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Chevrolet Corvette C1: The Origin

“This car is pure style. Listen to how it sounds, ”says Martín Durruty as he steps on the gas and turns up the revs of the 1959 Corvette, which he just imported from the United States. It’s 5:00 p.m. on a Friday in Manquehue Norte, most of them are hurrying back home, but not a few stop when they hear the roars of this sixty-year-old who is the genesis of the only American sports car that is still standing.

As with the great cars of the industry, the origin of the Corvette obeys a historical context. It emerged as an idea in the early 1950s within General Motors, at a time when American troops returned victorious from Europe and the country had become the financier of the Old World. There was triumphalism in society. Rock and Roll was born and everything revolved around the culture of fun.

“People realized that there were sports cars in Europe,” Durruty explains. The motor industry took the glove and GM appointed designer Bill Mitchell, whose pen was captured in more than 70 million vehicles driving on the streets. “The middle-class person bought a Pontiac or a Buick, the one with Lucas went for an Oldsmobile, and the one with Lucas seriously, a Cadillac. Chevy it belonged to the workers. Mitchell says, ‘You know? We are going to do a sports car, because I want to attract the youth, ‘”says this importer.

» El “ruso” vs. Mitchell

The Corvette was not an instant hit. It was presented in June 1953 at the Motorama fair in New York, and although it caused attraction, it did not translate into sales. “The car was ondero, but the only engine that Chevrolet had was a six-cylinder, to which Mitchell associated an automatic transmission to do it. high tech, but in the end that only ended up detracting from sportsmanship ”.

But things would change. Zora Arkus-Duntov, who later became known as the “Father of the Corvette”, came to Motorama as a spectator, and who was amazed by the car’s imprint. This Belgian of Jewish-Russian parents – and who had been a car driver in Europe and an aviator in the French Air Force – wrote to Ed Cole, head of Chevrolet, because he wanted to work on the Corvette project.

He was accepted out of the blue and from the beginning it marked his style. “He wanted to make a sports car like the ones he knew, and for that he wanted to improve the power, the brakes and the handling. It was unthinkable for Arkus that the Corvette had drum brakes and rigid rear axle suspension, ”adds Durruty.

At the same time, in 1955 Ford successfully launched the two-seater Thunderbird, focused on luxury, which is why in Chevrolet the logic of going for sportsmanship prevailed. In the mid-1950s, the Corvette V8, powered by two four-port carburettors, a special camshaft, double exhaust outlets and a three-speed manual gearbox, debuted. A year later it added a four-speed transmission and an injected engine. Another bombshell.

The Corvette’s mad rush to carry more and more additives ran as the car was gaining reputation. Of course, things were maintained that made Arkus-Duntov furious, who kept pushing to provide the Corvette with more technology.

Mitchell, for his part, believed that there was no commercial success without an attractive design. “‘-How are you going to put those chrome? This is a race car. ‘ ‘-Without chrome the car is not sold!’ ”, The businessman explains. It was the engineering logic versus marketing. Zora was about function over form and Bill was the opposite, ”explains this commercial engineer who is passionate about how the vision struggle produced this result. “Sight. Check this air vent, ”he says pointing behind the front wheel. “It is false. It is what I tell you. For Mitchell the important thing was not so much to be, but to appear. The car had to be seen cool. The gringo likes that and the rooster died with that one ”.

Durruty talks and reviews. Sometimes he is interrupted by people who congratulate him believing him to be the owner. He pauses and asks, “Do you know why I like this car so much? Because those disputes caused Chevrolet to launch the 63 Corvette with independent suspension and disc brakes. That Corvette unmasked the Thunderbird and was equated with the best of Europe. Think of a C2 as very similar to a Ferrari 250 GTO in terms of performance. It was extraordinary ”.

Finally, the only one authorized to drive this ’59 Corvette, says that Chevrolet today did the same as in ’60: fight with a product to match. The Chevy 2020 Corvette for the first time carries the V8 engine aspirated into the center of the chassis, allowing you a silhouette racing and a balanced natural weight between axles.

He is a little late, it is true, but anyway the so-called ‘Father of the Corvette’ can be proud, because the car that gave him his nickname plays again in the honor division of sports cars. MT

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