Norman Walker

Cleburne Lion Norman Walker with his 1997 Corvette, one of three he owns. He discussed the history of Corvettes during the Lions Wednesday meeting.

Like the car, Cleburne Lion Norman Walker’s Wednesday presentation played out quick and to the point.

“I’m about to deliver 65 years of history in 15 minutes,” Walker said.

A lifelong Corvette enthusiast and the proud owner of three, Walker, sensibly enough, began at the beginning. 

Of French derivation, corvette means small, quick and maneuverable war ship.

The first year’s model, the 1953, debuted at that years GM Motorama in New York City.

“The original logo was the U.S. flag and the checkered flag,” Walker said. “At the last minute one of GM’s attorneys pointed out that it’s illegal to use the U.S. flag in the advertisement of a product so they had to change the logo last minute.”

GM produced a mere 300 of the 1953 model.

“You notice there’s no exterior door handles or roll up windows,” Walker said. “They came with two options, a heater or a radio. But all the cars shipped with both options, so were they really options?”

Walker estimated that roughly 150 of the 1953 models still exist all of which are now worth a fortune.

The C-1 model line ran from 1953 to 1962.

“In 1955 they updated from 6-cylinder with 150 horsepower to a 265 and in 1957 they added fuel injection, which is one of the most desirable model years,” Walker said.

Each classification includes it’s own unique logo, the C-7 series, which began in 2014, being the most current.

The C-2 series, which began in 1963, saw the debut of the Stingray logo and the highly desirable split back window model.

More rare than the Vette’s original year’s line is the 1983 version, Walker said.

“1984 was the first year of the C-4 series,” Walker said. “The 1983 model took too long. They took too long to test them that year because they were working on a completely radical body style change. So, they basically skipped the 1983 model year.

“But they did build 43 in 1983. They crushed most of them. A few, they won’t say how many, were retitled into 1984. So there’s only one true 1983 model Corvette left and it’s in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The C-5 series, which ran 1997 to 2004, is almost indistinguishable from year to year, Walker said. 

“The only way to tell the difference is that the passenger-side door has no keyhole from 2001 to 2004.”

The C-7 series, 2014 to present, revived the Stingray logo for the first time since 1976, he said.

The C-8 line is in the planning but details on style and price remain closely guarded.

“Rumors are they’re going to be priced $165,000 or so,” Walker said. “So a lot of fear is if they do that and don’t continue to make the C-7 format that they’ll price the Corvette out of the average person’s market.”

Tragedy struck Feb. 12, 2014 at the National Corvette Museum.

“There’s many caves and caverns throughout Kentucky,” Walker said. “More than people realize.”

The roof of a cavern beneath the museum collapsed creating a 45 foot sinkhole that swallowed eight vintage Vettes.

“Some they managed to repair; some they couldn’t,” Walker said. “Some, basically the VIN tag would have been the only original part salvageable. So for some they just made the [damaged cars] part of the museum’s exhibits.”

One car, the one millionth Corvette produced, was saved.

“When they started taking it apart they discovered that every piece of the car was signed by the person who put it together on the assembly line,” Walker said. “Every part could be saved except a cover on the passenger side. They learned that the lady who installed it was still living and still local. So, when they got ready to present the car back to the museum, they brought her in and had her sign the part.”

The museum sits across the street from a GM assembly plant.

“The 1953s were assembled in Flint, Michigan,” Walker said. “Then they moved production to St. Louis but, from 1981, they’ve all been built in Bowling Green. You can even take delivery at the National Corvette Museum. They build it across the street, prep it and bring it over to the museum. Then the new owners, if they decide to take museum delivery, pick their new car up on Fridays.”

Corvette production numbers vary greatly from year to year, Walker said in answer to one Lions’ question.

From the 300 of 1953 to the 51,597 of 1984. By contrast, about 13,000 were produced in 2013 versus 37,288 the following year. Prices range from about $55,000 to about $109,000.

Walker remained true to his car when asked by Lion Rick Blaine which would win in a race between a Corvette and a Ford Cobra.

“It depends on the cars, of course,” Walker said. “Whether you’re talking Ford Cobra or Shelby Cobra, but I know a Corvette beat the Tesla that’s supposed to be unbeatable.”

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