What’s a prototype?
1951 How it all began
1952 Corvette EX-122
1954 Corvette Corvair Motorama showcar
1954 Corvette Hardtop Motorama Showcar
1954 Corvette Nomad Motorama Showcar
1955 Corvette Biscayne Show Car
1956 Harlow Curtis SR-2 Lookalike
1956 Corvette Impala Show Car
1956 Corvette SR-2 Sebring Racer
1952 EX-122 Concept Car
1957 Q Corvette
1957 Corvette SS Show Car
1957 Corvette SS XP-64
1958 XP-700
1959 Stingray Racer XP-87
1959 Corvette Stingray
1961 Corvette Mako Shark XP-755
1962 C2 Prototype XP-720
1962 Four Seat Stingray Corvette XP-720 2+2
1963 Corvette Rondine Pininfarina Coupe
1963 Corvette Grand Sport
1963 Wedge Corvette Split Windshield
1964 World’s Fair Styling Study
1964 Clay model for '66 update
1964 Grand Sport GS-II(b)
1964 CERV II
1964 Pontiac Banshee XP-833
1964 Corvette XP-819 Rear Engine
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1966 Mid Engine Styling Proposal
1967 Astro I
1968 Corvette Astro-Vette
1968 Astro II-XP-880 mid engine
1969 Astro III
1969 Manta Ray
1969 Mid Engine XP-882
1970 Scirocco Showcar
1970 Corvette XP-882
1973 Corvette 2 rotor XP-897-GT
1973 Reynolds XP-895
1973 Corvette 4 rotor XP-882
1973 Corvette XP-898
1974 Mulsanne Showcar
1976 Corvette XP-882
1979 Turbo Corvette
1978 Corvette Astro-Vette
1980 Turbo Corvette
1982 4th Generation Concepts
1984 Bertone Ramarro
1985 Corvette Indy
1986 GTP Corvette
1987 Corvette Geneve
1989 Corvette DR-1
1989 Corvette ZR-2
1990 Corvette Conan ZR-12 V12
1990 Bertone Nivola
1991 ZR-1 Snake Skinner
1992 Stingray III
2001 Corvette Tiger Shark
2003 Corvette Italdesign Moray
2009 Sideswipe

1951 How it all began

One of the most famous concept cars was the 1951 Buick LeSabre. Designed by General Motors' chief stylist Harley J. Earl's studio with styling cues from jet fighter planes and used by him for years as an everyday driver, the LeSabre offered a preview of the aircraft styling that would follow in the '50s. The LeSabre contained such technological features as a dual gasoline and alcohol fuel system and a moisture sensor which would raise the convertible top if it began raining when the owner was away from the car.

On September of 1951, Harley Earl takes the Le Sabre dream car to the Watkins Glen sports car race. Earl is impressed by the small European sports cars, and decides to begin designing a new American sports car. In November of that same year, the Parts Fabrication group within GM Engineering Staff begins setting up a plastic department in Detroit.

Post World War II, senior figures at General Motors saw American GI’s returning from Europe with souvenirs: relatively lightweight, nimble two-seater sports cars. Design chief Harley Earl had a particular admiration for the Jaguar XK120, and aimed to create an all-American alternative. Although initially unsure which GM brand should market such a vehicle, he shared with Chief Engineer Ed Cole a desire to rejuvenate the image of Chevrolet, then seen as somewhat staid and unimaginative.

In March of 1952, Naugatuck Chemical sales executive Earl Ebers shows the Alembic I to General Motors in Detroit, Michigan. Harvey Earl is impressed with the shape of the car, and the possibilities of glass-reinforced plastic. This encourages him to speed-up his own sports car work.

On June 2, General Motors executives are formally presented with Harley Earl's proposal for a two-seater sports car. General Motors president Charles Wilson and Chevrolet general manager Thomas Keating approve completing a prototype for the 1953 Motorama. The project is code-named "Opel Sports Car". Chevrolet's director of research and development, Maurice Olley, creates a sketch for the new sports car frame, showing locations of radiator, wheels, and body mount points. On July 3, General Motors and Chevrolet management teams initiate work orders for two Motorama fiberglass bodies of the sports car, one test body, and two full-size passenger cars for development and testing of the sports car drivetrain. The Opel project sports car prototype is named Corvette, after a light fast type of World War II warship. The name was suggested by Myron Scott, employee of Campbell-Ewald, Chevrolet's advertising agency. Strong consideration had been given to naming the car “Corvair”. Chevrolet executives wanted a “C” word, and rejected 1500 suggestions.

In the end of 1952, a boot-legged picture of GM's proposed sports car is taken to Ford's styling studio. Staff there have already produced several drawings and renderings of their own sports car prototype: the Thunderbird will emerge in early 1954.

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