GM began production of the esteemed Corvette in Bowling Green in 1981, and the facility has remained the exclusive home of the Corvette for over 30 years. Known around the world as America’s sports car, the Corvette exemplifies the definition of innovation. The Corvette is the world’s longest-running, continuously produced passenger car. When the first Corvette rolled off the line over 60 years ago, it was born an icon.
Corvette didn’t always call Kentucky home, however. In 1953, the first 300 were built by hand in Flint, Michigan, just after General Motors unveiled the Corvette as a “dream car” in the Motorama show in New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. The following year, production moved to St. Louis. In June of 1981, Corvette production transferred from St. Louis to Bowling Green, Kentucky.
- 1953. The first full-scale Corvette concept was displayed as a “dream car” at GM’s Motorama in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in January.
- 1953. On June 30, the first production Corvette rolled off of the assembly line in Flint, Michigan.
- 1953. Production of the 1954 Corvette began in St. Louis, MO in December of 1953.
- 1955. The small-block V8 displacing 265 cubic inches was introduced. Also, a three-speed manual transmission was available.
- 1956. The restyled Corvette features exposed headlamps, sculpted side coves and rolled up windows. Factory-installed removable hardtops are offered for the first time.
- 1957. Optional fuel injection and option 4-speed manual transmissions are offered for the first time.
- 1958. First time for dual headlights.
- 1960. The last year Corvette features tail lights formed into rounded rear fenders, and the last with heavy grill “teeth"
- 1963. The Corvette is a total restyle based on Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Sting Ray race car.
- 1963. First year for the Corvette coupe; only year for the split-window coupe. The Z06 is offered as an option on the 1963 Stingray (199 built).
- 1964. The split-window design is eliminated because it “intruded into the driver’s rearward vision.”
- 1965. Big Block V8 engines were introduced for the Corvette with the 396 CID L78 option. It was rated at 425 HP.
- 1966. Factory-installed driver/passenger headrests made their Corvette debut as optional equipment. First year for the 427 CID engine; up to 425 HP available. Holley Carburetors were standard with all engines.
- 1967. Optional L88 engine offered (only 20 produced).
- 1967. Standard features of the Corvette Sting Ray included an energy-absorbing steering column, four-way hazard warning flashers and a dual master cylinder brake system. Much of the exterior trim is removed or restyled, as well as the hood and fender vents.