Your Lying Eyes: 1956 Corvette

Before I am the guest of honor at a Barn Finds tar and feathering extravaganza, I am aware that this in no way looks like a 1956 Corvette.  I am also not drinking, but I am willing to start after I try to explain what is going on here.  This car is being advertised as a 1956 Corvette that had a complete 1962 Corvette body and interior installed to replace the 1956 body that was damaged in a wreck.  Yes, I smell it too, and the smell that goes with this suspicion can be found in Scituate, Rhode Island.  Currently this ever so slightly modified 1956 Corvette can be found on Craigslist for the princely sum of $71,500.

Just sit back and let me tell you the tale behind this car.  The car was owned by a guy named Frank Murphy, who bought it new from Bove Chevrolet in Newport, Rhode Island.  The current owner has the paperwork to back this much up.  Frank drove the car until 1961, when he got into “a little fender bender” according to the current owner.  Instead of repairing the car, Frank then went to Bove Chevrolet and plunked down the money to purchase a new 1961 Corvette body.  He then installed it, and owned it until he shuffled off this mortal coil in June of 1982.  The current owner purchased the car from the widow then, and enjoyed it until he decided to do a frame off restoration in 1998.  Oh, and the car is being listed on Craigslist by a close friend of the owner.

Now that we are through with the story, let’s talk about VIN numbers on 1956 Corvettes.  The Vehicle Identification Number plate is found on the driver’s side door post between the hinges.  This is a simple plate held on by two screws.  Not quite as complicated as hacking an IPhone, but this was how things were done back in the day.  The frame was also stamped with the VIN number, usually in a few places.  Now I realize that all of you are good Christian boys, and would never do anything illegal, but making a stolen Corvette look legitimate wasn’t that difficult to do back in the day.  In fact, it was so easy that Corvettes were one of the most stolen cars in America for many years.  Every once in a while, an eagle eyed insurance agent or police officer finds a stolen Corvette being driven by someone who thinks they legitimately own their dream car.  Usually what happens is that the current owner is found to own nothing at all, and the car is given back to someone who had it stolen from them in the sixties or seventies.  The story, of course, ends up plastered all over the internet.

Usually, the thief will be wary of getting caught and will go to great lengths to make the car look legitimate.  While 1956 through 1962 Corvettes are almost identical under the skin, except for engine and transmission changes over the years, a thief would never try to pass off an early car for a later car, or a later car for an early car.  Not unless they were a sloppy, unprofessional thief.  Or, maybe a rank amateur would try it.  At any rate, a story like the one above is pretty far out there.  I am not saying it isn’t true.  I am just saying that I would need a monstrous amount of documentation to back this story up.

For this story to work, we would have to take some leaps of faith.  First off, if this is the 1956 Corvette frame and drivetrain, then it would have to be very useable after the “fender bender.”  Separating a Corvette body from the frame on a C-1 isn’t that big a project, but wouldn’t a wreck necessitating a new body damage the frame in some way?  Given that they were selling new Corvettes at the dealership, why wouldn’t you just buy a new Corvette?  I can’t see how you could be money ahead buying a new Corvette body and interior, painting it, and installing it on an earlier frame.  The wiring harness would have to be modified or changed, and little things like door handles, headlights, and taillights would need to be replaced as well.  There are some eccentric people running around, and they do tend to do strange things, but this just makes no sense to me.  My spidey sense is tingling here.  Bigly.

It is a shame that there are questions galore about this car.  Whoever did the restoration seems to have done a fantastic job if the pictures are any indication.  The black paint has incredible depth, the interior looks showroom correct except for the black seat belts, and the engine compartment looks good other than some minor nit picks.  I am sure the current owner spent a fortune on this restoration, but the later model wheels give us a big clue that this is a cosmetic restoration rather than a numbers matching Bloomington Gold style one.  Given that the body in no way matches the frame (or does it…), why do a numbers matching restoration in the first place?  The price is pretty high for what it is, and probably reflects the owner trying to get his purchase and restoration costs back.  With all the questions that this car raises, and the overwhelming number of stolen Corvettes still roaming the Earth with questionable documentation, I just can’t see him getting this price.

