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The Corvette is 69 years old

Big question: why do cars cost more today, in real dollars, than in their infancy? That’s not true for household appliances, for example.

Who knew that the Corvette was the first laminated fiberglass-body sports car in the United States? (Not me!)

The first Chevrolet Corvette rolled off a hand-assembled production line at the General Motors (GM) factory in Flint, Michigan, on 30 June 1953. GM produced only 300 that first year.

It was hand-assembled and featured a Polo White exterior and red interior, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, a wraparound windshield, whitewall tires and detachable plastic curtains instead of side windows. The earliest Corvettes were designed to be opened from the inside and lacked exterior door handles. Other components included a clock, cigarette lighter and red warning light that activated when the parking brake was applied–a new feature at the time. The car carried an initial price tag of $3,490 and could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 11 or 12 seconds, then considered a fairly average speed.

The idea behind the Corvette: “a low-cost American sports car that could compete with Europe’s MGs, Jaguars and Ferraris.” (I’m laughing at “low-cost”.)

That initial price tag would be $38,064 in 2022 dollars.

If mass production had reduced costs (like it should) and other efficiencies were considered (like they are with other products), today’s Corvette should cost less.

But that’s not what has happened:

Sports car buyers looking to purchase the cheapest 2022 Chevy Corvette Stingray coupe can look forward to paying $62,195 (before destination charges). The cheapest convertible option has a starting price of $69,695 (emphasis added).

Here are few other comparisons from the 1950s:

In 1924, a Model-T Ford cost $260, considerably less than its $850 sticker price in 1909. That $260 is $4,055 in 2022 dollars.

The cheapest Ford you can buy in 2022 is $21,490, five times the price of that first Ford. That’s more in line with the 1909 rudimentary Model-T.

Gasoline is more expensive today than in 1950, in real dollars, and it should be. It’s a non-renewable resource.

Why have automobiles become more expensive, in real dollars over time?

* The Census uses “average” and “median” as the same thing. They are not. Average = mean, not median.

#scitech  (160/365)
📷 Wikimedia
Daily posts, 2022-2023

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

2 replies on “The Corvette is 69 years old”

Gasoline is being depleted over time. Yes, but lack of a product just encourages the research $$ to flow. Those $$ lead to innovation. I’ve been a Corvette fan since 1957. Too bad I don’t have one tucked away in my garage. The new Corvette hardly resembles 1953. Technology, often expensive, has changed every little piece many times. But the dream remains: An American sports car. Obtainable, with effort and a friendly banker by many Americans. So how about salaries? I started in 1963 for $1/hr. My parents thought it outrageously excessive. I’m now at about $200/hr and there is no longer a need to work full time. I’ll bet life is good for tenured professors, also.

Perhaps some tenured professors make low six figures. Most people who teach in America’s colleges and universities are actually part-time/contract. They are not on a “tenure track,” which takes years of work (usually research not teaching).

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