Corvette History Through Ads: A Change in Focus
The inspiration for this Corvette advertisement is obvious and plays off the dreams and aspirations of the thousands of boys growing up in the 50’s and 60’s: simply being able to own a Corvette one day. For many, remembering the first Corvette they ever saw or the first time they ever rode in one was an indelible moment forever etched in memory and obviously the copywriter understood the emotional ties that so many of those boys, now adults, still had for the car.
And in many ways it was time to call out those feelings, since 1973 was a risky year for the Corvette. In 1972, government regulations, in the name of “fuel economy”, had virtually “gutted” the performance of the car and for 1973 the “milk toast” engine options were unchanged. The standard 350 cubic inch engine produced a measly 255 HP and the optional anemic 454 could only manage 270 horses, a mere shadow of the former engine which in 1971 was pumping out 425 HP. Fuel economy was high on many American’s priority list due to the gas shortages and “rationing” which was commonplace throughout the country. Performance was no longer a topic in “America’s only production sports car” advertising in 1973.
Advertising attempted to change the longtime focus on performance to safety and convenience items like the all new, stronger front bumper, no longer chrome, covered in body color urethane to meet the 5 MPH federal crash standard. Steel guard beams were added in the doors to help with side impact protection, and the wheels were shod in radial tires for the first time. In many aspects, though there were few alternatives, it was sadly disappointing to see the car and the resultant advertising move away from its performance roots.
But consumers didn’t seem to mind and the appeal of the Corvette in 1973 resulted in the second largest sales in its history selling a total of 30,464 Corvettes, a 12% improvement over the 1972 model year. Only the 1969 model year outsold the 1973 Corvette selling 38,762 cars. It is not coincidental that the 1969 Corvette was still completely performance focused and offered five engine options with horsepower ranging from 350 to 435. But based on the successful sales results for 1973, it appears that the advertisement nailed it and in 1974 the Corvette continued to use the same theme, “If you’ve wanted a Corvette since you were a kid, you’ve waited long enough.”