The Corvette turns 50
September 7, 2003
Henry Adams sits in a 1958 Corvette. Behind are Adams’ other Corvettes from years 1964, 1973, 1994 and 1998.One Corvette wasn’t enough for Henry Adams. He had to have five.
“I guess it’s like a woman with her shoes,” he says. “Why would she have 10 pairs of shoes? I just enjoy shopping for them, buying them and showing them off.”
The 34-year-old Lafayette attorney owns five Corvettes – a ’58, a ’64, a ’73, a ’94 and a ’98. “I guess it’s an addiction,” he says. “I don’t know any softer way to say it.”
At least Adams has taken that first step and admits he has a problem. But in the same breath, he says his addiction is justified.
“It’s America’s only true sports car,” Adams says. “It’s an enthusiast’s car, a performance-driven car.”
This year, the Corvette turns 50. In January 1953, Chevrolet unveiled the Corvette at the GM Motorama in New York City. That same year, on June 10, the first ’Vette rolled off of the assembly line in Flint, Mich. Only 300 models were produced that year, and the suggested retail price was a whopping $3,498.
In 1954, Chevrolet stopped marketing the Corvette strictly to the well-to-do and targeted the general public. The same year, Chevrolet produced 3,265 Corvettes, but sold only 2,189. Ford introduced the Thunderbird the same year, and the new car on the block solidified Chevrolet’s decision to continue producing Corvettes, despite dismal sales.
The first design of the Corvette ran until 1962. In 1963, the Corvette was redesigned as the Sting Ray. The third generation began in 1968, when the restyled Corvette featured the “T-top” removable roof panels, a first in the auto industry. The car was redesigned again in 1984 with improved aerodynamics, and in 1997, the fifth redesigned Corvette featured several technological advances.
While most people don’t pay much attention to the history of the car, Adams says most Corvette enthusiasts know as much about the Corvette as General Motors does.
“The people in the car hobby are generally down to earth people,” he says. “They appreciate and take care of things. They’re a nice group of folks.”
For the past five years, Adams has been a member of the Bayou State Corvette Club.
Tom Diermann, is president of the 72-member club, only one of 10 Corvette clubs in Louisiana. He says the members of Bayou State are Corvette owners and enthusiasts from Acadiana who meet monthly on the third Thursday of the month at Service Chevrolet.
The club also hosts an annual Corvette show. This year’s show will be held on Saturday, Oct. 18 at Bennigan’s in Lafayette and will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the car. Diermann says there will be 80 Corvettes from the past five decades on display and that proceeds from the show will benefit the Faith House.
This 1954 Corvette, restored by Clyde Judice, will be on display Oct. 18 at Bennigan’s in Lafayette.Clyde Judice will have his car on display.
When Judice bought the dilapidated 1954 Corvette, his wife, Shirley, thought he had lost his mind.
In 1996, while driving through Lufkin, Texas, Judice pulled over to look at a ’56 Chevy parked outside of a garage. The owner of the garage told him that there were more old cars behind the shop. There, in the overgrown weeds, Judice spotted his dream car.
“It was junk, really,” Judice says. “It was really an ugly looking sight.” He paid $10,000 for the junk with no seats, a missing roof and a frozen engine.
Judice took the car apart and Bob Addison, of Maurice, helped him put it all back together. It took him two and a half years and nearly $35,000, but Judice restored the car to nearly its original condition, right down to the Polo White paint job. He says the car has been appraised for $65,000.
But unfortunately, Judice’s children, and even his wife, still haven’t driven the car.
“My wife hasn’t driven it yet,” he says, “and she owns half of it! So, do you think the kids have driven it?”
Judice doesn’t drive the car every day, but he does take it out a couple of times a month.
And now his wife doesn’t complain about the car.
“She wouldn’t get rid of it for the world,” he says. “It’s a keeper.”
Two and a half years and nearly $35,000 later, Clyde Judice stands next to his dream car.
Clyde Judice paid $10,000 for this 1954 Corvette, with no seats, a missing roof and a frozen engine, at a garage in Lufkin, Texas.
50 Years of the Corvette
1953 — The Chevrolet Corvette was unveiled at the GM Motorama in New York City. The first Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint, Mich. on June 30. Three hundred Corvettes were produced.
1963 — Chevrolet introduced the Corvette Sting Ray, available as a convertible or as a fastback coupe with a split rear window.
1964 — The split rear window of the Sting Ray was replaced with a single window for better visibility.
1968 — The introduction of the new curvaceous Corvette featured the “T-top” with removable roof panels — a first for production cars.
1975 — This was the last model of Corvette with a convertible, until 1986.
1978 — The new “fastback” body marked the car’s 25th anniversary.
1983 — The Corvette skipped a production year.
1984 — The new model featured a one-piece removable roof panel and improved aerodynamics.
1986 — The convertible Corvette returned.
1997 — The fifth generation of Corvettes featured several technological advances.
2003 — Chevrolet introduced the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Corvette.
Source: “Corvette Model Year Production ‘Fun Facts,’ ” from the General Motors’ Web site, media.gm.com