Over the years, the Corvette has gone through many design changes; some subtle, some not so subtle. The Corvette’s symbolic crossed flags emblem has also seen its fair number of changes. If you’ve taken a close look at the emblem over the five generations of Corvette, you’ll notice that even though the design has changed dramatically from time to time, a few design cues remain. These include some form of a checkered flag and a bow-tie emblem. From time to time, a strange, maple leaf type of insignia, called a “fleur-de-lis” also shows up from time to time in the emblem. So what does all this mean and how did it get started?
The original Corvette logo (Figure 1) was designed by Robert Bartholomew, an interior designer at Chevrolet in 1953. This emblem was destined to appear on the 1953 Corvette prototype which was introduced to the public for the first time at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel in January of 1953. It had crossing staffs with the checkered flag on the right hand side, and the American flag on the left hand side. However, four days before the Corvette was to go on display at the show, Chevrolet management decided that it should be redesigned. The problem with the proposed emblem was that it included the American flag which is illegal to use on a commerical product. Right before the show, redesigned emblems were attached to the front hood and steering wheel of the Corvette. The new emblem contained the checkered flag on the right side as well as the white racing flag, red Chevrolet bow-tie symbol and a fleur-de-lis (Figure 2).
Where did the fleur-de-lis come from? At the time, Chevrolet was conducting research on various emblem designs for the 1953 and 1954 passenger cars. They looked at the Louis Chevrolet family history in an attempt to discover a crest or some type of heraldry that they could utilize. Unfortunately, they came up empty, but they did realize that Chevrolet is a French name and the fleur-de-lis (flower of the lily) is a French symbol meaning peace and purity. They decided to use the fleur-de-lis along with the famous blue Chevrolet bow tie on a new flag which replaced the American flag on the Corvette. When the 1953 Corvette first appeared to the public at the Waldorf Historia Hotel, the redesigned emblems were in place.
However, this emblem was temporary and used only for press photography at the show. A new emblem was designed prior to the 1953 Corvette going into production.
The Sixties & Seventies
This era saw a bit of a change in the emblem. This is when the Chevrolet flag appeared in the same crossed flags design with the checkered finish line flag. The Chevrolet flag premiered in a bright red color. The structure of this emblem also showed the flags “waving” in a much more dramatic design than previous and more current flags.
Though the Corvette logo saw some changes, the mainstay logo that continues to prevail is the crossed flags. In 1997 the new emblem premiered with the classic style. The crossed checkered finish line flag was partnered with a custom Chevrolet flag as the forefront to a medium thickness circle.
The history of the Corvette emblem shows the creativity and detail that went into the making of this legendary sports car. As the model changed, so too did the overall branding. As with all new ventures, it took some trial and error to work out the details of how the emblem would fit with the overall look of the car
Throughout the evolution of the Corvette, the “Crossed Flags” have been the primary design element of the Corvette Logo – even in todays Corvette C7 Logo.
If you’re wondering what ever happened to the original 1953 Corvette emblem by Robert Bartholemew, it’s currently on display at the National Corvette Museum!