Welcome to What If, a new feature from imaginative illustrator Abimelec Arellano and Hagerty. We’ll be taking you back in time—and possibly forward into the future—to meet alternative-universe automobiles. Even better, our time machine is working well enough to bring “short take” reviews along with the photographs and advertisements. Buckle up and enjoy the ride! — Jack Baruth
(Originally published in Jalopies And Knick-Knacks, March 1953 edition)
The 1953 Corvette Is Cooking With Gas, But It’s Weird As Heck!
That’s right—we said it, right in the title! Here at Jalopies And Knick-Knacks, we’re famous for using a bunch of “slang,” and we don’t care if you don’t like it, Daddy-O! Betcha never thought you would open up the pages of a magazine at the five-and-dime and see people writing about “heck” this, and “darn” that! Shove off, squares! This train is rollin’ all the way to Hip Town! Just don’t tell your parents—and don’t tell ours either, or we’re going to have a tough day around the house, believe us!
Chevrolet wanted us to drive their new “Corvette” (which is named after a kind of battleshippin’ aircraft carrier or something) so bad that they had us meet them at the Waldorf-Astoria and then sent us out for an exclusive boogie in their new dancin’ shoes! It’s a two-seat “Sports car,” just like an MG or Jowett Jupiter, with one major difference: Instead of a regular four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine up front, this bad boy has the engine between the driver and the rear wheels, in what some people are calling a “mid-engine” design. If you’ve seen the “Porsches” or “Volkswagens” during a tour with Uncle Sam in the brand-new country of West Germany, you know that it’s possible to put an engine in the back—but this one is in the middle!
What kind of engine is it? Well, Chevrolet wanted to put its old reliable “Blue Flame” straight-six in there, but there wasn’t room, so the new Corvette will be the first Chevrolet to debut the 265-cubic-inch “Turbo-Fire”! It’s a real V-8, with the latest overhead-valve whiz-bang design, and it’s making 162 horsepower, which is more than three of those British MGs lined up together. But that’s not even the craziest part! The body is mostly made of “Fiberglass” from Owens Corning. It’s a hot new material that can be made into all sorts of far-out shapes, which is a good thing because the “Corvette” is far-out indeed!
Chevrolet didn’t skimp on the running gear. We’re talking big drums on all four wheels and the two-speed Powerglide hydraulic transmission that keeps you from shifting gears in traffic. You won’t see a Jaguar with that kind of transmission, no sir! Rev it up, and you’re gone from 0–60 in 10 amazing seconds. You might want to talk to a doctor before you drive it!
Our brief test drive of the new Corvette, which is only available in white, came to a surprising end when we took our foot off the gas going into a fast turn in Manhattan and the car spun out without warning! Before we knew it we were parked backwards near the Menagerie at Central Park. Apparently this is something called “lift-throttle oversteer,” and the folks in the Sports Car Club Of America are all about it. Oh well, that’s what happens when you take a hard right at 40 miles per hour! Maybe the 1954 Corvette will be easier to drive.
We always give a “Verdict” on the car, even if we only drive it half a mile before putting it through the trees into the sea lion pool, so our verdict on this car is simple: This is the best American “sports car” you can buy. In fact, it’s the only one! Contact your Chevrolet dealer today—and ask about the optional side curtains to keep the rain out! That’s darn right!