Entombed 25 Years! 1954 Chevrolet Corvette

This ’54 Corvette has a remarkably interesting story. Its original owner decided to entomb it in a vault in a grocery store in Maine after using it sparingly for the first five years. There it stayed for the next 25 years and – after moving around a bit from there – the sports car now results in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Just keep reading as the story gets better here on Corvsport.com.

In 1954, Richard Sampson in Brunswick, Maine bought a brand-new Chevy Corvette. It was one of the 3,640 ‘Vettes built that year after a paltry 300 copies were made in its first outing. Richard was quite taken by the car, but his wife was not, so he decided to stop driving it in 1959. But he loved the car so much that he couldn’t bear to part with it, so he conceived an unconventional plan for the Chevy’s future.

Sampson was in the grocery business and was in the middle of erecting a new facility for his expanding chain. He met with his contractor to discuss building a tomb for the Corvette to be laid to rest in. It would be assembled brick-by-brick with the Corvette located in the middle. Surprisingly, the builder went along with the idea and a few weeks later the Chevy went into a long-term slumber. The tomb had a small viewport so that Richard could peak in and admire his prize anytime he wanted.

Hard to believe, but the story gets even better from here. In the 1960s, Sampson redid his will and included a stipulation that the car would not be removed from its enclosure before the year 2000. He had second thoughts later and had that proviso rescinded before his death in 1969. That worked to the advantage of the buyers of the store in 1982, and the car was thereafter removed after being captive for 25 years.

After the car was freed, it was shipped to Sampson’s daughter in Florida who kept it in her living room for 10 years. Although in decent condition, the tomb wasn’t kind to the car. Due to a lack of air circulation and other factors, some of the paint had pitted over the years. The car started changing hands after that and even crossed the Barrett-Jackson auction block in 2016. After more than 60 years, the car had only 2,344 miles on the odometer.

The Corvette was eventually donated to the National Corvette Museum where the vault environment it stayed in through several decades was recreated so visitors could share in the history of this incredibly special Chevrolet. The car was not restored, just cleaned up and conditioned for preservation. What you see today is the way the car left the vault in the 1980s.

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    I suggested putting a set of doors on our living room wall
    big enough to get a car through – didn’t go over well.

    Like 26
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    The hood and race seat for the Bugeye race car we’re building is in our living room. Crew chief says she’s giving me all the time to finish the car I need as long as the hood and seat are the first to be united with the car. Quite a story on the Corvette and really glad it wound up where it did.

    Like 13
  3. Rex Kahrs Member

    People sure do goofy stuff.

    Like 6
  4. Copocamaro

    A friend of mine owned this car for a while. It was super bubbled.

    Like 5
  5. Frank Sumatra

    Now THAT’S a Survivor!

    Like 5
  6. Eric B

    Insanity.

    Like 3
  7. Terrry

    Sampson’s daughter kept the car in the living room for ten years, while her husband watched tv and slept in the garage.

    Like 12
    • Lee

      Funny you say that… I have a four car garage and over the years I made half of it into my mancave. It has a bathroom, kitchen, home theater, couch, my desk, and a conference table. I spend most of my time in it.

      It has heat and A/C and I keep my 77 Corvette and my daily driver in it too.

      When I describe it to people, I say that it’s a mancave I keep my cars in, or a garage I have a mancave in.

      Like 8
  8. Domenic DAlessandro

    Actually saw that vehicle at a car show in FL. It was in sad shape.

    Like 3
  9. George Mattar

    My uncle lives in Maine and has since 1956. He knew of this car. Sampson also had a buffalo farm at the time. I remember riding by it in our POS 55 Ford in about 1961. He had a crystal ball mind. But he stored in improperly. Moisture kills a car. My Corvette sits on 3 inches of carpet and garage has dehumidifier.

