First Year V8! 1955 Chevrolet Corvette Project

Last week, we covered this 1954 Corvette and today we’re going to move one year forward to ’55. While it is a very similar car, there were big differences between the two, so let’s take a closer look. This ‘Vette is located in Walden, New York and is available here on eBay for a current bid of $20,600, reserve not yet met.

According to Corv Sport, the Corvette was on GM’s internal ropes in 1954 in spite of its over 3,000 unit production volume. For 1955, there were high hopes for even bigger numbers, something that was essential for Corvette’s survival. And why shouldn’t success be theirs? The ’55 Corvette was going with first-time V8 power, a necessary move. Chevrolet now had competition in the form of their crosstown rival’s newly introduced, V8-powered Thunderbird. So what happened? The ‘Bird managed to push out 16K units while Chevrolet eeked out only 700 Corvettes – and that’s it. Bad news for certain, but Chevrolet wasn’t about to give up a space, one that they had developed, to Ford, so on with the show.

Chevrolet’s new for ’55, small-block 265 CI V8 engine was huge news! In Corvette form, it weighed in at 195 gross HP, and 693 of the 700 Corvettes built were so equipped. The 155 HP 235 CI, in-line, six-cylinder motor was still the Corvette’s base engine, but with only seven produced, it’s a rarity, and not in a particularly advantageous way. Also available for the first time was a three-speed manual transmission but only with the V8 – just 75 buyers opted for it. Our subject car has lost its original 265 ci motor and has a later 283 perched in its place. And the 283 has lost a bit of its existence as the intake manifold, carburetor, distributor, etc. is MIA. It clearly has not been operative for a very long time. Backing up the 283 is a four-speed manual transmission, an option that wasn’t available until mid-model year ’57. It’s not stated if this Corvette was originally a manual transmission-equipped car, but assuming it was, it would have been, as previously noted, one of only 75 so equipped.

The exterior condition is rough. The seller claims, “clean body with no evidence of any major crashes has all orig. panels“. Maybe so, but it’s going to need a lot of work before it’s close to presentable. With the exception of the tea-strainer headlight covers, the trim is missing, most notably, the famous gold-hued “V” fender emblem proclaiming this ‘Vette as possessing V8 power. Somewhere in its past, someone cut a hole in the hood and added a “Thunderbolt” style fiberglass, teardrop hood scoop. Fortunately, it’s gone, but the less than optimal hole still exists. The seller adds, “frame is rusty but no soft spots and should look good sandblasted“. The frame does have some serious scale so it should be checked thoroughly by any potential bidder/buyer.

The interior is not without its foibles. The seats are still there and look passable but the floor clearly shows evidence of an aluminum patch and thus the question regarding the original transmission status – was the patch necessary for an automatic to manual conversion, or maybe the three to four-speed swap? The dash and instrument panel shows significant oxidization but is restorable. Good to see, is the still in place, folding top frame; the fabric, not unexpectedly, is in shreds, however. The original radio is present and accounted for but not the tachometer.

The seller concludes, “should be an easy restoration as most all the parts are still attached to the car“. I would have to disagree with that assertion. It’s good and bad combined – the bad is the obvious overall condition of this Corvette, including what appears to be a probably unusable, non-original engine and transmission. The good is that it is a first-year V8 Corvette, and the VIN authenticates it as such.  There are several directions here that could be taken with this ’55 Chevrolet Corvette, which one would you pursue?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. james west

    Why do the headlights have wire screens?

    Like 4
    • James Grolemund

      to protect headlights from flying stones.

      Like 7
      • Clark

        Why don’t other cars have wire screens ?

        Like 3
      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        It’s a throw-back to road racing, racing that required non-broken headlights for the night driving/racing portion as well as to keep broken glass off of the track. These early ‘Vettes frequently had them installed to project an image of road racing readiness even though most, especially the stock versions, never saw competition.

        JO

        Like 13
    • Terrry

      Electronic bug-zappers hadn’t been invented yet.

      Like 5
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Worth restoring just for what it is… first of it’s kind with it’s history still ahead. Not going to be cheap or easy. Based on the bids I’d say there is someone in the bid bunch that could afford to tackle the restoration and beat off the flippers. Hope so.

    Like 6
  3. Chuckster

    Easy restoration ? Then why not do it and make a whole bunch more money? This brings a tear to my eyes.

    Like 3
  4. Ric

    Easy restoration for the deep pockets who can throw unlimited funds at the professionals who will actually do the hard work of restoring this car. Then he gets to stand proudly behind it at a car show pretending he accomplished something.