I love the car, as it came out of the restoration looking stunning.  However, I’d have to be on nerve pills from the minute I handed over the cash.  What do you readers think about this one?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Dan

    It has a 1961 side chrome and nose emblem……

    Like 1
  2. gbvette62

    Yeah, I ain’t buying the story.

    I’m not sure Chevrolet ever sold a complete body for the Corvette. I have a 62 Chevrolet Parts Book, and if I get a chance, I’ll look through it for a part number for a complete body.

    Your not talking about just buying a body. The bumpers, bumper brackets, emblems, grill and grill surround, lights, cove trim, dash, gauges, switches, seats, wiring, soft top, and lots of other parts would all need to be bought new, to complete this swap. The cost of the parts alone, would likely far exceed the cost of buying a complete, new Corvette in 61.

    The car does have 56-57 9 fin valve covers, and the 2×4 air cleaners on it though? People do strange things, but this story’s just not believable.

    Like 1
    • Marty Lee Tarver

      I believe the story completely. You guys give me $72K and I’ll go buy it to check out the story. I’ll just drive it around a little to see how things go.

    • Rocco

      @gbvette62,
      You said, “The car does have 56-57 9 fin valve covers, and the 2×4 air cleaners on it though?” My question is, what valve covers did GM use in ’58-’59? I thought the early heads had the same off set valve cover bolts through ’59. So, I would think the early valve covers would fit through ’59, if I’m right about the off set bolts. Did GM change the design of the valve cover for ’58-’59, & then in ’60 change the bolt pattern?

      Just trying to learn.

  3. EDWIN F GIBBS

    If I could afford it, I would take the chance. Then again if I could afford it why not just get a new one.

  4. Joe Haska

    Jeff, I am 100% with you, I am not saying it isn’t true or couldn’t be done, but it would take some real solid proof, in person for me to buy this story, (folklore ?).

  5. Jose Cantu

    Wow. I’m always amazed and much informed by what you car savvy guys have to say. I’m just one who loves sold cars, the look of them, the shine, the glitter, the chrome. I could never know the much you guys have to offer as concerns the many nuances of car’s good or bad points.

    I thus much enjoy reading what you guys have to say.

    Keep the good work BF guys. (smile)

  6. Pete

    This story does NOT add up. Nonbody would buy a new Corvette body for a USED Corvette especially that time frame. It was a used car and wasn’t worth $$$ doing. I’m sure you could have bought some new and used parts to fix 1956 body reasonable prices. If you did have to rebody this car how is that frame?? It would I imagine have to be in bad shape. Only the other nick nack parts bumpers trim emblems etc. Inside all new parts and console dash seats door parts etc. Nonbody going to spend that kind of money be cheaper just to buy a new one. I’m calling this story B.S.

    Now try explaining this story to DMV All kind of red flags will go up. The only reason in my mind somebody would rebody a car if they STOLE it. Bought. Junk 1956 Corvette and stole a new Corvette stripped it of everything then passed it off a new Corvette that makes more sense to me. Title and vins were way more relaxed back then not like in today’s world.

    I would stay very very far away from this one. Nothing but hassles and headaches

    Like 1
  7. Andre

    I don’t think C1 bodies were 1-piece (to support the story). Weren’t the fenders bonded somewhere around the front doors/cowl? and the grill/nose on the inside of the headlights?

    I think the only way to get the actual VIN would be to lift the body(?) Top of the left frame rail (IIRC) is maybe the location of the skeletons closet……

    • gbvette62

      Yes, Corvette bodies were assembled from many pieces, that were bonded together to create the body. The floor, cowl, dash, fenders, etc, were all individual pieces.

      The panels were molded by Rockwell, and other companies for Chevrolet, then sent to the Corvette plant in St. Louis for assembly. At St. Louis, the panels were assembled into completed bodies, and then sent upstairs to the assembly line, where they were mated with chassis’ to become cars.

      Just the nose itself on a 61, is made up of about 20 pieces, 10 different panels (top surround, L & R fender sides, upper cowl, lower front valance panel, L & R front corner panels, and L & R side fender scoop extension), plus another 8 to 12 bonding strips, that get bonded behind each panel seam, to strengthen seams.

