1958 CHEVROLET CORVETTE BACKGROUND
After first appearing as a GM Motorama Show Car on January 17, 1953 at the swanky Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, the Corvette was a show-stopper. GM styling czar Harley Earl, wanted Chevrolet go have a sports car, much like the ones he so admired in Europe. He rushed it to production in just 6 months. But to make it a viable business case, the new Chevrolet Corvette had to be built with as many off-the-shelf components as possible. So, a shortened Chevy passenger car chassis was used, along with suspension (king pins up front), rear end, engine and transmission. They hung a sexy new fiberglass body on top and an all new interior. Unfortunately, the only engine in Chevy’s inventory a the time was the ancient 235 ci “Stovebolt Six”. They slapped three side-draft carburetors on it and tuned it for better performance. The only transmission offered was the 2-speed Powerglide. Overall, it was a all show and no go. It launched in 1953 to much fanfare but few actual sales. A total of 300 Corvettes were sold in the 1953 model year, likely partially due to a slow ramp-up of production for the new fiberglass bodies, which needed time to cure, and problems with the finicky new technology. A new factory was opened in St. Louis MO in December 1953 just to build Corvettes, and capable of turning out 10,000 cars a year. The 1954 Chevrolet Corvette is a carry-over from 1953, with few changes, however 3,640 Corvettes were sold in 1954. But big changes were on the way. Chevy would introduce its seminal 265ci small block V8 in 1955, and the Corvette would get the best of them. By the arrival of the 1958 Chevrolet Corvette, the 6-cylinder was gone, the 265 small block had been punched out to 283 ci, and several more versions were available. 1958 was also the year they went to quad headlights and a whole new front end treatment.
1958 Chevrolet Corvette INTERIOR
ABOVE: A new 8,000 RPM tachometer was used with the two highest rated engines, the 270hp and 290hp 283s. The rest of the engines made due with the 7,000 RPM tach, like this one.
1958 CHEVROLET CORVETTE ENGINE OPTIONS
Long gone was the old “Blue Flame Six”, and that 265 small block V8 had been punched out to 283ci in 1957, and the available engine options expanded rapidly. For the 1958 Corvette, Chevrolet offered the 230hp 283 as the base engine with a single 4-barrel. Next up was the 245hp 283 also with single 4-barrel, but with higher compression and solid lifters. It just got better from there, with a mildly-tune, hydraulic-lifter 283 with the new-for-1957 Rochester Fuel Injection making 250 hp. Next up the light was the 283 with two 4-barrels making 270hp. And at the top of the heap was the solid-lifter “Fuelie” (with fuel injection) making 290hp. All came standard with a 3-speed manual transmission. The 2-speed Powerglide automatic and a Muncie 4-speed were available as options.