    Like 11
    • Steve R

      Who cares. All I want to see is a well thought out car with good execution. It doesn’t matter if someone wrote a check or did it themselves, as long as it’s nice. The idea that every person that paid to have a car restored is arrogant is ridiculous on face value. The same goes for anyone that thinks every owner who did all the work themselves is a cut above. That’s BS, there are plenty of owners from each camp that are good, just as there are more than a few that aren’t worth the time of day. Evaluate them as they present themselves, not by some false narrative, which is what you are promoting.

      Steve R

      Like 33
      • Terrry

        False narrative promoting=Envy. Who wouldn’t want this car, even if all it did was sit?

        Like 1
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Go Steve R!

    Like 8
  6. Jay

    That front end is 100 times cooler than the one on the 56 listed shortly after.
    Back end is cool too !

    Like 1
  7. Oddballcars

    Of the 700 Vettes made in 55 all but about 75 had automatic transmissions so I’d say it’s a good bet that aluminum on the tunnel is there to accommodate a transmission swap that came along with the engine swap.

    Still it has the potential to be a great car even without the original engine.

  8. NoChase-4me

    Again it happens… Don’t you just love the sellers with their “…easy restoration” BS?
    This things a complete mess and the seller knows it.

    Like 5
    • Terrry

      Yeah but so far, there’s 20,000-plus reasons to disagree with you! If I had the cash laying around, I’d buy it, garage it, and put it up for sale in 5 years..which is probably what most of the bidders intend to do.

  9. TIMOTHY FAIRCHILD

    Really just need to add compost and flower seeds unless you have another $100,000 to this one. Some owner needs to be taken outback ang beaten for this atrocity.

    Like 1
  10. Alexco

    Would I restore it? Yes, but as a restro-mod. The only way to recover your investment if you are looking to sell it. The price is to high, it is a $10-14K car at the most. The car to find is a 1955 Corvette with the Blue Flame 6 in it, only 13 of these were made in 1955 out of the 700 total. Expect to pay over $100K for a medium type job or $150-165K for a top quality job and that is if you are doing your own mechanicals. Body, paint and interior is where the money goes. Been here, done that, more than once.

    Like 4
  11. BigDoc987

    It’s bid up to $28,000 plus so some folks see the dollars being made .

  12. Kenn

    Maybe a bidder is buying it for the VIN and will put it in a kit car…

  13. OldCarGuy

    My buddy had an MGB-GT with those “Stone Guards”; clipping along the hiway one day, hears huge BANG, gets out, goes to front of car, there is a 1.5″ hex nut laying in what remains of his headlight, and the “Stone Guard” looks perfectly normal. Tried, but could not pry the chrome mesh apart to get it out!

    Like 1
  14. Thomas Crum

    I am trying to track down a 1953 Chev. Corvette with serial number 13. It is to have been disassembles and remains in a garage in Stockton, California. The man I knew that had the information on the location and would never share has since passed away and now I am on the hunt for it.
    Love to hear ideas on how to improve my search. I have advertised and offering hearty finder’s fees. 1953 all Corvettes where white only and also all were automatics.

  15. Christopher Gush

    Market trends for these 1953-1955 Corvettes are spiraling downward and should you have an inkling to sell, now is the time. Restoration of this car will be costly and the Devil is in the details with respect to finding original trim, chrome and other incidentals. This is without question a car that any buyer should invest in scuba gear ahead of time because when all is said and done, they will underwater.

  16. alexco

    Mr. Gush, I could not disagree more. The parts are out there you just need to know where to go. For the most part they are not any more expensive than any C1. Some parts are a little more, but in the overall cost to a project it is a small percentage. If you are restoring one it is best to know what you want. Not sure if you have noticed in the last three months but the Corvette restro-mods are selling in high numbers, BJ in march sold a 1961 for $810K with fees and multiple other C1’s selling in the $240-290K a the same auction. Mecum is experiencing the same thing. 53-55’s are the ones people really want, why, the are the more rare. Under water, only if you do it wrong.

    Like 2
  17. JukeOfEarl

    All 53-55 Corvettes had the stone guards. Many of the Ferraris and Maseratis of the day had glass or plexiglass headlight covers. The stylists probably wanted those, but the bean counters said no, so IMHO, the stone guards were to retain the contour of the front fender.

  18. losgatos_dale

    c.1977 a paint shop down the street had just completed a California lien purchase on a 55 Corvette…V8 and 3-speed, and the owner came in my yard and begged me, BEGGED me to swap him my 57 Nomad and 55 convertible for the ‘Vette. I said “pass.” (still have the Nomad)

    On this car I am astounded that it bid to a 30k no-sale! “There are several directions here that could be taken with this ’55 Chevrolet Corvette”….well, I suppose! “which one would you pursue?” the one that says “pass”

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