Boat House Find: 1953-55 Corvette

1953 Corvette

1953-55 Corvettes aren’t the usual type of car one finds in a barn. Sure, there’s the occasional incident where one is bricked up and left, but that’s not the norm. But that’s exactly what we have here, complete with in-the-barn pictures and the classic meager, teasing description. Why, oh why can’t sellers fill us in better? This Corvette is for auction here on eBay in Groton, Massachusetts, where it’s mistakenly touted as a 1959 model.

1953 Corvette Nose

Starting from the front end, this car will certainly require some substantial work. The fiberglass quality on these early cars wasn’t the best in the first place, and after this much time a total body strip down is probably in order. It looks like someone may have started that in the front, possibly to repair some damage. Looking closely at the hood there are numerous cracks in the finish, and we know the bumpers and other trim components are not included in the sale.

Boat House Corvette

Okay, yes, it’s really a boathouse, not a barn. But it looks the part! We can see that the rear bumpers have been removed as well, although the vulnerable taillights are in place. A California plate dating from somewhere between 1969 and 1982 has me hoping that the car spent most of its life there rather than the northeast; despite the bodies being fiberglass, the frames and suspension components are steel and just as prone to rusting as any other car.

C1 Corvette Project

I’ve always thought of these as cruisers rather than true sports cars, especially the very early ones that were only available with the Blue Flame 6-cylinder and a Powerglide 2-speed automatic. 1953 cars only came in Polo White with red interiors, which is the scheme of this car. I wish the seller had included a serial number so we knew what year it is!

As there’s no engine or transmission included with the sale, those will be left up to the future owner to find. If it isn’t a really early car, I’d opt for a period 283 and sneak a 4 or 5 speed in for drivability. I wonder if those are Corvette parts in the box beside the car?

1953 Corvette Hardtop

I wondered about the decal on the windshield, and found out Hays is a manufacturer of high-performance clutches, and is still in business today. The hardtop is also interesting, as early Corvettes were not offered with a hardtop from the factory. Based on the curve of the side windows and overhang of the windshield, this looks like a Plasticon hardtop as pictured below.

Image courtesy
Image courtesy

These hardtops alone sell for over $1,000 in restorable condition, and with 1953 Corvette values ranging from $170,000 up, if this is a 1953 there’s a lot of financial upside to this project. However, values for a 1954 and 1955 are much lower, making it a more daunting undertaking. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.


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  1. Josh Staff

    It seems the seller already discovered their mistake and pulled the listing. It would have been interesting to watch this one play out.

  2. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    I’m guessing it will reappear at some point, I’ll keep my eyes open. If it does, it will be interesting to compare the auction presentations :-)

  3. RollerD

    The Plasticon ad is very interesting, thanks for posting that.

  4. jim s

    did the car sell already and/or will the car be relisted. looks like it needs a lot of work/money but still a great find.

  5. Wiley Robinson

    Wayne Carini must have shown up with a fist full of cash.

  6. Dolphin Member

    For those interested in forgotten fiberglass there’s an article with that title in the current issue of “Classic Motorsports” magazine (March ’15). Has some interesting old ads that I haven’t seen before and some good text.

    I’m not Tim Suddard and I don’t own “Classic Motorsports”.
    I just read it.
    Cheers everyone.

  7. Doug

    Incidently the plate would be from 1980 – 1982. 1980 is when the 7 character plates started.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Thanks for the correction, Doug!

  8. charlie Member

    I owned a ’54 for a couple of years in the late 60’s. Nice on a day when you could put the top down. Awful otherwise, front heavy with the long straight 6, even with 3 Carter sidedraft carbs that leaked gasoline, those exhausts through the bumper are fake, when real exhaust came up over the trunk into the passenger compartment. Plexiglass sidecurtains, were scratched and barely transparent, went fast in a straight line for 1954, would not go around a corner, fiberglass crazed and cracked, if you were 6′ or more, you had to crouch down to see out the windshield with the top up, and no gas station attendant could find the gas filler cap.

  9. Rex Kahrs Member

    Wow Charlie, you are really cracking me up with that post. It makes me wonder why anyone wound want such a piece of crap!

    My Mother used to remind me often to go to college, so I wouldn’t end up “pumping gas” all my life as a gas station attendant. In those days of the 1960s, nobody was allowed to operate the gas pump but the attendant, who then washed your windshield with a spray bottle and a blue rag in his back pocket, and who never failed to check your oil . Invariably you were a quart low, so he always asked “can I top that off for you?” The cost of that extra oil was probably 59 cents.

    I followed my Mom’s advice and graduated college. Now I now enjoy pumping gas into my old cars, and all my other vehicles too. And oddly enough, nowadays every one of us is “pumping gas”, from the lowly college kid to the millionaire. I guess the oil companies figured out that we’d go ahead and do it ourselves if they took away that smartly-dressed chap with the blue rag in his back pocket. Ah the good old days.

  10. Dan

    I would say ’54, the ’55s had a small “V” emblem on the side denoting the 265 v-8 (the first year of a V8 corvette) and with only 300 ’53’s made, not likely a ’53….but could be….

  11. Gary

    Not a big fan of the first year Corvette but I always liked the look when restored and on display. Here is a nicely done example at a local car show I attended several years back. The owner said the top was a totally tinted yet clear bubble.

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