Story of the Week

Posted: 05.02.2016
Prince and his 'Little Red Corvette'
By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Robert Tate's collection

 

 

Throughout our history, many and different popular singing groups have had great songs about automobiles.

The song “GTO,” by Ronny and the Daytonas or “Little Deuce Coupe” by the iconic Beach Boys were great songs for our car culture and many of those great songs remain popular today with more recent generations.

Another song that became very popular in the 1980s, was “Little Red Corvette” by the late singer Prince. Prince unfortunately passed away on April 21, 2016, but leaves a lasting legacy of musical genius and for electrifying audiences across the globe.

 

 

The song “Little Red Corvette” came out in 1982 and had continued to be a popular song for many decades fueled by Prince fans all over the world. Actually, the song was inspired by a group member, Lisa Coleman, who was a part of Prince's band The Revolution who happened to own a 1964 Mercury Marauder (NB: Other articles have stated the car was actually a pink Ford Edsel). The vehicle was purchased by Lisa in 1980 in Minneapolis with Prince’s help. It was said that Prince had fallen asleep in the Mercury and had a wonderful dream about a song titled “Little Red Corvette.” Later, as Prince and his great music career would continue the song became etched in music history.

Throughout automotive history, the color red has always been popular for sports cars. The first Corvette sports car was manufactured in Polo-white with a red interior. Later for 1963, the most popular color for Corvette with a newly and great split window design was called Riverside Red. The color had become very popular among auto enthusiast and our culture as well.

 

 

During the 1980s, when Corvettes were being designed and developed at the General Motors Technical Center, Prince released ‘Little Red Corvette,” which created an unforeseen marketing boost for GM. Corvette design and engineering during that time was undergoing changes, for example individuals who are familiar with Corvette history know that there wasn’t a 1983 Corvette model manufactured. However, there was a great looking design for Corvette in 1984 along with Prince’s song, “Little red Corvette,” that was still very popular with our American culture.

Trying to build on the popularity of the song, Chevrolet started a billboard advertising campaign which stated, “They don't write songs about Volvos.” Then in 1984, Corvette was named “Car of the year” by Motor Trend Magazine and once again the most popular color for Corvette was red.

 

 

In 1996, James Schefter released a great book titled “All Corvettes Are Red: Inside the rebirth of an American legend.” The book was very popular among Corvette enthusiasts and automotive historians. Inside the book, comments were made that, “The 1 millionth Corvette would be built in the next year or so and be painted in the old shop.”

At an earlier meeting, a discussion of paint quality and paint colors for future years of Corvette had dragged on so long that John Heinricy, then leading Corvette’s development group of test drivers, couldn’t take it any longer; he said: “Why are we even having this discussion? All Corvettes are red. The rest are mistakes.”

 

 

So, why is red so popular for this particular model of car? Well, psychology studies have pointed to the fact that red represents a warm and positive color associated with our most physical needs and our will to survive. It exudes a strong and powerful and masculine energy. Red is also energizing and it excites the emotions and motivates us to take action. And most importantly, red is attention getting.

In conclusion, fans will always remember Prince’s great song “Little Red Corvette” for many decades to come. In response to the untimely death of Prince, Chevrolet purchased full-page advertising that depicted the rear-end of a split window 1963 Chevrolet Corvette “Baby that was much too fast.” To me, this was a great nod to Prince's timeless song.



A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for contributing this story to the MotorCities Story of the Week Program. 

For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email nahc@detroitpubliclibrary.org. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. (Bibliography: Schefter, James. “All Corvettes are Red: Inside the Rebirth of an American Legend," 1996)


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