The C-1 Corvette in Miniature
by Dave Weber, images by Doug Breithaupt

Billed as the only US made sports car at the time, the Corvette made its appearance in 1953. The basic design was presented in four different body styles in the experimental GM Motorama dream car display early that year. The styles consisted of the soon to be introduced production roadster, a hardtop coupe introduced later in 1956, a Nomad sports wagon, introduced in 1955 in the Bel Air line as a full size car, and a fastback model called the Biscayne which never entered production. These cars toured the nation during 1953 and 1954.

In the meantime, the Chevrolet Division began mass producing the roadster model which had only slight changes from the experimental car. The small air scoops on the front fenders were removed . The side chrome strip was lengthened and inverted. Only 300 cars were produced that first year. All had white plastic bodies with red and white interiors. This basic body style now called the C-1 remained in production with some changes through 1962. It was replaced by the more radically styled Sting Ray or C-2 model in 1963.

Before entering into a survey of the various 1/64 (3 inch ) models found over the past quarter century, I believe a brief summary of the annual styling changes should be presented. This can assist the collector to properly identify the year each of his models may represent. Some years had more pronounced styling changes then others. Some models can possibly represent more then one specific year. Other styling changes were so minute that they are unable to be portrayed on a miniature model of this size.

1954 was the first full year of production. The fiberglass body was offered in 4 colors. Most of the cars were painted Polo White, but the Pennant Blue was also a popular color. Sportsman Red was also available and 6 cars were finished in black. There were no visible styling changes for this year.

1955 was the first year that a V-8 engine was offered. It replaced the 105 horsepower Blue Flame Six. Again, there were no major styling changes. However, the side-script of the V-8 models had an enlarged V placed over the "Chevrolet' name.

The first major styling change occurred in 1956. The bird cage headlight housings and the rocket taillights were eliminated. The dual exhausts were repositioned outward from under the trunk area to protrude out of the rear bumper at the rear of each fender. The side panels were scalloped at the front wheel wells. This style remained basically unchanged until 1958.

1958 was the second major styling change to the C-1. Dual headlights and partial covers over the previously introduced fender scallop design were added. This was the last major change until 1961. The only visible change in 1959 consisted of the removal of fake hood louvers. There were no visible changes in 1960.

In 1961 the Corvette sported a new rear fender 'duck tail' styling which was a hint of the Sting Ray to appear in 1963. Also in 1961, the teeth in the grille were replaced by a mesh screen and the headlight rims were painted in body color. The coved scallops still featured 3 large fins.

The 1962 model eliminated the chrome outline around the scalloped cove on the body and replaced the 3 fins in the reverse fender scoops with a grid . Also the mesh grille was blacked out and an anodized aluminum strip was added to the rocker panels.

Now we can review the models representing this marque for the first 10 years of its life. By listing each product in chronological order, I can provide an overview of all known toys and models for each specific year.


Johnny Lightning #P171


Johnny Lightning #731

Kidco #151

Road Champs


Racing Champions #3


Yat Ming #1079

Road Champs

Johnny Lightning #P166

Racing Champions #173

Welly #2064



Motorama (1953 - 1954)
Johnny Lightning (JL) is the only known producer of the Corvette Nomad in this scale. It carries casting #171 and was first introduced in the Classic Customs Corvette series in 1996 as a representative model of the 1954 car.

JL also produced the first production roadster #731 in the Corvette Collection in 1999.The engine hood is hinged and the top is removed. Hot Wheels ( HW ) also produced a very exact replica in their enhanced Collectible series about 2 years ago . Another detailed model was the Racing Champions ( RC ) Mint Edition #96 in 1997. This model has the cloth (plastic ) top in the up position and the engine hood is also hinged. Also Road Champs issued a model with a removable plastic roof in the early 90's. For some unknown reason this firm elected to paint the model in black which is incorrect. Kidco, the US distribution company for Universal Products (pre- Matchbox) also issued a 1953 model #151-1 in 1979. The trunk lid is hinged. However the windshield design is incorrect . This distortion is a prominent distraction.

As noted above, there were no styling changes for 1954, however both RC #3 and JL elected to issue 1954 models by using their previously mentioned castings. The JL car uses the same casting number. However the most recent issue in the Art Cars set does have a modification for the year on the base of this model.

1955 - To date no models have been issued.

The only model identified for this year was issued by Universal in 1:50 scale. It is a hardtop coupe and has a hinged engine hood.

