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Corvette, America's iconic sports car, turns 60

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  June 29, 2012 03:45 PM

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On Saturday, the Chevrolet Corvette turns exactly 60 years old, and with models packing 638 horsepower, it's plenty far from a cushy retirement in Fort Lauderdale.

The latest Corvettes, now in their sixth generation, use the same basic formula as the first creamy, tail-finned car that came off the assembly line on June 30, 1953: a fiberglass body with two seats and rear-wheel-drive. Since then, more than 1.5 million Corvettes have been built and sold across the world. It is unmistakably one of the world's most iconic cars, a huge symbol of American pride, and able to tackle much more expensive cars for mere fractions of the price.

First shown as a concept at the New York Waldorf-Astoria as part of the traveling "Motorama" shows, the Corvette didn't become the knockout, performance car hit we know today. General Motors only planned to build 150 in the first year, and the original "Blue Flame" engine was just a small, 160-horsepower six-cylinder. Demand later doubled that amount, and by 1954, Chevrolet produced just 3,640 cars (a V8 came in 1955). The famous assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky., wasn't opened until 1981. Since then, every Corvette -- from the emissions-choked models of the early 1980s to the 205-mph ZR1 of today -- has started life there.

Even more incredible is the fact that the Corvette still lives on, despite decades of poor management and financial decisions by GM executives. Here's hoping the Corvette can last another 60.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
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