It is hard to think of the Corvette’s body as being made of anything other than fiberglass, but in 1972 a pitch was made to have the Vette’s bodies be comprised of aluminum. It was in 1972 that a joint effort between Reynolds Aluminum and GM saw a prototype called the XP-895 be built and this Corvette would be the first and eventually only all-aluminum Corvette to ever be made.
Back in the 1970s using aluminum for a car body was out of the ordinary but none the less already in the works. Many European exotic sportster featured aluminum bodies and back in the United States, the Cobra had implemented the technology as well. However, putting aluminum into a production car had not yet been done and if it would have been accomplished with the Chevrolet Corvette, you can bet that others would have followed suit.
The pitch began with Reynolds Aluminum using an all new at the time 2036-T4 aluminum that would be used to make the body panels for the XP-895. The body panels would then be retrofitted to a leftover XP-882 chassis that GM had not utilized to full potential. What would end up being produced was a Corvette that was indeed all aluminum except for the tires, glass, and some other materials on the interior.
While the end result looked great, a big problem presented itself while the prototype car was being made. Because the new aluminum was less pliable and had elasticity problems, the body would have to be spot welded and many parts would end up being thicker than anticipated. Additionally the designers would have to also use special epoxies for additional strength and to fill in crevices that could gather dirt and salt if left unattended.
Making the actual Corvette line into an all aluminum faction would prove to be a huge undertaking and a huge cost. But GM had faced this challenge once before as the first year Vette was almost all handmade because the fiberglass technology of 1953 was not what it was some 19 years later. It was in fact an implementable idea that could be accomplished.
The 1972 XP-895 would prove to be a great measure of how a Corvette might look and feel if there was indeed a full line of aluminum super cars, but the idea would eventually peter out. The reason came down to simple mathematics.
Because the Corvette continued to sell so well in 1973 and then again in 1974 there really was no need for the all aluminum era to even begin. When it came down to it, the numbers didn’t add up for GM to start from scratch with a model that was already proving its worth and then some.
In 1974 even the most supportive of the XP-895 at GM dropped their aluminum body argument and the car would end up going down as another prototype that would never be for the Corvette. As for the Corvette line itself, it would go on to enjoy the same styling and the same fiberglass material body that it always had and that tradition still stands strong today.