1953 Prototype? C1 Corvette Puzzle

c1

Barn Finds reader Joe W. writes: The seller of this Corvette offers some interesting theories but little real information about the car. It appears that this may be a reproduction body to me but I don’t know enough to tell. Maybe some of the Barn Finds readers know more than I do. The car is located in Friant, California and is up for sale here on eBay. The question is what is actually up for auction?

c2

I’m hoping some of the many Corvette experts in the Barn Finds community can tell if this is an original body or not from the mold lines. The seller includes parts of a story that the body (not the 61-62 chassis it’s currently mounted on) was from the third original prototype Corvette that was supposedly used as the first V-8 car. I’d have to see a LOT more documentation before I believed that, but it’s interesting to wonder. I did find a web page describing EX-122, the earliest known remaining Corvette prototype, which apparently was used for V-8 trials, so again I questioned the story. And then I started to look closer at the pictures.

collage

Those tags sure look authentic, don’t they, although they are awfully shiny and I’m sure those aren’t original screws! You’ll see the “EX 123” at the end of the serial number tag, and that little brass tag sure looks like an asset tag, doesn’t it? I did find some records of a Al (AJ) Sears in Sterling Heights, Michigan, but I have no way of knowing if that’s the same person. The watch and two tags come with the car, of course. Obviously, tags like these can be faked. So I did some more research, and came across this thread on a Corvette forum. It looks like they already have it figured out as bogus. Too bad. The pictures of the car in an original blue color as well as some details (like the fact that EX123 was actually a Bel-Air) ended any hope of this being authentic.

c6

So we’re left with a non-authentic body (or at least not what the seller is implying it is) on a later chassis with what looks like a nice 327 small block with twin carbs. It has a “Muncey” 4-speed transmission and what look like pretty decently upholstered seats. There’s some other refurbished parts as well, including what looks like a nice chrome grille. Personally, I don’t see $29,500, which is what the seller is asking for, but they are inviting offers as well. How does this project compare to the 1954 C1 we featured recently? And what would you pay for what’s actually being auctioned?

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Comments

  1. Mike R

    Not a prototype. Treat it as a kit car, and gauge what you’re willing to spend for that.

    • Jeff

      I remember these !
      As a kid I found one still in the shipping box in an old warehouse, The Box said it was a kit car and i found it covered in Dust in the Mid 1960’s. It only had the Body and doors in the kit and I don’t believe the last time I found any info on it. The Kit was from the early 1950’s and if I remember correctly the company was called Wittle or Widdle and they made very few. It looked more like a body kit you could put on a Chevy frame and engine and finish out. the doors were very light and empty with no hardware. But it was a predecessor of the Corvette and a rare early kit car attempted business. And I didn;t see the Chevy badges installed yet. But i never opened the Trunk or anything being still boxed. Anybody from Tuscaloosa I can tell you exactly where it WAS!
      Buyers had to add all the mechanics and Logos as the wanted and it was a basic body kit in the box and had the body and short squat doors with no hinges. I remember it well because it started a fight between me and by Bully Brother because I told him I found a prototype of a Corvette named “Wittle” and he started making fun of me about it saying I was telling everybody I found a Corvette “Woodie” And he refused to help me bring it home when the guy cleaning out the Warehouse told me I could have it as long as I got it out of his new building he bought.
      That was in Tuscaloosa Alabama and my best guess was it was in 1964-1966. I did find an article about the kit but that was many years ago. But It could be one of those kits that preceded the first Corvette and someone has tried to finish one out.
      That would explain the screwed in logos looking so new and some of the Tail light mods. At that time I was partailly deaf and my older brother constantly made fun of me when I tried so say words. ( and he never stopped even after I had an inner ear prosthetic implanted ) The would intentionally mispronounce words and trick me into saying them around his friends and my 2 oldest brothers.
      The only place I saw the name on them were the box it was in, and one inside the door frame. That may have been just a sticker since it had been in that dark warehouse so long back then. That Id badge was about the same size as a Diploma sticker and was very simple, Silver Grey and with dark maybe burgundy lettering on it. Again we were cleaning out a old Building and had no lighting, I was peeking through a hole we opened a few feet wide.
      But I couldn’t get the door out of the crate and read it well. The article I found said there were possibly > 200 made and few were ever completed. I’m guessing it was in a popular Mechanics magazine since I was addicted to that magazine as a teen.
      So as a end to my story? My bully brother would not help me get it and choose to make fun of me about it for a long time. Had he not, it would have been fun to save for project when I got older. He still denies anything about the event, And they discovered my unusual hearing condition and it’s cause. i was an early patient to get penicillin for ear infections And the gave me massive doses as a child. After the Fused bones in my ear were replaced with Micro surgery, I made straight A’s in college after barely graduating High School! And the worst Brother a kid could have, denies ever doing anything. Yet is still as abusive as he was then. Fifty years later!
      Hope that helps and I will search again for more info. Email me if you find anything on the Wittle or Widdle kits from the early 1950’s! They had pictures of a couple in the article I read.
      Oh and that brother refused to tell my Oldest brother about the car kit I could have gotten for free! And just made fun of me everything I brought it up claiming I said I found a “Corvette Woodie”. And just be “Retro Abusive”
      It looked exactly as that picture but minus the badges and Raised tail lights, Although those may have been in the kit, We only opened the Driver side door area of the box to see what it was. And if anyone finds that article, I’d love to see it and settle a 50 year old argument finally!

