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Car Tales: Baby You're Much Too Fast, The Little Red Corvette

“Little Red Corvette/Baby, you’re much too fast”
‘The immortal words of the magnificent Prince, on his breakthrough Top 10 American hit as long ago as 1983…
1961 Chevrolet Corvette for sale
‘Of course, Prince is not flagging up the engine power of his Chevrolet Corvette, as we hear when he sums up his thoughts a little later in the song: Girl, you got an ass like I never seen/ And the ride/I say the ride is so smooth/ you must be a limousine

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‘But Prince is playing with the very notion of the Chevy Corvette, such an iconic motoring image – so sexy, so stylish, so futuristic, such puissance – that is has become known as ‘America’s Sports Car.’ You can just see why when you look at it in profile: the Corvette, colloquially known as the ‘Vette, is clearly a motor car permanently prepared and poised for take-off at terrifically high speed – its 0-60 mph was 6.6 seconds, which made it number 1 car in acceleration that year, a full 5.7 seconds faster than its closest competitor, the 1961 Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale. And it had a top speed of 128 mph.
1961 Chevrolet Corvette side
‘The car was developed after Harley Mills, the head of the General Motors styling team, saw that GIs returning to the US after serving overseas were bringing home MGs, Jaguars and Alfa Romeos. Yet there was no US equivalent. The result was the hand-built, EX-122 pre-production Corvette prototype, which was first shown to the public at the 1953 General Motors Motorama at the Waldorf-Astoria Manhattan on Jan 17 1953.
‘A serious contender on the race track from day one, the Corvette’s status as the quintessence of free-spiritedness was magnified even more through a clever piece of marketing on the part of General Motors.
‘In cooperation with CBS television, the hit TV series Route 66 appeared in October 1960 running through to March 1964: its story-line, essentially that of a crime-drama, featured a pair of young men adventurously traversing the United States – shot on location – in their lovely new Corvette. Automotive News wrote that after being featured in the show, the Corvette became synonymous with freedom and adventure, ultimately becoming both ‘the most successful concept car in history and the most popular sports car in history.’
‘First in production in 1953, when it was named after a small, highly maneuverable warship, the Chevrolet Corvette is still manufactured today; whereas from the off it was a front-engined motor car, since last year, 2020, it has become mid-engined.
‘Yet that recent engineering update is rather a separate story.
1961 Chevrolet Corvette dash
‘At the moment at Beverly Hills Car Club we have a car that is absolutely the archetype Prince was referencing, a Little (and not so little at that) Red Corvette. This is a beautiful 1961 first generation Chevrolet Corvette with 2 tops and matching numbers, in Roman Red with a red interior, one of 10,939 examples of GM’s flagship sports car built for the 1961 model year. The vehicle comes equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission, 283 V8 engine, steel wheels, knock-off hub caps, and white wall tires (You couldn’t imagine a Corvette of that vintage without whitewall tires, could you?). This is an excellent original American classic that is mechanically sound. Debuting in 1961 was a handsome new boat-tail that was carried through to the C2; and twin tail-lights appeared on the 1961 model, a development that continues to this day.
‘Everyone loved these rugged cars, including men whose very lives had been invested in the finest functioning travel equipment: like Scott Altman, pilot of the Atlantis Space Shuttle, and Alan Bean, the Apollo 12 lunar module pilot – he had a Riverside Gold 1969 Coupe.
‘Then there are the musicians, men with similarly peripatetic lifestyles where a strong set of reliable wheels is frequently required: ZZ Top’s drummer Frank Beard’s Rally Red 1967 Roadster; singer David Cassidy’s white 1990s C4; Sheryl Crow’s Ruby Red 1993 Roadster; and Jon Bon Jovi’s 1958 model. Members of the acting profession with Corvettes include George Clooney with his Metallic Blue 1986 Roadster; Farrah Fawcett had two: a Black 1962 and 2002 Z06; James Garner had a Black C4 roadster; and Burt Reynolds drove a Torch Red 2000 Corvette.
‘As much as the TV show Route 66 cemented the notion of the Chevy Corvette in the public’s imagination, so Prince’s Little Red Corvette song refreshed its listeners in 1983 with the very notion of this prototype supercar.
‘But did Prince have his own Little Red Corvette? What were the origins of the song?
‘Well, according to Lisa Coleman, Prince’s then keyboard player, it was never really a Corvette, but a pink and white 1964 Mercury Montclair, which she owned but Prince would love to borrow, sometimes for some days at a time.
1961 Chevrolet Corvette dash
‘He was “sleeping” with someone we knew called Denise Matthews [aka Vanity] and she was “sleeping” in the back of the car, too,’ said Lisa. ‘I even found some of her hair wrapped around the handle that winds the window down.
‘So I imagine they were making out, or doing whatever, in the back seat and they probably had a wonderful moment of afterglow, which is when he got the seed of the idea…
‘But it’s not a red Corvette, it’s a pink Mercury!’
-Alex Manos, Owner
Classic Corvette Buyer Alex Manos

2 replies on “Car Tales: Baby You’re Much Too Fast, The Little Red Corvette”

  • Paul says:

    The designers and producers of the Corvette were Harley Earl and Zora Arkus-Duntov.
    The Corvette was not the first fiberglass production sports car, that ID belongs to the Woodill Wiildfire which was made very close to your facility, in Downey and Orange. Bodies were manufactured by Glaspar, the maker of the “Special” G2 and,of course the boats. Unfortunately, the make never made it and was produced only from 1952 through 1956 because Kaiser went for the “Darrin” instead.
    Supposedly between 100 and 300 were sold, about 25 are known, most are right here in SoCAL

    • Joe Harwick says:

      Thank you Paul! Appreciate these details, and we’ll have to add an article about the elusive Wildfire to our to-do list!

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