Have you heard the rumours about a Corvette SUV and four-door sedan being readied for release in a year or two?
Well, Ford has done it with the Mustang and it’s not the first time GM has considered widening the aura of its iconic sports car.
In early 1961, Chevrolet’s general manager, Ed Cole approved development of a four-seat Corvette.
You might recall that Mr Cole was the guy who convinced GM to develop the rear engine Corvair.
Cole believed that a four-seater would be an appealing competitor to Ford’s Thunderbird.
He pushed the project despite many senior GM executives having doubts about it being necessary.
They argued that GM had two T-Bird competitors almost ready for release, the 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix and 1963 Buick Riviera.
Plus, the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado and 1967 Cadillac Eldorado were taking shape in the styling studios.
What was the point of another car?
What also concerned GM’s top executives was that a four-seat ‘Vette would damage its reputation as a high-performance sports car.
That said, Cole’s job was to explore new ideas and at the end of January, 1962 a full-sized fibreglass model, including a fully trimmed interior and working doors had been constructed.
To accommodate the two extra passengers, Chevrolet’s designers stretched the wheelbase six inches/152mm to 104 inches/2642mm.
The roof height was raised, the doors reshaped and lengthened and the split rear window made longer.
Two-seat and four-seat Chevrolet Corvette.
In the meantime, Cole gained even more corporate clout with a promotion to general manager of all its North American car and truck division.
He was followed into the Chevrolet role by Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, who had been Pontiac’s general manager since 1956.
Almost from his first day at Chevrolet, Knudsen made it clear he was no fan of the four-seater.
Despite internal opposition, Cole had the four-seat Corvette put on the agenda for review by the GM Board in February, 1962.
A previously secret GM document reveals that the review did not go well.
“A 4-passenger Coupe fibreglass model was completed in January 1962 and was used by styling and Chevrolet division in an unsuccessful presentation to Corporation Management.”
Clearly, Cole had more work to do to convince his colleagues of the project’s viability.
But he did not give up.
The car was back on the Board’s agenda for a review in October, 1962.
And again, it was rejected.
A summary note in GM’s archives describes the outcome, avoiding the word cancelled:
“The program became inactive in October, 1962.”
The fibreglass model was kept for a couple of years in storage and then scrapped mid-1966.
And so it was that the four-seat Corvette passed into history.
Until now, 60 years later.
David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au
The raised roof line, needed to provide rear seat head room, gives the car a humped back appearance.
This photo was originally taken in black and white. GM has had it especially colourised.
The two seats that never were.
Stetched windows and doors.
This comparison photo demonstrates how misplaced is the idea that a stretched Corvette would be a viable alternative to the T-Bird.
The staged photo, dated 7th February, 1962, of the gent lighting a cigarette could almost come from the Mad Men TV series. It is actually a remake of 1957 Cadillac print advertisement.
Knudsen accepts an award for the 1960 Pontiac.
Cole gets his face on the cover of the 3rd October 1959 edition of Time magazine.
CHECKOUT: Holden HR SS Coupe revealed
CHECKOUT: Hey Charger, you’re 50!