1957 CHEVROLET CORVETTE CONVERTIBLE
The C1 Corvette was the first generation of the Corvette sports car produced, starting production for the 1953 model year and ending in 1962. It is commonly referred to as the ‘solid-axle’ generation, as the independent rear suspension did not appear until the ’63 Stingray. There was no doubt Chevrolet was in the sports car business with the release of the 1956 model, which featured a new body, a much better convertible top with power assist optional, real glass roll-up windows (also with optional power assist), and an optional hardtop. Visually, the 1957 was identical, although engine displacement increased to 283ci (4.6 litres), fuel injection became optional, and a four-speed manual transmission was made available. Pushing towards a high-performance and racing market, ’57 Corvettes could also be ordered ready-to-race with special options. Prolific author Brian Long is particularly well placed to write this book, as he has lived in Japan for many years — which must have helped him get access to some of the people and documents that he uses to very good effect when covering the three generations of MR2S from Toyota. After an interesting brief look at the history of Toyota, the development of the first MR2, with its angular styling, is illustrated by a number of design sketches and clay models. Along the way, there are some fascinating insights, such as the rather delightful-looking MRJ that was part of the development of the third-generation cars. Throughout the book, Long draws on advertising material and road tests from publications in Europe, Australia, the UK, and the US. Each successive model was well received, with few criticisms, and the MR2 compared well with the comparatively small number of rivals. Mazda’s MX-5 was probably the strongest competitor, although a much more ‘conventional’ sports car in many ways. Toyota did strike out on a new path with the mid-engined format, and each of the three MR2 iterations was quite different. I like the way Long gives credit to people behind the scenes who ensured the model’s future, such as former chief engineer Tadashi Nakagawa. He uses photos, brochures, and adverts effectively to demonstrate the many different variations required for various markets and the specialedition models that were produced in small numbers. By Toyota standards, 377,000 MR2S over 33 years was a pretty small total, but the cars were important in demonstrating that the giant company could successfully enter and grow a fairly niche market. The different power units used get a few pages, as does the limited competition programme that was followed. For owners and potential buyers, whichever generation you are interested in, there is a lot of useful detail on the colour schemes and various specification changes as the model developed. With hundreds of illustrations across its 200 large pages, this book does the MR2 credit.