By: Kristy Ketterman, National Corvette Museum
Sixty years ago today, spectators lined New York City’s posh Park Avenue, waiting to get a glimpse of the ground-breaking 1953 Chevrolet Corvette on display at the General Motors’ Motorama show. Today, the Corvette is back in The Big Apple, marking the historic milestone with the all-new 2014 C7 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
“The all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray is the most advanced and engaging Corvette in the long, prestigious legacy of this uniquely American success story,” said Chris Perry vice president of Chevrolet Marketing. “It is a car woven into the fabric of American culture and it got its start right here in the Big Apple.”
The introduction of the original Corvette took place at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Jan. 17, 1953. Only 300 Corvettes were built – all of them white with a red interior. The enthusiastic response prompted Chevrolet to accelerate production plans and by late June that year, Corvettes were rolling out of a specialized assembly facility in Flint, Mich. One of these 300 is on exhibit at the National Corvette Museum, along with another piece of important Corvette history that many don’t know about.
This was the logo that was switched at the last minute because it had the American flag on it.
Although the Corvette crossed flags emblem has seen some variation over the years, it actually had a controversial beginning. The first logo design included an American flag crossing over the checkered flag to emphasize America’s entry into the sports car world. Originally created by Robert Bartholomew, an interior designer at Chevrolet, this emblem was installed on the 1953 prototype that was set to debut in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria during the “Motorama” show. As preparations were made for Corvette's big day, the Chevrolet legal department discovered that it was against the law to use an American flag on any commercially made product. With only four days left before the show, the pressure was on to come up with a new logo, and fast.
The designers acted quickly, and looked toward Louis Chevrolet for inspiration. Searching at first for a family crest that could be adapted into a flag they ran into a dead end, as the Chevrolet family didn't have a crest. Getting desperate, they looked to the French origins of Chevrolet’s name for inspiration. They chose the fleur-de-lis, which means “flower of the lily” as it is the French symbol for royalty. Beneath that there are three lines to represent the three Chevrolet brothers. The revised emblem was quickly made by jewelers and installed on the prototype where it has remained on Corvettes ever since.
The actual American flag emblem that was pulled off of the first Corvette for the Motorama show is on display at the National Corvette Museum, on loan from GM.
National Corvette Museum