California black plate example
1954 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Chassis no. E54S004221
Engine no. 0769197F54YG
Blue Flame ohv inline six-cylinder engine
Two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission
Rarely seen in Sportsman Red
Recent thorough restoration
Representative example of America's first sports car
The sensation of the 1953 GM Motorama: Chevrolet's Corvette.
Sensing the need for a small American two-seat sports car to compete with the European imports, Harley Earl and a small team of designers secretly penned the Corvette and it was rushed to production by June 30th. Based on a Chevy passenger car chassis, complete with Blue Flame six-cylinder engine and two-speed Powerglide transmission, the white roadster had three side-draft carburetors, a hot cam, high compression head and dual exhausts. Its 150bhp would propel the car to 60mph in 11 seconds not bad for the early '50s.
At first, a conventional steel body was planned, but the low production volume anticipated caused Earl to favor molding the body in fiberglass, a then-new lightweight material ideally suited to producing the unusually smooth and rounded contours of the new car.
In the best sports car tradition, there were no side windows, the only weather protection being rigid, metal-framed plastic side curtains and a manual canvas top. Its formal debut was held in September at the General Motors Proving Grounds and 50 were delivered by the end of the month. The first cars, all white with red interiors, were allocated to high-volume dealerships, for sale to prominent citizens in their communities. Among the latter was John Wayne, who received Corvette number 51 on October 7.
The Corvette's price of $3,498 was $1,200 more than a Bel Air convertible, the most expensive "regular" '53 Chevy, and $500 more than the Ford Thunderbird introduced a year later.
The 1954 models differed mostly in availability of additional colors. Although Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red and Black were added to the palette, Polo White remained the most popular, with four-fifths produced in that color. At the end of the model year, all production shifted to St. Louis.
Despite the public's enthusiastic reaction, sales remained low for some years, just 700 built in 1955 and 3,461 the following year. Ford's new Thunderbird, meanwhile, was selling at more than five times that level. The introduction of a V8 engine for 1955 and re-engineering by Zora Arkus-Duntov for extra performance enhanced the Corvette's reputation as America's only true sports car. Still, the 1953-55 models retain the pure form of the Harley Earl design that turned so many heads at the '53 Motorama, and remain much sought-after today.
The 1954 Corvette offered here looks as sensational today as it did 58 years ago. It was stored in a California garage from 1977 until being discovered by the vendor in 2011. A thorough restoration was undertaken over the past two years, and today this exceptional example looks fresh in Sportsman Red over a red interior. The vendor advises us that the actual mileage is under 49,000 as indicated on the odometer, and that the car still wears its original California black license plates.
- Please note that this vehicle is titled with chassis number E545004221.