Joe Pruitt, the Event Coordinator/Owner of the National Corvette Homecoming event contacted me to tell me about their new event video by Efran Films that covered the National Corvette Homecoming 2014 event. This is a very touching video that captures what Corvettes mean to people. As we know, they’re not just “car” they’re something else. Actually, the people in the video say it perfectly. This video has heart! Enjoy! – Scott
1954 Corvair Motorama Show Car 1/25 scale model benefits the “Chip Miller Charitable Foundation” at ’14 Corvettes At Carlisle
By guest columnist, Don Theune (Slide Show at bottom)
Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Corvette, “Scale Visions” has created two of the 1954 Motorama show cars – the Corvette-based “Corvair” and “Nomad.” One of which (1954 Corvette Corvair) shall be donated to raise funds & awareness for the “Chip Miller Charitable Foundation.” Scale Visions has been donating significant works of Automotive Art to the Corvettes at Carlisle charitable auctions since it began in 1996, and as help raise tens of $1,000’s for the various causes
The Corvette-based Corvair, Nomad & Corvette Hard Top were concept cars built by Chevrolet and introduced at the 1954 General Motors Motorama in New York City. The experimental concept 1954 Corvette Corvair (the name combined Corvette & BelAir into “Corvair”) Nomad, and Hard Top, unfortunately never made it into production.
Scale Visions has been creating the “Perfect gift, for the person who has everything!” (Exact Model Replicas of Your Corvette) for more than 23 years. They have been an institution at Corvettes at Carlisle for many of those years. The “works of Automotive Art” are so realistic and life like, it is hard to discern the difference between photos of the original 1/1 Corvette and its 1/25 scale counterpart.
In May 2013 Don Theune was a guest on my radio program, Far Out Radio. Enjoy the program. – Scott Continue reading
A look back 60 years ago to how the first Corvette came to be.
I call the Corvette the “The American Automotive Horatio Alger Story.” It’s the ultimate automotive rags-to-riches story. You could also call it an automotive Cinderella story. While the C6 has taken more flack than it deserves, it’s good to look back to the very beginning to get a really clear picture of how far the Corvette has come in 60 years.
Since we’re rolling into the C6’s final year and looking forward to the new 7th generation Vette, the next several installments of my VETTE Magazine monthly column looks back at the “first” of each generation Corvette. So, let’s go back to the beginning. – Scott
In September 1951, GM’s chief of design, Harley Earl took his Le Sabre dream car to Watkins Glen for a little GM-style show’n tell. Earl was impressed with the “sports cars” he saw there and went back to work with a new car concept for General Motors – an American sports car.
Post WW II saw the birth of plastics and glass-reinforced plastic, or “fiberglass” and Earl saw a new way to build prototypes and production cars. In February ‘52, Life Magazine presented the new space age material in a story titled “Plastic Bodies For Autos.” By March, GM was reviewing the Alembic I, a fiberglass bodied Jeep. Impressed with the new material, Earl decided to start moving on his sports car idea. Engineer Robert McLean designed a chassis layout and by April a full-size plaster model was shown to GM’s management. The following month, Ed Cole was promoted to Chief of Engineering for Chevrolet and was onboard with Earl’s project. Earl pitched his concept to GM’s president, Charles Wilson and Chevrolet general manager, Thomas Keating in June and got the approval to build a functional prototype for the GM Motorama in January 1953. The car’s working name was… “the Opel Sports Car.” Continue reading
Hot rodder Shinoda teams up with Bill Mitchell and defined the “Corvette look.”
Perhaps it was “in the stars” that Larry Shinoda was in the right place at the right time. If you strictly look at Shinoda’s resume in 1956, you might ask, “How did this guy get in the front door?” As a young man, the only thing Larry ever graduated from was high school, Army boot camp, and the School of Hard Knocks. Twelve-year-old Larry had his life turned inside out when along with thousands of Japanese-Americans, he and his family were sent to interment camps for the duration of WW II. The experience had a profound effect on his personality. A self-professed “malcontent” Shinoda could be a little difficult to work with.
