General Motors Corvette Collection - Special Feature

An Inside Look At The Corvettes Of The GM Heritage Center

Christopher R. Phillip Jun 10, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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Vehicle Descriptions Courtesy Of General Motors

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Despite the announcement last year that General Motors had chosen to sell off a number of the Corvettes in its private stock, a significant portion of the collection was saved from the auction block, to preserve for future generations the company's contributions to the automobile industry. Those cars are currently housed at the GM Heritage Center, either in the main-floor collection or in auxiliary storage locations in the Detroit area.

In addition to a showplace for the vehicles of the GM Heritage Collection, as the museum is officially called, the Center is also the home of the Heritage and Media Archive. Located in an 81,000-square-foot facility in Sterling Heights, Michigan, it has approximately 200 vehicles on display. The Archive also houses 15,000 linear feet of shelving containing significant documents, manuals, brochures, and artifacts documenting GM's rich history of innovation.

VETTE magazine was invited to a private, once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Heritage Center in March. Once inside, we were given the opportunity to document the Corvettes in the Collection's main display. Vehicles are added to the floor on a rotating basis, which allows the Collection to maintain fresh content, and makes it possible for cars not on the floor to be lent out for offsite events, exhibits, and functions.

Luckily, GM gave us two all-access passes, one for us and one for VETTE readers. So come along with us on our private tour and see some of the most interesting and historically significant Corvettes of the last 67 years.

Author's note: The GM Heritage Center is primarily used for company functions and is not open to the public. It can, however, be reserved for car-club meetings or other special events, with a capacity of more than 500 guests. For more information, email

'53 Corvette
The very first Corvette ever built, the EX-122, was a General Motors Motorama show car and was first exhibited at the famous Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City in January 1953. EX-122 was an instant hit, and the first production Corvette was built on June 30, 1953, in Flint, Michigan. Only 300 were assembled-virtually by hand and all on a pilot line. This first-year Corvette was available only in Polo White with Red bucket-seat interior trim. Today, all '53 Corvettes are considered highly prized and absolute collectibles, with values for a concours-quality model in the six-figure range.

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'63 Corvette Sting Ray
The Corvette Sting Ray represented the first total restyling of the Corvette since its inception 10 years earlier and brought the first coupe to the Corvette brand. The Sting Ray's breakthrough styling was enhanced by a totally new chassis, including an independent rear suspension. The '63 Sting Ray coupe was particularly distinctive by virtue of its unique split-rear-window treatment, a styling feature that appeared only in this year. As evidenced by this example, the Corvette Sting Ray boasted many touches typically associated with the finest sports cars.

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'73 Corvette Custom
This Corvette belonged to the wife of GM Styling head Bill Mitchell. It's mildly customized with painted wheelwells, pearlescent white paint with pinstriping, and a houndstooth/pearlescent-leather interior trim. The '73 Corvette had a new domed hood, body-color urethane-plastic front bumper, and a fixed rear window. Radial tires were standard equipment.

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'61 Mako Shark Corvette
The basic lines of the '61 experimental Mako Shark Corvette show car were inspired by an actual Mako shark caught off the coast of Florida by William L. Mitchell. Mitchell was, at the time, vice president of General Motors Styling Staff, now known as GM Design Center. The Mako Shark show car is finished in a vari-colored paint scheme based on an iridescent blue upper surface that blends into a white side and lower body, like the natural coloring of the shark Mitchell landed.

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A number of experimental powerplants have been tested in the Mako Shark, including a supercharged engine with four side-draft carburetors, a fuel-injected mill, and a V-8 with two four-barrel carburetors. The present engine is a production '69 427ci ZL1 Chevrolet V-8. This engine has an all-aluminum block, heads, and intake manifold. It's equipped with a single four-barrel carburetor and produces well over 425 horsepower.




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