Whether you are a Corvette fanatic or not you probably know that bodies of Corvettes are made of fiberglass materials. This has led to some controversy over the years as many will argue that fiberglass is not as safe as the steel bodied cars that are typically used. While safety is always on an engineer’s mind, it was more of a matter of innovation that led to the Corvette being made of fiberglass.
In the early 1950s the United States was just coming out of World War II. Many of the service men who had been stationed in Europe were coming home with their European sports cars and this started a phenomenon that would ultimately lead to the Corvette’s production. All of the sudden the demand for cars was back, as it was lacking during the war, and sports cars were leading the way with many races on both the street and the strip breaking out on a consistent basis.
America had developed a love for fast and good looking cars and one of Corvette’s innovators, Harley Earl, was no different. Earl had a love affair with the European sports cars like the Jaguar and he knew that America needed its own version of a sports car that it could call its own. Thus began the idea of the Corvette that would eventually become a reality.
When it came time to decide what material to build the Corvette out of the engineers and style specialists at GM decided to go a different route and chose fiberglass. One of the main reasons that they wanted to use fiberglass was because of its durability and lightweight. Though the fiberglass of today is much stronger and made differently than that of the 1950s fiberglass, for its time they were working with cutting edge material.
One drawback to creating a car with a fiberglass body was the fact that until the Corvette, no car in the GM line up had been produced with fiberglass. That meant that most of the first run of the 1953 Corvettes were handmade. Unlike the steel bodied cars of GM, there were no stamps or punches that could be used to help with the creation of the body parts for the all fiberglass Corvette.
This problem however would lead to a revelation. Because fiberglass was so workable it could be used to make designs and lines that steel could simply not replicate. This explains why the Corvette has had some of the best styling refinements over the years.
Even when the Corvette’s sales began to justify the move to the more cookie cutter style of steel design, tradition and innovation would keep the body of the Vette true to form. Fiberglass was retained as the main material used in the Corvette’s body and that trend still continues today.
Though some models of the newer Corvettes have some mixing of other materials, such as the ZR1’s carbon fiber hood, for the most part the Corvette remains a car with an unbelievably fast beating heart and fiberglass skin. While the materials and the methods of production may very well have changed over the years and will possibly continue to evolve, the Corvette will likely stay true to tradition and continue its love affair with fiberglass.