If you did a double take when you looked at this Corvette, you would have that gesture in common with just about everyone else when they first see this car.
Chevrolet produced the very first version of the iconic American Sports Car in 1953, and since then there have been 1,741,410 of them that have rolled off the assembly line. All of them had only two doors and two seats …
Except for the one time in 1979 when the company toyed with the idea of adding a couple of back seats so Corvette owners could take more friends and family members for a ride and enjoy all the attention they would get from those surprised by seeing such a thing.
After teaming up with California Custom Coach in Pasadena to test the market, they produced a prototype and five customer cars. Each of them was custom-built by cutting two cars in half and extending the wheelbase by 30 inches when joined together.
But, with a projected sales price of $35,000 when the price tag for a Corvette at the time started at $13,000, the original plan of building 40 of them wasn’t feasible, and the project was scrapped.
This only remaining vehicle from the six that were made is tucked away in an Arlington garage under the care of Dan Fernandez, along with some other rare, one-of-a-kind vehicles that we will visit in issues to come.
A little history in Corvette production at the time when the 4-door version was imagined, provides some prospective of what was taking place when Corvette production moved to its new factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Wikipedia sums it up like this: “The 1978 25th Anniversary model introduced the fastback glass rear window and featured a new interior and dashboard; also, the headlights were changed from round to square units. Corvette’s 25th anniversary was celebrated with the Indy 500 Pace Car limited edition and a Silver Anniversary model featuring silver over gray lower body paint. All 1979 models featured the previous year’s pace car seats and offered the front and rear spoilers as optional equipment. 53,807 were produced for the model year, making 1979 the peak production year for all versions of the Corvette.”
Then, sales trended downward. In 1980, the Corvette received an integrated aerodynamic redesign that resulted in a significant reduction in drag. After several years of weight increases, 1980 Corvettes were lighter as engineers trimmed both body and chassis weight.
It seemed like a good time to deliver on the idea that had arisen among Chevrolet engineers and designers for a 4-door model that would, they imagined, increase the market for a sports car that would accommodate two more passengers.
While that didn’t work out, there have been rumors for a great number of years that Chevrolet was planning for another major revision to the kind of sports car the company had been building for more than six decades.
Expectations had risen that the Corvette motor would be relocated from the front of the car to its center – the new generation would be a high-performing Mid-Engine Vette, weighing 200 pounds heavier than the previous model, hitting 60 mph in less than three seconds up to top speeds of 200 mph.
That long-awaited transition was introduced with the 2020 model that enthusiasts would declare to be the world’s finest with a starting price of just under $60,000.
It would also mean that any notion of ever revisiting some kind of four-door Corvette was put to rest once and for all time. Cutting two of them in half and reassembling into one with a back seat could never be done with the engine now in the middle of car.
That reality means the one remaining from the 1979 experiment featured here with just over 21,000 actual miles on it would be, for all time, a singular sensation celebrating the one time when the famous sports car was available in a configuration that was never to be.
Dan says there are plans to show it off at some local car shows in the near future. So, if you would like to see it in person, such an opportunity may be coming around as we all return to public gatherings with the COVID pandemic virtually in our rear-view mirror.