- Hero image all all other pictures from: Hemmings Motor News. Text, art and errors by: Chris Breeden

Corvette spotting guide: C1

Some easy to notice differences in the first generation Corvette

Introduced in 1953, the fiberglass phenomenon known as the Corvette would revolutionize the US sports car market. If you wanted sleek styling in the US prior to the Corvette you really only had two options. Buy an expensive European sports car or look in the back of Popular Mechanics magazine and order a kit car. If you didn't have enough cash, then the Euro cars weren't an option and if you had no mechanical ability, the kit cars were no option either. The Corvette was for a very niche market.

Strap in and we'll wade through the early years of this beautiful car. Like always, I'll stick to the easiest to notice differences, those things that can tell you what your looking at if you happen to drive past one. As a result of that, we will not be getting into detail about engine displacement differences or door handle differences. If there is no way to tell the difference between years on the outside of the car then we will put those years together in our descriptions.

Let's do this!

1953, 1954 AND 1955:

Above: 1st and 2nd pictures: A white 1953. 3rd and 4th pictures: A white 1954. 5th picture: a blue 1955. 6th picture: a red 1955.

With only a combined production run of 4,640 models from '53 to '55, the odds of coming across one of these in the wild is pretty slim. It's important to note that the only color available in 1953 was Polo white. The distinctive oval shaped front grill and round tail lights are clear indications you are seeing a first batch C1.

1956 AND 1957:

Above: 1st and 2nd pictures: A blue 1956. 3rd and 4th pictures: A red 1957.

The first redesign for the Corvette came in 1956. Up front the grill got larger, the sides featured inset scallops and the taillights were smooth with the tops of the rear fenders. Chevrolets OHV V8 debuted in 1955 and by the '56 model year was standard equipment.

1958, 1959 AND 1960:

Above: 1st and 2nd pictures: are both 1958s. 3rd and 4th pictures: a 1959. 5th and 6th pictures: are both 1960s.

The third Corvette redesign was introduced in 1958. Every car made by GM in 1958 would have quad headlights and the Corvette would be no different. Also, the grill and the front bumpers would get a one piece look and smaller openings under the headlights would appear.

1961 AND 1962:

Above: 1st and 2nd pictures: A 1961 model. 3rd and 4th pictures: a 1962 model.

The fourth and final update would come in 1961. It would see the Corvette loose the grill teeth in favor of a more contemporary grid type grill. The most noticeable alteration would happen at the rear of the car. The rear would become more wedge shaped and would now sport 4 round tail lights in a rear valance panel.

Photo from: restomods.com

Photo from: restomods.com

While sales started out slow for the Corvette, engineers like Zora Duntov never gave up on the little car. Always making it faster, lighter and better mechanically, the Corvette would go on to become one the greatest cars ever produced by a US automaker.

Keep on Cruisin'!

Art by: Chris Breeden

Art by: Chris Breeden

About the Author:

"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."


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Comments (8)

  • Yes there were some drawbacks and yes it is a primitive car by today's standards, but I still believe that the '63 split-window Stingray Z-06 is the purest of all Stingray designs.

      1 year ago
    • The '63 was a very pure design.

        1 year ago
    • And you throw in all that ruckus under the hood from that 360hp 327 overhead valve pushrod V8 and the whine of that 4-speed going through the gears, all topped off with that mechanical screaming exhaust note ... it always blows me away to just...

      Read more
        1 year ago
  • I love the 57 and 58 C1s. They are retro and just amazing. And then there’s the C8

      1 year ago
  • I love the Corvettes from the 50's and 60's 😍...We won't talk about the 70's and 80's of course that was a dark time in the automotive world with only a few exceptions 😖😝. They are back on track as the coolest American car, and with theC6, C7 and C8 models; they are the best value for the money worldwide and really without compromise🖒. Some may argue the finish and interior of Porsche, Ferrari ect. are better. This may be true, but no average person can drop $200k+ on a car to get to this level of performance. 😁

      1 year ago
  • 53 and 54 were terrible, the Corvette as a sports car started in 55

      1 year ago