  2. 64 bonneville

    In my personal opinion, I think it is not EX 123. body appears to be laid up with a “chopper gun” similar to what is used in boat construction. I feel that the current engine, may be from a passenger car or station wagon, as not until the late 70s’ did I see any early Corvettes without the ignition shielding on the V-8s’ As mike r said, treat it like a kit car. I also don’t remember screws being used to affix VIN tags on GM vehicles.

    • John

      53 corvette didn’t have a v8 they were a 6 cyl with 3 carbs

    • Chris

      Corvette VINs from 53 to the early 60’s were attached with pan head self tapping screws – normal

  3. Frankie Paige

    There’s a guy in the Bay Area who has this 1969 Pontiac firebird, he’s had it on eBay, Craigslist a few times and has a Facebook page for the car. He says it’s a prototype and has this YouTube video where he shows what he believes are facts as to it being one. He has no paperwork proving, but disproving it’s a regular firebird 400 car. He’s asking a lot for the car, over $50,000 at one point. In the YouTube video he’s quite frantically expaining his facts about the car. Websites about the actual firebird prototypes don’t believe him, yet he persists. This long winded story sounds familiar.

  4. Ahdriver

    I have appraised several early Corvettes, if memory serves me correctly, the VIN tag is mounted to the steering column…

    • Joe

      53-60 were mounted on the drivers door jamb

  5. jimmy

    Well what company uses screws to put vin tags on? None! Besides stainless philips head screws weren’t around at that time!

    • Joe

      Early vette VIN tags WERE held on with phillips screws.

      • Freddy

        That were filled with epoxy! Serious anti-theft back then. LOL

  6. JoeW

    I found this on the web:
    “For all 1953 Corvettes, the location of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is located on the driver side door post.
    The VIN is also stamped on several locations on the Corvette frame.” There are many images with VIN tags using similar screws. I’d like to hear from a C1 expert on the correct placement of the Vin tag. It’s an oddity for sure.

