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Corvette Sixty Years

Book Review

by Ryan King

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On June 30th, 1953 the Chevrolet Corvette went into production.

Sixty years later, after taking America and the world on a wild, sometimes bumpy ride, the Corvette is scheduled to release its seventh iteration, the C7, on June 30th, 2013.

Although the Corvette has been an ever-present benchmark in the world of performance cars for the last 60 years, that place hasn't always been assured. It has faced threats to its position – and even its very existence – from its inception through today. Starting with a public that wasn't sure how to view an American sports car, to unbelieving executives, as well as government regulation, and competition on and off the racetrack. The Plastic Fantastic that we know and love has had its share of challenges and Corvette Sixty Years takes a look at those challenges, the life and times of the four-wheel sexagenarian, and the people who made it all happen.

The following is a review of each chapter.

The Book

Introduction

What is the Corvette? That's what the introduction defines and in the process, sets the mood for the entire book. In a nutshell, it's a sports car – but it's also so much more.

Chapter 1: In the Beginning

The Corvette has always had an almost grassroots quality about it. The reason for that is the people behind it and the way they've taken personal interest in it.

Chapter 1 takes a close look at the development of the Corvette, the people responsible for it – including its creator, legendary designer Harley Earl, and its performance champion that transformed what was essentially a passionate design exercise into the fire-breathing legend it is today, engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov. This chapter also delves into its early trials and tribulations, and many aspects of the life of the first generation of America's Sports Car from 1953 to 1962.

Chapter 2: From Domination to Disco

Chapter 2 covers the story of the Corvette's rise to performance prominence in the '60s and early '70s, as well as its fall during the push for emission control that nearly ended the Corvette's run in the mid-to-late 1970s.

The coming of the second generation heralded the Corvette's maturation into its role as a performance icon. Driven by technological advances that propelled the Corvette to new legendary heights, it was able to take on the best the world had to offer and solidify its place not only in the performance scene of the day, but for the annals of history as well. The third generation saw the peak of its performance zenith during the '60s and very early '70s. However, as Chapter 2 details, internal corporate issues and external forces reduced the once dominant sports car to a shadow of it's former self.

Chapter 3: Reclaiming the Throne

In the early 1980s, the Corvette was relegated to the role of Plastic Pretender. Although it was still at the forefront of American performance, it was nothing like it was during the Golden Age of the Muscle Car Era. However, that didn't keep the performance fanatics at Chevrolet from dreaming, and when they finally got the chance to update the car with an entirely new design, they turned it into a modern marvel to rival the world's best with the introduction of the C4 – the fourth generation car. That car would, again, do America proud for another 13 years, until 1997 when another clean sheet design debuted as the C5.

The fifth generation of the Corvette proved to be more than just an impressive entry into the world of performance cars, it became a world dominating racing powerhouse, which is actually what lead to the C6 update.

Although the C6 doesn't appear much different than it's predecessor, the sixth generation car was such a significant update to the C5, that it was, indeed, a new car – or rather, a C5 refined and perfected with the purpose of continuing its racing dominance.

Chapter 4: Racing

While originally designed to be an impressively beautiful automobile by Harley Earl, the Corvette didn't really gain it's racing heritage until Zora Arkus-Duntov came on at GM and redefined it through the forging fires of competition. Since then, racing has been a part of its DNA, culminating in Le Mans domination starting with the C5, and continuing with the improved and refined C6.

Racing has improved the road-going versions of the Corvette along the way as well, because, as Duntov's successor as Chief Engineer for the Corvette, Dave McLellan said, "competitors only make you stronger." Some of those improvements that racing prompted in the C6 were a longer wheelbase, better aerodynamics, and improved powertrains. In fact, the reasons for many of the upgrades to the C6 Z06 road car are almost entirely traceable to the C5R.

Chapter 5: Community Action

It seems that whenever something is as loved as the Corvette, people with a passion for it find each other, and find a way to congregate. As noted in Chapter 5, the first Corvette club began in 1956, which was only three years after the car hit the automotive world and made a name for itself. Since then, the popularity of the Corvette has only grown, and with that popularity, car shows, other clubs, and more have popped up in support of this true American icon. People, and the impact the car has had on them, is the focus of this chapter and it covers everything from clubs and car shows, to purveyors of parts and the Corvette Museum.

Epilogue

The impact the Corvette has had on America and the world is undeniable, and the Epilogue takes a moment to ponder what is yet to come for the Corvette when the C7 model debuts, and what is in store for the future of America's prodigal "son."

Conclusion

I highly recommend Corvette Sixty Years to Corvette fanatics, history buffs, and automotive enthusiasts of all kinds. It is a fascinating look back through the Corvette's birth, growth, and maturation into a world-dominating racecar and a benchmark of sports car performance.

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For more information contact Motorbooks on the web at www.motorbooks.com, by phone 1.800.826.6600, or by email at customerservice@motorbooks.com.

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