Each producer of 1957 models has produced models with special features peculiar to that model. Yat Ming #1079 is a hardtop model with hinged doors. Yat Ming also produced a similar model #1038 but I have no additional information on this second model. Road Champs produced a coupe body over 10 years ago. JL also included a coupe in the Classic Customs Corvette series in 1996 #166. RC issued a roadster with a hinged engine hood #176 and #211 in their Mint Editions series in 1997 or 1998. Welly, at present offers the best model for the money! It is very nicely detailed with the top in the down position. For only 50 cents; model #2064 is a bargain. Kinsmart, a recent diecast producer from the Orient has issued a slightly smaller but quite detailed model of the roadster with the top removed. This model features a pull back motor. Matchbox (MB) issued a very nice model in their regular line and Premiere series in 1999 . Zylmex/ Zeetoy issued model #365 with a hinged hood about 10 years ago . No further information is available. Also FAIE 'Swift Runner', another Oriental producer, issued a 56-57 roadster with the top removed. This was found in some discount toy stores about 10 years ago. The design is somewhat crude. The grille is black plastic. The unusual features of this model is a black continental tire fastened to the rear bumper and a raised engine hood suggesting a special housing for a supercharger. This toy producer has taken major styling liberties; possibly to avoid licensing issues. Another model that can only be considered as a toy was made by Summer. The tampo design has '58' and '8156' on the body. I assume the producer was suggesting the car is a 1958 model with #8156. In fact, the design coincides with the model specifications for style of the 56-57 car. The fender scallops are not well defined but do not have the partial covering of the 58 model. Also the headlight are single units. The dual system was introduced in 1958.

For 1958 Majorette issued model #279 in coupe form a few years ago. The coved scallop is noticeably distorted. HW issued a roadster in 1995 in their regular series. It featured side exhaust pipes and a roll bar behind the drivers seat. When it was first introduced, model # 2015 had a large oversized engine protruding from the engine compartment. Later this monstrosity was eliminated and replaced by a hinged hood and correctly modeled engine. Midgettoy , a now defunct toy company produced a roadster in the 70's. It was similar to the base-less Tootsietoy models and had a one piece body . The axles were attached to 4 open posts extending from the underside of the body. Hubley, also now defunct, produced a roadster in their Real Toy / Real Type lines in the US and Canada respectively in the early 60's.

No companies have as yet introduced any models for this year.

For 1960 Ertl produced a promotional model of an open roadster over 10 years ago. One version contained an oversized occupant with flattened facial features in the cockpit . This model promoted Champion Auto Stores. A much nicer version was done for the TV show Riptide, without the driver. A model was also made by Tootsietoy. It is an open roadster which is crudely designed. It was issued in the mid 90's. Among the noticeable defects are the oversized windshield and undersized wheels. Subway, a sandwich store chain issued a similar model about the same time. However, the base reads Subway and makes no mention of the possible Tootsietoy origins.

JL has just issued a 1961 roadster in their Art Cars set # 167. However the main difference between this casting and the 1962 model is the paint scheme. The 1962 base has been modified to read 1961. If the fins in the coved side fender scallops are examined closely , the grid of twelve fins is visible which was only featured on the full size 1962 model. This casting for 1961 and / or 1962 has an opening hood.

As noted above, by providing different paint schemes, JL has been able to provide 2 separate years from 1 casting! MB produced a coupe model #71G in 1982. This same casting was used to provide enhanced models in their former World Class/Premier Edition sets.

This completes my review of the C-1 phase of the Corvette. I hope to continue with a summary of the C-2 Sting Ray next month. Historical Research material was obtained from Corvette Past- Present- Future by the editors of Consumer Guide (1982).


Hot Wheels


Ertl #7356



Johnny Lightning #P167

Matchbox (regular issue)

Matchbox (Premier Edition)

Matchbox (These racing colors are certainly one of the best looking with the lace-style wheels and the orange/white scheme.)

Matchbox has certainly made use of their '62 Corvette with 16 different color variations shown here. The front row, with one exception, are all Premier Edition/World Class models as is the black, chrome-engined model in the back row. The exception is the red/white 'Animal House' model.

A total of 16 color variations maybe close to a record for small-scale cars. Of course, busses and trucks with different messages or advertising would total many more. If there is a car with more variations, let me know
(click here)

For articles on the Corvette C-3 and C-4 models, please use these links.