The Chevrolet Corvette is a legend that has endured for nearly sixty years, leaving an indelible mark on the very face of the American automotive landscape. Its timeless design and enduring mission as America’s premier two-seater sports car has captivated countless millions across the globe.
Every legend has to have a beginning. The Corvette’s legendary story starts with the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster, representing the first of a long line of Corvettes to be produced by General Motors’ principal automotive division. Starting out life as the EX-122 Concept of 1952, the 1953 Corvette stepped off the GM Motorama turntable and onto the tarmac. The 1953 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster’s exotic styling hewed closely to contemporary British roadsters, while the fiberglass construction was unlike anything used on American road vehicles at that time. Unlike the average British roadster, the Corvette was meant to cruise down the boulevards instead of carving along back roads.
While the outward appearance of the Corvette wowed critics, the underpinnings were surprisingly pedestrian for a car of its type. The Corvette used an independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms and coil springs. At the rear, the roadster employed a live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs. Stopping power came courtesy of four-wheel drum brakes. Under the hood, Chevy used a 3.9-liter “Blue Flame” straight six-cylinder engine producing 150 horsepower. Mated to a two-speed Powerglide transmission, it didn’t provide the most captivating performances, but that problem would be taken care of in subsequent years.
A total of 300 examples were produced for 1953 and all were built largely by hand. Every single Corvette produced that year bore Polo White exterior paint with red interiors and black canvas soft tops.
The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is considered an American icon. It symbolizes everything that is great about the automotive industry. The Bel Air has a distinguished look that is easily recognizable. Also, it had many features that made it more desirable over other models.
One of the changes that made the 57 Chevy Bel Air distinguishable from it predecessors was changing the wheels from a 15 inches to 14 inches. This dropped the body closer to the ground. In addition to lowering the body, the frame of the 57 Bel Air was made wider and longer than previous years models. Perhaps the two most distinguishing features of this classic are the rear fenders that were ribbed, and the anodized gold features.
Looking more at the details, the 1957 Chevrolet lacked nothing in terms of performance. Differing from other models, this car had no voltmeter or pressure gauge for oil. What the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air does have is an inline 6 cylinder engine. With 283 cubic inches and the addition of Ramjet fuel injection, the 1957 Chevy was close to racing performance when it left the showroom.
Offering owners a choice between 2 and 4 doors plus a choice of hardtop or convertible, the Bel Air was available as a sedan, coupe, or station wagon. This made the model appealing to single drivers and families alike. The car was all about luxury and comfort that would be affordable to the masses. The biggest competition that was experienced was from Ford Motor Company. This has been a long time rivalry, and although during 1956 – 1957 Ford won out in sales, it is the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air that is a classic and highly sought out vehicle.
In the late 1960s, the Camaro Z28 and SS were the go-to trims for top-shelf performance, or so most people thought. However, buried within GM’s Central Office Production Order catalog were all the ingredients needed to make a spicy road-going dish, the 1969 Camaro ZL1. With a monstrous engine derived from the legendary L88 Corvette and plenty of other enhancements, this Camaro encapsulated speed, power and thanks to its low production numbers, exclusivity.
On the outside, the Camaro ZL1, also known as COPO 9560, doesn’t look like much. In fact, it looks about as plain as any base Camaro of the time, despite using the SS 396 body as a starting point. There are no snazzy badges or special features that help it stand out, aside from the curiously large “power dome” on the hood. Inside, the ZL1 is equally Spartan; unlike the SS or Z28, its interior is devoid of any special trim.
The difference between the ZL1 and other Camaros lies underneath the hood. Under the “power dome” lurks a 427 cubic-inch “L88” eight-cylinder engine, conservatively rated at 430 horsepower yet capable of producing over 500 horsepower. Buyers could choose from several heavy-duty four-speed manual transmissions or a three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic, backed by a 4:10.1 positraction differential. Ordering the ZL1 through COPO meant getting around Chevrolet’s restrictions on offering engines larger than 400 cubic-inches.
The ZL1 was the brainchild of Chevy dealer Fred Gibb, who wanted a more powerful option for competition in NHRA drag racing. Gibb bought a mandatory minimum of 50 ZL1s, but the all-aluminum L88 represented a steep $4,160 premium, pushing the price of this powerful contender to an eye-watering $7,200. Nevertheless, 69 examples were built, with 50 being sold to Gibb’s dealership. Of those 50, Gibb managed to sell 13 while the remainder were bought back and resold at other Chevy dealerships.