  7. Don Sicura

    As I recall, the very first corvettes built did in fact use screws to affix the VIN plate, the VIN plate shown here is for one of the GM Motorama cars, however this VIN plate is highly suspect to me (I think it may possibly be a fraudulent reproduction VIN plate) the car produced just prior to this one is owned by the Kerbeck family in Atlantic City, NJ, that plate reads EX122, not E53EX122, I believe the VIN plates were affixed to the Corvette steering column starting in 1956 or possibly 1958. Getting back to this car, it is a mixture of many parts & years all put together to create a car to put under the suspect VIN plate, I think the new owner of this car will be very disappointed when he learns the true history of what he has just wasted 32 thousand dollars on.

  8. Don Sicura

    Another thing I forgot to mention, the brass oval tag screwed onto the car is a property tag for their machinery & equipment, not their prototype vehicles.

  9. Don Sicura

    This was copied from the Kerbeck web site:
    “1952 – The EX-122 concept car, which had been in development since 1951, is officially named “Corvette’” after a type of fast warship. Sports car aficionado and GM Vice President Harley Earl is the major force behind the development of the vehicle.”

    “1953 – In January, the Corvette concept car debuts at GM Motorama in New York City.”
    Source: General Motors 2001 Corvette Specialists Data Book

    Source: General Motors 2001 Corvette Specialists Data Book

    The 1953 GM
    Motorama at the Waldor Astoria in New York City opened its doors to the public
    on Sat., January 17th, 1953.

    “By
    the time the EX122 arrived on the Motorama stage, it represented a
    fiberglass-bodied sports car that was readied for production.”
    Source: Bentley Publisher’s Corvette from the inside by Dave Mclellan –
    Corvette’s Chief Engineer 1975-1992

    “The EX122 Corvette is the first of the hand built
    Corvettes.”
    Source: Bloomington Gold
    William Locke Director The Special Collection

  10. GearHead Engineering

    Sure, that’s a prototype. Just like that t-bird next to it. That’s a one-off prototype of the original ’58 thunderbird. Studies showed the squarebird design was preferred so they shelved it for 40+ years. Luckily this guy happened to find it…

  11. Dolphin Member

    Ebay auction ended–car no longer available. Car was either sold or Don Sicura’s comments were taken to heart and the auction was pulled by the seller…..I hope the latter.

    There are (too) many older cars that have VIN plates attached by sheet metal screws. I’ve owned quite a few. But even plates that are riveted on can be messed with, so best not to depend totally on them either.

  12. Imperialist1960

    I’d get it one piece at a time
    And it wouldn’t cost me a dime
    You’ll know it’s me when I come through your town

    I’m gonna ride around in style
    I’m gonna drive everybody wild
    ‘Cause I’ll have the only one there is around.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWHniL8MyMM

  13. Don Sicura

    Your comments about the riveted plates is correct, I have seen people selling the correct “rosette” rivets on the internet, and at a surprisingly low price.

  14. rancho bella

    Early Lotus cars used screws to attach Vin tags

  15. Brendon

    The 50’s GM cars typically had their VIN spot welded to the body. However, since this is fiberglass they couldn’t do that. I have read that Corvette VIN tags were screwed onto the body. Just not those screws, ha ha

  16. Dave

    On this car, I visited with the man for many hours and inspected the car in great detail. My reason was to see if the car was really a 53 or a put together car. the car is in fact a 53, but the complete drivers side has been replaced with later parts. The rest of the car, however is original 53. There have been no repairs or changes to the original body other than the drivers side including the deck lid. The hood is 56. I didn’t really expect the VIN plate to be the right number although it still maybe. The body had been painted about 5 different colors through its life, but the original white can be seen on the deck lid and the passenger side. The rear fender is mostly a 54. In 54 and after GM placed a short (2-3″) support post under the top attachment point to help strengthen the top when attached. The 53 bodies did not have these. I have visually seen on both year cars and a friend who has been in C1-C2’s for 40 years and a NCSR judge for 26 years on C1-C2 cars confirms this as well. The question then becomes, if the VIN tag is not correct and the frame is gone, how does one figure out the true VIN number and heritage of the car? Any help would be appreciated. One mans garbage is another mans treasure.

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