      If you hit a tree with your Corvette, you had to buy the individual pieces that made up the nose, and bond them to repair the nose. Chevrolet never sold fully assembled noses, so I find it very hard to believe that someone found a way to order a completely assembled body.

      • Nick Rice

        Right on

    • OLDSTUFF

      Here ya go Andre, gbvette 62

      • OLDSTUFF

        And…After….

      • OLDSTUFF

        You can barley see the seams around the Tail and the top of the rear fenders, but can clearly see them on the front on this early 70’s roadster… Just for info fellas…

  8. Rabbit

    Smells like fish to me…….or that stuff they put around rose bushes….. Methinks that ad should start off “Once upon a time….”

  9. CCFisher

    One would have to buy all of the trim bits and pieces separately. The cost would far exceed that of a new, 1961 Corvette. If the goal were to have a ’61 Corvette with a ’56 drivetrain, it would have been far easier and more cost-effective to buy a ’61 and transplant the ’56 drivetrain. Buyer beware, to say the least.

  10. OLDSTUFF

    Not a chance I would drop that kind of money on this car when you could buy a very, very nice 61 with all the correct numbers for the same amount or even less… This is one I would’ve said Thanks for your time to the seller and walked quickly away from…

  11. Jeffro

    What barn did this come out of? Where is said barn? And what else is in said barn? I thought crazy stuff only happened on full moons, not eclipses!

  12. Bob

    I agree with the others, it makes no sense to build a newer car out of parts from the local GM parts department. The cost would be 10x of the cost of buying a new 1961 car without even considering the work involved.
    I don’t know how a person could buy this car and be worry free. I would want a Corvette expert to check the body for clues to the identity of the new body. Another question, if he spent that money buying the body and the trim, where are the receipts?
    I love the restoration, but I don’t think it is worth the asking price. That said, I’ll bet that someone is going to buy it for the big buck.
    Bob

  13. Cuda 69'

    Definitely not a Kosher Deal…I smell a “SALVAGE TITLE” from way back…jus sayin’…

    • Ray

      So called “Salvage Titles” weren’t even a concept in the era this is supposed to have occurred.

  14. mtshootist1

    Back when I was in college, living just outside Fort Riley, one of my army buddies had a 64 Corvette Stingray, he wanted to trade straight across for my Panhead Harley. I was never a big Corvette guy, never owned one, and that was about as close as I ever came. However, I saw his wife outside the local Krogers (Pre K-Mart) one day having electrical problems with said corvette, which was the final nail in the coffin as far as I was concerned. As it turned out, my instincts were right on the money, turned out the car had been stolen in Ohio, at some point and passed around the GIs. Same kind of deal, VIN numbers weren’t computerized back then, and who knows how they tagged the damn thing.

  15. John

    Were 56 Corvettes 265 cu in or were they 283? And weren’t 62s 327s? Perhaps it could be as simple as identifying the motor. I would kinda bet that the body, frame and motor are all 61 or 62 with the only 56 part being the body ID tag. It would sure be interesting to get the frame number from this car, especially if it in some way backed up the preposterous story being proffered.

    • gbvette62

      56’s had the 265, 57-61’s used 283’s and 62’s got the 327.

      Many of the under hood features of this car are 1956 Corvette. The air cleaners, valve covers, radiator, and location of the generator, are all correct for 56. In 61, Chevrolet switched to an aluminum radiator, that had a separate expansion tank mounted on the left side of the engine. To accommodate the expansion tank, the generator was moved to the right side for 61. The 9 fin valve covers were only used on 56-57’s, 58-67 Corvette’s used a 7 fin cover. The two individual air cleaners were also only used in 56-57. 58-61 2×4’s got a larger single air cleaner, that covered both carbs (2×4’s were dropped for 62).

      Strangely, the door molding end caps are 56-58. 59-60 end caps have a screw hole in them. 61-62’s had slightly longer doors, and the door molding end cap was longer and had a screw hole in it. Because the car has 61 doors with 56 end cap moldings, there’s a gap between the door moldings and the deck lid moldings, that shouldn’t be there.

