1961 Chevrolet Corvette C1 Roadster Project
Back in 1953, Chevrolet's launch of a two-seater sports car was a radical departure for a marque hitherto associated almost exclusively with sensible family transport. Based on the 1952 EX-122 show car, the Corvette made use of existing GM running gear and a shortened chassis frame, around which was wrapped striking Harley Earl-styled glassfibre coachwork. Motive power came from Chevrolet's 235.5ci (3.8-litre) overhead-valve straight six and, unusually for a sports car, there was automatic transmission, a feature that attracted much adverse criticism at the time.
Intended as competition for the T-Series MG, the Corvette cost way above the target figure, ending up in Jaguar XK120 territory but with an inferior performance. Sales were sluggish initially and the model came close to being axed, surviving thanks to Chevrolet's need to compete with Ford's Thunderbird. A V8 engine for 1955 and a radical restyle for '56 consolidated the 'Vette's position in the market. A facelift for 1958 saw the Corvette gain a quartet of chrome-rimmed headlamps and a host of other more minor styling changes. Perhaps not surprisingly, alterations for the next couple of years were few.
By this time, the end of the 1950s, Corvettes had begun to establish an enviable competition record for the marque. Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov was a big fan of auto racing, and it was he that was responsible for unlocking the car's innate potential and developing it into a genuine race-winner. At the same time the Corvette began to establish a reputation outside of the USA. In 1960 Briggs Cunningham entered eight Corvettes in that year's Le Mans 24-Hour race, the car driven by Fitch/Grossman winning the over-4,000cc GT class on its way to 8th overall. These racing successes repaid Chevrolet's investment with interest: Corvette sales improved significantly, ensuring the car's survival and enabling it to go on to become the world's best-selling and longest-lived sports car.
Of the '1st Generation' Corvettes, the 'duck tail' models of the early 1960s have a particularly enthusiastic following. This beautiful Corvette roadster dates from 1961, the first year of the 'duck tail' rear end, and has the desirable manual transmission. The late Roger Schepens' cousin remembers this Corvette being in the family's possession as far back as the 1980s. Sadly, its early history is not known. Driven regularly by Roger Schepens, the Corvette has been gathering dust for many years in his garage in Ghent where it was stored. Presented in 'barn find' condition but preserved and complete, the car is sold strictly as viewed and is offered with Belgian registration papers.