Year
1953

Workers assemble first Corvette in Flint, Michigan

On this day in 1953, workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolled off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year.

The idea for the Corvette originated with General Motors’ pioneering designer Harley J. Earl, who in 1951 began developing plans for a low-cost American sports car that could compete with Europe’s MGs, Jaguars and Ferraris. The project was eventually code-named “Opel.” In January 1953, GM debuted the Corvette concept car at its Motorama auto show at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It featured a fiberglass body and a six-cylinder engine and according to GM, was named for the “trim, fleet naval vessel that performed heroic escort and patrol duties during World War II.” The Corvette was a big hit with the public at Motorama and GM soon put the roadster into production.

On June 30, 1953, the first Corvette came off the production line in Flint. It was hand-assembled and featured a Polo White exterior and red interior, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, a wraparound windshield, whitewall tires and detachable plastic curtains instead of side windows. The earliest Corvettes were designed to be opened from the inside and lacked exterior door handles. Other components included a clock, cigarette lighter and red warning light that activated when the parking brake was applied–a new feature at the time. The car carried an initial price tag of $3,490 and could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 11 or 12 seconds, then considered a fairly average speed.

In 1954, the Corvette went into mass production at a Chevy plant in St. Louis, Missouri. Sales were lackluster in the beginning and GM considered discontinuing the line. However, rival company Ford had introduced the two-seater Thunderbird around the same time and GM did not want to be seen bowing to the competition. Another critical development in the Corvette’s survival came in 1955, when it was equipped with the more powerful V-8 engine. Its performance and appeal steadily improved after that and it went on to earn the nickname “America’s sports car” and become ingrained in pop culture through multiple references in movies, television and music.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Archduke Ferdinand assassinated

On this day in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie are shot to death by a Bosnian Serb nationalist during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The killings sparked a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I by early ...read more

The Stonewall Riots begin

Just after 3 a.m., a police raid of the Stonewall Inn—a gay club located on New York City’s Christopher Street—turns violent as patrons and local sympathizers begin rioting against the police.Although the police were legally justified in raiding the club, which was serving liquor ...read more

Charles elected Holy Roman emperor

Charles I of Spain, who by birth already held sway over much of Europe and Spanish America, is elected the successor of his late grandfather, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Charles, who was also the grandson of Ferdinand II and Isabella of Spain, had bribed the princes of ...read more

Keynes predicts economic chaos

At the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles with the Allies, officially ending World War I. The English economist John Maynard Keynes, who had attended the peace conference but then left in protest of the treaty, was one of the most outspoken ...read more

Louis Armstrong records “West End Blues”

On June 28, 1928, a 26-year-old Louis Armstrong walked into a Chicago recording studio with five fellow jazz instrumentalists and walked out having changed the course of music history. The record Armstrong and his Hot Five had just made was of a song called “West End Blues,” ...read more

Archduke Ferdinand assassinated

On this day in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie are shot to death by a Bosnian Serb nationalist during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The killings sparked a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I by early ...read more

U.S. forces launch first offensive

In the first major offensive ordered for U.S. forces, 3,000 troops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade–in conjunction with 800 Australian soldiers and a Vietnamese airborne unit–assault a jungle area known as Viet Cong Zone D, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The operation was called off ...read more

Mike Tyson bites ear

On June 28, 1997, Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield’s ear in the third round of their heavyweight rematch. The attack led to his disqualification from the match and suspension from boxing, and was the strangest chapter yet in the champion’s roller-coaster career.Mike Tyson ...read more

Harry S. Truman marries Bess Wallace

On this day in 1919, future President Harry S. Truman marries his longtime Missourian sweetheart, Bess. When the two met, Truman told a friend that she had the “most beautiful golden curls and blue eyes” and that she was the “one girl in the world” for him.Although they had known ...read more

Western writer Emerson Hough is born

Emerson Hough, one of the most successful writers of adventure novels of the romantic western genre, is born in Newton, Iowa.After graduating from the State University of Iowa in 1880, Hough briefly studied law before turning to a career in journalism. In his 20s, he became the ...read more

Two big quakes rock California

Two of the strongest earthquakes ever to hit California strike the desert area east of Los Angeles on this day in 1992. Although the state sits upon the immense San Andreas fault line, relatively few major earthquakes have hit California in modern times. Two of the strongest, ...read more

A teenage girl’s boyfriend murders her parents

Police are called to the home of Jim and Naomi Olive in Terra Linda, California, after Jim Olive’s business partner reports that the couple has not been seen in a week. The house in disarray, officers found no sign of either the Olives or their adopted teenage daughter Marlene. ...read more

A serial rapist strikes in Allentown

A knife-wielding serial rapist and murderer attacks Denise Sam-Cali in her Allentown, Pennsylvania, home. Although he succeeded in raping Sam-Cali on the front lawn outside her house, the courageous woman survived and later proved instrumental in bringing him to ...read more

Confederates capture commercial ship

On this day in 1862, a Confederate band makes a daring capture of a commercial vessel on Chesapeake Bay. The plan was the brainchild of George Hollins, a Maryland native and veteran of the War of 1812, who joined the U.S. Navy at age 15 and had a long and distinguished career. ...read more

Yugoslavia expelled from COMINFORM

The Soviet Union expels Yugoslavia from the Communist Information Bureau (COMINFORM) for the latter’s position on the Greek civil war. The expulsion was concrete evidence of the permanent split that had taken place between Russia and Yugoslavia. The Soviet Union had established ...read more