283 Project: 1954 Chevrolet Corvette

As the story goes, GM designer Harley Earl perceived there was a demand for a U.S.-built, small, 2-seat sports car and work began on the Corvette early in the 1950s. The car became a reality in 1953 when the first 300 copies saw the light of day, all finished in white paint with red interiors. Many consider ’53 as a dry run as production went 12-fold the following year. The 1954 model would be the most prolific of the first-generation Corvettes. This ’54 edition is described as a project since the motor is not correct, the interior is incomplete, and the body is needing a bit of work. It’s located in Miami, Florida and available here on eBay where the Buy It Now price is $46,000. The Maker Offer button has been activated and our Ikey Heyman strikes again!

When you ordered a new Corvette between 1953-55, you had a wide range of engine and transmission options – as long as it was the Blue Flame inline-six paired with a 2-speed Powerglide automatic. In sports car circles, this certainly was an odd combination as most of them had manual shifters. The reasoning for going this route was likely budget related. As Chevy had already invested in developing the Corvette’s fiberglass body, they probably needed to dip into the GM parts bin for mechanical stuff in case the experiment didn’t work. Fortunately it did and the Corvette would evolve over the years and still be in production today, though radically different now than it was nearly 70 years ago.

We’re not treated to the history of this ’54 Corvette other than we know that it’s a project that needs completion. Instead of the Blue Flame six, a 283 cubic inch V-8 from a 1958 Corvette resides there now. Perhaps the six-banger gave up the ghost and this 283 was hanging around and easy to pluck, or it was someone’s plan all along was to convert this early ‘Vette to V-8 power. Either way, the original block and many of its bits are still around and come with the car if you want to restore it to 1954 specifications. The Corvette in its current state hasn’t been started and is for sale because the owner has taken ill and can’t move forward with the project himself.

After 1953 production hit 300, sales practically soared to 3,640 the next year, and finally 700 for 1955. Perhaps Chevy knew what Ford had up their sleeves with the T-Bird due out for 1955, which handily outsold the Corvette. So, the Corvette was beefed up for 1956 and never looked back. The body on the seller’s Corvette is decent, although there is at least one crack in the fiberglass up front to attend to. The rear bumper-ettes have been removed and reveal the color white, so perhaps this Chevy was repainted at some point. The seller says he has all the trim pieces that are missing, plus the taillights and interior parts that aren’t currently on or in the car. There is no indication of the mileage of this vintage ‘Vette.

Because of their originality and scarcity today, the first-generation Corvettes require a sizeable bank account to get started. One in Fair condition will set you back $36,000 according to Hagerty and $129,000 will get you a Concours edition. Fortunately, the ’54 model was the most plentiful then, so logic would have it that more of them are still around. So, here’s the $46,00 question: if you bought the Corvette, would have complete the car with the V-8 currently in it or rebuilt the I-6 and go back to 1954?

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Comments

  1. gary rhodes

    Restomod with a twin turbo ls and a six speed.

    Like 9
  2. George Mattar

    What he said.

    Like 1
  3. George Mattar

    What he said

    Like 1
  4. Grease

    Looks like the original block is supplied – hopefully the dual carb intake and the OE head is there too. Zero $benefit installing the 283.

    Like 7
    • jokacz

      Three carb

      Like 1
  5. LarryS Member

    “When you ordered a new Corvette between 1953-55, you had a wide range of engine and transmission options – as long as it was the Blue Flame inline-six paired with a 2-speed Powerglide automatic.” The 265 cu. in. V8 was available in 1955.

    Like 5
  6. wcshook

    As tempting as it would be to keep the V-8, I would be more interested in returning it to original as much as possible. Not that many in original format nowadays.

    Like 8
  7. charlie Member

    Had a ’54, all original except battery, exhaust and tires at the time – 1967. Carbs were three Carter sidedrafts which despite rebuilds, leaked gas, never had a fire though. Exhaust through the rear bumper was fake – if routed through fumes rolled up over the trunk into the passenger compartment, top on or off. Chevy had done an early fix which directed the exhaust down just in front of the rear bumper. Owner before me had done straight through, I blame whatever brain loss I have to breathing those fumes until the local Chevy dealer commented that he had sold one in early ’54 and the factory had sent new tailpipes that dumped the exhaust short of the bumper onto the road. It had been driven hard, lots of crazes in the fiberglass, and a dent in the X frame where it had hit a rock, and even in 1967 it was a high theft car, wheelcover was stolen, and then sold back to me by the thief (who “found it”) but since they had fake “spinners” (to mimic knock off hubs like on the Jag) which had been banned by the Feds as unsafe to pedestrians, replacement wheelcovers were sold without by the dealer. It was very front heavy, met a few snow banks as a result, but always started, it was a Chevy at heart after all, and engine, and PowerGlide, other than gas leaks, were bullet proof. So, if the Blue Flame 6 is numbers matching, I would put it back in, lots of parts available to restore it, except maybe the 3 Carter side drafts. It had beefier parts inside, valve springs for example, and maybe higher compression – my ’56 Chevy 6 ran fine on regular fuel, the Corvette demanded “high test” or it knocked badly.

    Like 5
  8. Bimmerbill

    The three carb manifold with side drafts sat above a split exhaust manifold (they didn’t know what a cross flow head at that time was) developing into dual exhaust. All ’53 and ’54 were white. Talking about bean counters the MK one used a shortened full size full chassis which I believe was under the ’49 – ’54 cars. Please correct me if I am wrong, sometimes my 82 year old mind takes off on me

    • Charles Klescewski

      I don’t think the statement that all 53-55 were White is correct.

    • tiger66

      All the ’53s were Polo White and most of the ’54s were that color as well (3,230), but a small number of ’54s were Pennant Blue (300), Sportsman Red (100) or Black (4).

      Like 3
  9. charlie Member

    You are right, it was a convertible chassis, shortened, or so I was told way back then.

  10. Charles Klescewski

    I don’t think the statement that all 53-55 were White is correct.

  11. JohnfromSC

    The only question that needs asking is how complete is the car? If it truly has the original power train, then the next big item is how complete it is in original trim pieces. Parts for C1s are crazy expensive. So the ask isn’t too far off if the answers to the questions are yes, but if no, this is more like a $20K platform to build a custom with a modern frame, drivetrain and suspension.

    Like 1
  12. JukeOfEarl

    About 30 years ago there was a 53 or 54 for sale in Los Angeles for $7,000. I called the number and a woman gave me another number to call the next day at noon.

    I fantasized keeping it or taking it to the Pomona swap meet the next weekend and doubling my money.

    I called the next day asking when I could see it? He said “before you see it, you must tell me the most you’d be willing to pay for it?”

    I said “well, you have it listed at $7,000 so (pause) the most I’d be willing to pay (pause) would be $7,000.”

    He said he was getting divorced and he wanted his wife to think he was getting $7,000 for it, but he wanted $17,000.

    I figured the woman I’d spoken to was the ex so I called and let her in on the details of the sale.

    Like 1
  13. JukeOfEarl

    I’ve always wanted a 55, so I’d keep the V8.

  14. NCRSMasterJudge

    The 54 Penant Blue with Tan Convertible Top was my favorite of the color combos between the 3 first years.

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