A Love Letter to the 1957 Corvette
Valentine’s Day may or may not be your holiday of choice, but whether you celebrate or disparage, it’s damn near impossible to ignore. Valentine’s Day happens to be my dad’s birthday as well, so I’ve always associated the kitsch and candy with a birthday family celebration, well before romance ever played a part. Because, of course, love takes on many forms and la di da di da.
No matter what you do this Valentine’s Day, though, we can all agree that there’s nothing cooler than a love for the classic car. In honor of the holiday, I want to share the story of the first classic I ever fell in love with.
When you’re born into a classic car family, car shows, cruise nights and race days are as ubiquitous as playdates and park outings. My family took us to car shows well before we could understand what that meant, and so there was nothing strange or unusual about a little four-year-old me with tangled blonde pigtails and sparkly sunglasses in the stroller at the Milburn Car Show. It was a simple local street show – good, but small town and cozy, with lemonade and pizza, the diner down the street with its doors open and the smell of Dunkin’ Donuts too hot for the late spring day.
And that was when I saw it, the red 1957 Corvette convertible.
The funny thing about falling in love with a car like this is that you don’t necessarily know why. You don’t know that the Corvette went on to inspire an era of power and performance the likes of which America had never seen. You don’t know about fuel injection or the near-demise of the car’s anemic ancestor. You don’t know of the cars that would come after, for more than another twenty years from that day, stronger, better, faster, cooler.
No, in the moment, the universal and oh-so-individual moment of falling in love with your first car, all you know is that sense of understanding, of wanting to touch the shiny, sun-warmed chrome, of feeling deliriously hungry for that specific Venetian red paint, of somehow sensing exactly what the wind will feel like on your face when it slides over the rounded hood and into your hair. Falling in love with your first car is a visceral experience, done in all five senses, and it will change your life.
There’s no guarantee that being raised in a car family will make you a car enthusiast. The same can be said of religion, politics or favorite sports team. A passion and love like the one I felt for the 1957 Corvette that day is inherent and unmistakably unique, something you cannot teach and cannot learn. That love, that lightning strike of understanding that hit me as a young kid and only grew stronger and more defined over the years, that started a lifelong obsession with the automobile that so many enthusiasts share and understand. My brother went to those same car shows and he never once found his 1957 Corvette. Now, he lives in a city and doesn’t have a driver’s license.
My tastes have changed over the years. The cute, 1950s aesthetic gave way to a love of American muscle, of European sports, of rally-ready grit. But that Corvette will always be the first, the first Corvette to truly make a mark on history and the first car to truly make a mark on me. With a story full of second chances, influence, innovation and success after success, I’d like to think it was a pretty an auspicious start to a lifelong love the automobile.
Photo selected from the Chevrolet Media Archives