The catalytic converter in your Chevrolet Corvette has an important purpose: to reduce the toxicity of your engine emissions. In 1950, the first studies about smog in Los Angeles, California were published, indicating what everyone knew already: auto exhaust was a major component of the problem. That year, French-born mechanical engineer Eugene Houdry founded his company, Oxy-Catalyst, with the goal of developing a catalytic converter for cars such as the Chevy Vette. Gasoline, at that time, still contained lead however, which prevented the converter from operating properly (lead was first added to gasoline in 1920 to improve engine performance by raising octane levels). Engineers Carl D. Keith and John J. Mooney further developed the catalytic converter at the Engelhard Corporation, introducing the first production catalytic converter in 1973.
Around this time, the United States Environmental Protection Agency
began tightening regulations on vehicle exhaust. Then leaded gasoline
became illegal, and in 1975, the first catalytic converters were
introduced on automobiles built in the United States.
How It Works
The catalytic converter on your Corvette reduces emissions by creating
an environment where a chemical reaction can take place. The core of
the catalytic converter is covered with a rough “washcoat” (often a
mixture of alumina and silica), which provides extra area for the
catalyst — usually a precious metal like platinum, palladium or
rhodium. The gases coming in contact with the catalyst in the converter
causes a reaction, which reduces the toxicity of your engine’s
However, there are some negatives with the use of this technology.
Because catalytic converters contain precious metal, and because they
are located externally on the vehicle, they are frequently stolen.
Also, although catalytic converters remove hydrocarbons and other
harmful emissions effectively, most of the exhaust gas leaving the
converter is carbon dioxide, a gas that has been positively linked to