After his Army tour of duty in Korea, Shinoda attended Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, but truly hated being there. He could see no purpose in taking the classes in design and the various art mediums, such as watercolor painting. He was a car guy/hot rodder and he wanted to draw and design cars! So he left Art Center without graduating and based strictly on his car illustrations, landed a job at Ford, then Studebaker/Packard. Just a year after starting his career, he landed a job as a designer at General Motors.
The rest is the stuff of legend. Street racing and blowing the doors off of Bill Mitchell’s souped up Buick and quickly being taken under Mitchell’s wing. Things like that happens, but rarely. There was obviously some chemistry between the two men, perhaps it was because both men could be brash and had strong opinions.
Shinoda got his first big break when Mitchell tapped the 28-year-old to translate the body design of the ‘57 Q-Corvette on to the mule chassis from Duntov’s aborted Corvette SS project. The finished car became Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer, which formed the styling theme for the ‘63 Corvette. From there, Shinoda got one peach project after another. It’s worth noting that the design of the Stingray Racer is held in such high esteem that current Corvette chief designer, Tom Peters (C6 Corvette and late model Camaro designer) is on record stating that his ‘09 Corvette Stingray Concept (aka Transformers Corvette) was influenced by the ‘59 Stingray. Continue reading
The 1954 “Could-Have-Been” Motorama Dream Corvettes
Back in ‘09 when General Motors was getting more negative publicity than they ever dreamed, I received a few emails from car pals with images of the 1954 Motorama Corvette variants – the Pontiac Bonneville, the Olds F-88, and the Buick Wildcat II. The gist of the emails was this, “Look at how GM screwed up! The 6-banger Corvette “could have been” a powerful V8, classic ‘50s beauty.” Bla, bla, bla.
While it is true that the above mentioned cars were beauties, there’s no way they would have made it into production. The ‘53 and ‘54 Corvette already had Cadillac prices. The Pontiac, Buick, and Olds versions would have cost even more. But it was an interesting look back, as it turned out that the ‘54 Motorama had numerous delicious concept cars.
In my Illustrated Corvette Series No. 178, I covered the “Chevy/Corvette” concept cars, the Corvette Coupe, the Corvair Fastback, and the Nomad. (The Pontiac, Olds, and Buick concept cars were covered in a later column) Keeping in mind that “concept cars” are three dimensional canvases for designers to try out new ideas, it’s always fun to look back to see what ideas made it into production and where they were used.
Cigar salesman, to Wall Street tycoon, to bowling alley manager?
The name “William Crapo Durant” has been making somewhat of a comeback as of late, thanks to the 100th anniversary celebration of Chevrolet. Durant came of age as a young man in early days of the American Industrial Revolution. It was the time of the railroad robber barons, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Standard Oil, George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison, and others. Electricity and electric light was utterly fantastic to people, and men were building motorized carriages to replace horse drawn transportation. It was an amazing time lead by tough and ruthless businessmen.
Born in 1861 in Boston, Massachusetts, William started his working career as a cigar salesman. He obviously had a keen mind for business and started his first company in 1886 at the age of 25, building horse carriages. Starting with $2,000, the Flint Road Cart Company quickly became a $2 million dollar business with sales from around the world. Companies came, merged, and were gone quickly throughout Durant’s career. By 1890 his Durant-Dort Carriage Company was the number one carriage company in the world!
An interesting side note about Durant is that he was a horse and carriage man first. The earliest horseless carriages were very dangerous and Durant did not like them. So much so that he wouldn’t let his daughter ride in one! By 1900 there was a significant public outcry against the new fangled dangerous buggies. There were no rules of the road, most roads were rutty, dirt horse paths not at all capable of withstanding machines with speeds double and more of that of horses. Durant saw a problem and offered a solution – build safer cars.
Starting with a local car company called Buick, William entered a Buick automobile in a New York auto show in 1904 (yes, they had car shows a hundred years ago!) and came home with orders for 1,108 Buicks. At that point, Buick had only built 37 cars! From 1904 forward, William Durant would become one of a handful of movers and shakers in the new fledgling automobile industry.
Here’s a list of the car companies that passed through Durant’s hands: Continue reading