Although racing purists might recognize the Stutz Bearcat or the Mercer Raceabout as America’s first sports cars, there is no question that the Chevrolet Corvette holds the title as America’s oldest, continuously produced sports car.
In this, NICB’s second Hot Wheels Classics report, we look at how the Corvette has fared as a theft target.
A Little Corvette History
The public saw the Corvette for the first time in January 1953, at the Motorama Show held at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. It went into full production on June 30, 1953, at the General Motors facility in Flint, Mich. By the end of the year, 300 were produced—all of them white convertibles with red interiors and black soft tops. The price tag was $3,498 with a heater and AM radio as the only options.
In 1954, Corvette production moved to a renovated facility in St. Louis, Mo., where it remained until 1981. That year, Corvette production moved into a new assembly facility at Bowling Green, Ky., where Corvettes continue to roll off the line today.
The first-generation Corvette—C1s as they are known—were manufactured from 1953-1962. Successive generations appeared in 1963 (C2); 1968 (C3); 1984 (C4); 1997 (C5); and in 2005 with the C6. A seventh-generation Corvette is expected sometime next year.
At the 1978 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Corvette made the first of its 10 appearances as the official Indy 500 Pace Car, an unmatched record on two counts—most appearances as a pace car and most consecutive years pacing the field (2004-2008).
Often compared to more exotic European sports cars, the Corvette has performed well in racing circuits around the globe. However, with the introduction of the supercharged, 638hp ZR1 in 2009, Corvette has convinced its few remaining skeptics that it can perform on the world racing stage, as well as (and mostly better than) cars three times its price tag.
It’s no surprise then to find Corvette owners doting over their cars and keeping them in showroom condition. But like other items of high value and popular attraction, they get stolen. NICB reviewed Corvette theft data from 1953-2011 and identified 134,731 theft records. However, since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required vehicle identification number (VIN) standardization beginning with the 1981 model year, confidence in pre-1981 records is low due to the inconsistency in reporting protocols and VIN systems. Consequently, only 1981 and later data was used to produce this report.
Thefts vs. Production
During the 30-year period from 1981-2011, a total of 90,427 Corvettes were reported stolen in the United States and Puerto Rico. During that same period, a total of 862,918 Corvettes were produced in the United States. However, from 1953 through the end of the 2011 model year, a total of 1,526,747 Corvettes have been produced. The year with the most U.S. production was 1979 with 53,807. The year with the fewest Corvettes produced was 1953 when just 300 units were built.
At NICB, we have been in the business of identifying and recovering stolen vehicles since 1912. Our expertise has been sought by law enforcement agencies all over the nation to assist with major auto theft investigations. Frequently, NICB recovers stolen vehicles that have long since been forgotten—except by their owners.
Whether or not you own a classic 1963 split-window coupe or a 2012 Centennial Edition ZR1 Corvette, take steps to protect your vehicle from theft. Although vehicle thefts have been declining in recent years, if it happens to you it can be financially devastating and just an all-around hassle. NICB urges motorists to follow its “layered approach” to auto theft prevention. By employing these simple, low-cost suggestions, people can make their vehicles less attractive to thieves.
Anyone with information concerning vehicle theft and insurance fraud can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or by visiting our website at www.nicb.org. Or, iPhone or iPad users can download the NICB Fraud Tips app to make it easy to quickly send a tip and get a response.