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The Very Beginning In the fall of 1951, Harley Earl, a head designer for GM began to develop an affordable two-seat sports car. At that time, GM was the world’s largest car maker. Donning a fiberglass body and the ability to reach 150 in horsepower, the first American sports car was born. This would lead to Corvette’s long and successful racing history in American motorsports. Almost Phased Out The Corvette show car, named after a speedy naval airship, premiered at the GM Motorama in 1953. Sales were slow in the beginning due to attempts at creating exclusivity. 1953 brought the production of 300 handmade Corvettes. Buyers wanted a V8 engine and the Corvette only offered a V6. Production had increased but sales didn’t meet expectations. 1/3 of the cars weren’t sold. In 1955, the creation of the Thunderbird convertible saved the Corvette from discontinuation. GM execs knew they had to keep the Corvette so they wouldn’t look like a failure. They aimed to create a vehicle that would be better and more exciting than the Thunderbird. Corvette racing may not have begun without Zora Arkus-Duntov. Duntov became the head engineer for Corvette in 1955. He sold the idea of the Corvette becoming a high-performance sports car with more power and speed.   1956: The First Competition The Corvette gained appeal in 1956. Touting a V8 engine, 3-speed manual transmission, 210 horsepower, sleek new design with an optional hardtop and power windows it was the car buyers had dreamed of. Corvette made its first appearance in motorsports in 1956 at the Sebring 12 Hours. Placing 9th and 1 car winning Class B – Sports 8000 that’s where the story began. Corvette participated in the Sebring race from then on.