    Like 2
  10. Frank Sumatra

    People do strange things with Corvettes-

    “If you don’t know the name, Donna Mae Mims, “The Pink Lady of Racing”, was the first woman to win a Sports Car of America (“SCCA”) national championship in Class “H” in 1963. After buying her first Corvette (a ’57) from Don Yenko Chevrolet, Donna Mae eventually ended up working for the famous dealership. She was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame posthumously in 2016. Still doesn’t ring a bell? Actress Adrianne Barbeau played Donna Mae’s character in the 1981 movie Cannonball Run after she participated in the 1973 race with an all-women-driver team. Upon her death on October 6, 2009 after complications from a stroke, she requested her body be placed in the driver’s seat of a 1979 pink for visitation at her funeral.”

    Like 7
  11. JBD

    Corvette Museum in Bowling Green will get more viewers than anywhere else!
    Great Story!

    Like 3
  12. Jim in FL Member

    This story sounds familiar, wasn’t it on BF not too long ago?

  13. Frank Sumatra

    And then is (was) Mr.Swanson:

    ” On May 25, 1994, the ashes of 71-year-old George Swanson are buried (according to Swanson’s request) in the driver’s seat of his 1984 white Corvette in Irwin, Pennsylvania.

    Swanson, a beer distributor and former U.S. Army sergeant during World War II, died the previous March 31 at the age of 71. He had reportedly been planning his automobile burial for some time, buying 12 burial plots at Brush Creek Cemetery, located 25 miles east of Pittsburgh, in order to ensure that his beloved Corvette would fit in his grave with him. After his death, however, the cemetery balked, amid concerns of vandalism and worries that other clients would be offended by the outlandish nature of the burial. They finally relented after weeks of negotiations, but insisted that the burial be private, and that the car be drained of fluids to protect the environment. “George wanted to go out in style, and, indeed, now he will,” commented Swanson’s lawyer in a report from The Associated Press. “We agree that this is rather elaborate, but really it’s no different than being buried in a diamond-studded or gold coffin.”

    According to the AP, Swanson’s widow, Caroline, transported her husband’s ashes to the cemetery on the seat of her own white 1993 Corvette. The ashes were then placed on the driver’s seat of his 10-year-old car, which had only 27,000 miles on the odometer. Inside the car, mourners also placed a lap quilt made by a group of women from Swanson’s church, a love note from his wife and an Engelbert Humperdinck tape in the cassette deck, with the song “Release Me” cued up and ready to play. The license plate read “HI-PAL,” which was Swanson’s go-to greeting when he didn’t remember a name. As 50 mourners looked on, a crane lowered the Corvette into a 7-by-7-by-16-foot hole.

    “George always said he lived a fabulous life, and he went out in a fabulous style,” Caroline Swanson said later. “You have a lot of people saying they want to take it with them. He took it with him.”

    Like 7
  14. Jack Quantrill

    Some cars transcend the material. They become almost living things, like pets. I understand his doing this.

    Like 1
    • Frank Sumatra

      And it sounds as if Mr.Swanson enjoyed life to the fullest. Good for him!

      Like 2
  15. Chris Platt

    I read an article at least ten years ago (it was in a car magazine but don’t remember which one) that stated this Maine Corvette was actually won in a contest, rather than being bought from a dealer, and that the owner eventually entombed it at his store. Either the magazine was wrong OR….

  16. MoMini

    Back in the 1960s my father combined 2 old VW motors on our dining room table using what he thought to be the best parts of each motor to build one. He put the sharpest rings and the least worn bearings into the finished product. The car actually ran very well after his efforts.

    Like 3
  17. CenturyTurboCoupe

    Sink holes are detrimental to Corvettes too!

  18. Chris Webster

    Just because the spouse doesn’t like the car is no reason to stop driving it.

    Like 3
    • Ike Onick

      Exactly! There are plenty of “clone” and “tribute” spouses to go around. Hell, at my age I would consider a “Rat Rod”. I have no pride or standards at this point.

      Like 2

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