Amidst all the hoopla surrounding Chevrolet's release of the 2014 Corvette Stingray at the Detroit Auto Show this week, we must take a moment to observe Corvette's 60th birthday. Happy birthday Corvette! You're now old enough to enjoy the senior citizen discount at Shoney's.
Of course, the C7 has an animal vitality that has absolutely nothing to do with either old folks or buffets filled with heaping piles of bland food, even if the original Corvette's 150 hp Blue Flame inline six sort of does. But that original 'Vette was as sporty-looking as any 'Vette that's come around since, and it even had a couple of General Motors cousins.
Although they never made it out of 1954 concept status, the Oldsmobile F-88 and the Pontiac Bonneville Special — both Corvette-esque in appearance — deserve a tip of the old hat as we commemorate 60 years of Corvette goodness.
GM designer Harley Earl was at the top of his game by the mid-'50s. Often seen driving around West Palm Beach, Fla. in futuristic one-off concept cars, he created not one, but three two-seaters presumably aimed at capturing a share of the market then cornered by European sports car manufacturers. Thus the year after the Corvette debuted, it had company.
Unfortunately, GM bean counters, as they so often do, got in the way and axed two unique if faintly Corvette-like models. The two Oldsmobile F-88s GM's styling lab crafted made it to a few years of car shows and endured numerous modifications before disappearing completely. The Olds twins had managed to be simultaneously stately and sporty, but numbers men being what they are, the beauty of such a thing was lost on GM's ill-visioned corporate goons. Another piece of Earl's artwork faded into oblivion.
The Pontiac Bonneville Special concept was the more outrageous of the two. Part Corvette, part Batmobile, the gull wing-doored/airplane cockpit-canopied Special was more fitting a namesake of the Bonneville Speedway than the lugubrious behemoths that carried the title in much later years. But unlike the Corvette, this GM "Dream Car" was powered by a four-carbed 230 hp inline eight that would have blown the doors off of the Blue Flame-equipped Chevy roadsters then coming off the line in Flint, Mich.
Sadly, these two cousins, lovely as they were, could not endure the hateful pen strokes of corporate accountancy. One F-88 vanished completely while the other, secreted away in crates before it could be crushed (per the General's official policy regarding unrealized concepts) later popped up in the collection of famous carmaker E.L. Cord (funny story about that...</a.). And thank goodness. It survives today beneath the limelight of a rotating platter at an obscure car museum in a quiet corner of Colorado.
Both of the Pontiac twins have survived to the present day. Some guy in Illinois owns one of them, and the other surfaced — as so often happens in the case of extremely rare cars — at a Barrett-Jackson auction several years ago. It had been fully restored to its original, metallic green glory, fetching a staggering (but understandable) $3 million.
So there you have it folks. As you blow out the 60-candle-topped cake we knew you've prepared for the Corvette's 60th birthday, take a moment to reflect on the family members it lost in the beginning, and reflect on how they might (or might not) have affected the ultimate fate of two now-deceased nameplates.