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When Corvette performance Ads Had Horsepower!

When Corvette Ads Packed Punch

Brian Brennan Jan 8, 2019
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Having spent the last 50 years of my adult working life in the magazine business I naturally developed a deep interest in print advertising. The finished ads, not so much what it takes to produce them … that’s work! More specifically, how the Corvette was handled over the years with its print advertising was my focus. I’ve always found Corvette ads from the earliest days to today to be extremely creative. But it was those early years … prior to the ’80s that fascinated me the most.

While I found myself going down to the local Chevy dealer, whether it be Eddie Hopper Chevrolet (Garden Grove, CA) or Guaranty Chevrolet (Santa Ana, CA) I couldn’t wait until September when the new cars would be unveiled. It was particularly fun when the new Corvettes, Camaros and Chevelles would be on the showroom floor a day early but under wraps. Egad, that would drive me crazy. Surrounding the cars would be ropes and stanchions so you couldn’t peek under the covers … so to speak. My buddies and I would stand there with our latest copy of Hot Rod, Motor Trend or Car & Driver and guess what was under there based on all of the magazines’ early reports. We would look at the articles or the new print ads that teased you as to what the new look would be or what new engine and what lofty horsepower goal would be achieved. In the ’60s, if you wanted to keep your son off the streets and out of trouble you’d bring him (or even girls!) to any new car dealership and let their minds begin to imagine what could be.

The earliest of the Corvette print ads that I can actually remember is the one pictured in this editorial. Now, this was long before I could drive but I was beginning my model building years and I was a voracious reader of all things cars and hot rods. This ad interestingly enough is about the new 1956 Corvette but nowhere in the ad does it say what year the car is. Oh well, it didn’t take much to realize what you were looking at from a visual standpoint since the 1956 was a noticeable design departure from the ’55. It wasn’t just Chevrolet that put Corvettes in their ads, as would be expected. Companies like Bell Helmets and Champion Spark Plugs wouldn’t hesitate to show the latest Corvette and their product in the winner’s circle. And this was just as important to read as the factory ads. Anything with a Corvette in it was prime reading material.

While the ad does talk about the many new features for 1956, such as the power operated top, a new “plastic” (you gotta love the term “plastic”) hardtop, roll up windows, and on and on. But what I so thoroughly enjoyed (and enjoyed even more so back in the day) is the tech talk. After the lead-in comes the punch “… 225-h.p. high-compression (9.25:1) job with dual 4-jet carbs that has already shot Corvette to new rerecords for American sports cars at Daytona.”

It was during the Daytona Speedweeks of 1956 that Ray Brock’s article in the May Hot Rod talks about Duntov setting records with a modified 1956 Corvette using the very parts that I found myself reading about in the print ads. Wouldn’t you know it, Duntov’s record was later disqualified because while he was using Chevrolet pistons and they were 0.030-over but not what came on the car. Duntov moved the Corvette to the modified sports car class and went from there. Well, I have always found the Corvette ads to be creative and extremely well done but nothing, nothing can beat the early ads through the early ’70s. Now those were print ads. Vette

Photography by Brian Brennan

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