      I don’t believe the seller’s story, but I’m really fascinated by this car. I’m leaving for Corvette Carlisle Wednesday morning, or I’d be taking a ride to look it over. Whatever it is or isn’t, it’s over priced.

      • OLDSTUFF

        ~ gbvette62~ ENJOY Carlisle it’s always amazing…I decided to take a late trip in Sept. to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. this year for the Street rod Shows, where usually there is some of everything exhibited and driving around…

  16. ROTAG999

    56 would be a 265 and that is what craigslist ad states. This one needs Columbo on the case with pencil,scratch pad and a stinky Cigar.

  17. Dt 1

    Regardless of what different model years Parts he installed the cars absolutely gorgeous

  18. Nick Rice

    If it’s a true story, fine but then I’d say the.price is 40k high , after all it does come down to the numbers and you could buy a beautiful numbers matching 56 or 61 vet for 80k last time I checked. Just my .02 Peace. My ’57 fuelie

  19. Lance Newberry

    It looks just like my ’61. I’m doing a Body off, numbers matching, 270hp, 283 4speed. It is costing a huge amount of money to do now. Excessive amount of labor..You could buy a complete new Corvette back then for $3500.00
    A used ’56 would have cost less than half of that…….I think now days scammer’s have to come uP with big stories, for the average person to believe.

  20. RobfromTexas

    Johnny Cash’s Corvette

  21. Jack Couch

    I’m finding the story hard to believe like most others, but the body came off these old vette’s real easy. I had a 1960 and did a frame off restoration, a few mount bolts and the steering column and it lifted right off in one piece. Most of the chrome came with the body, there were a few pieces that had to be removed, but not many. Even the wiring harness lifted with the body, other than a few engine connections. I also bought a complete 1961 Corvette body for $75. The owner removed the stock body and replaced it with a racing shell, just wanted it out of his way. I ended up flipping the 61 body for a profit, but just shows you never know.

  22. waynard

    Appraiser I know (Me) to potential buyer: “Run! Run away fast!”

  23. Metoo

    I have learned that anything listed on craigslist. 70k? Why not sell it at auction?

    • Big Mike

      The auction fees would eat into your profit!!!

  24. Miguel

    For that asking price I would want the car to be all original as far as parts are concerned.

    Those rally wheels don’t look right on that car.

    Was he trying to save a few bucks with those wheels?

  25. Mark

    This is not a craigslist car, this is an Ebay car or bigger venue to sell. People do not list really expensive cars in their home town area, no exposure. No emails he says too.

  26. KevinR

    Chop shop product built from multiple crashed/stolen Corvettes. Run far and run fast.

    Unless someone can come up with some ironclad proof to the contrary…

  27. Nick Rice

    I tend to agree and when your paying big money why would you buy into a story (fairy tale),I’ve owned many old vettes, it’s hard to enjoy really driving them anymore because of their value. I have friend who is a professional restorer of them for big money and if it’s not an OEM part it’s a repo and that means Chinese but many people don’t know or care,. He jokingly calls old vettes horrors just because of all they have been through and due to their value they’ll keep being restored or fixed up and painted to bè resold. It’s seems to me many people are buying a fantasy. That said I’ll always love ’em because of the my memories in them. Anyway nuff said except Caveat Emptor. My old ’67

  28. Michael Croft

    Hi guys..
    In old school trucking we would call this a glider kit..
    the engine was removed from a truck and a newcab and frame was ordered for the mfg.
    And was titled as a new truck..
    they did this alot back in the 1960….fyi.

  29. RP

    Wow. I’m thinking this story should have started off “Y’all ain’t gonna believe this s$$$, but……….”

  30. Bill

    You’d be buying something you’d have to explain for the rest of your days. Not anywhere near worth it.

  31. DRV

    The frame number that is just under the driver seat on top of the frame needs to match the car plate on the door frame. If it doesn’t match it could be confiscated as stolen without proper title description. Most states just match the aluminum plate number to the title and you’re good to go.

  32. Michael

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this Corvette. I’m almost certain that I’ve seen this car in and around Roswell, New Mexico and being driven around Area 51. That would surely be persuasive evidence that the car and the story are totally legit…No?

  33. Ken "Lobo" McClurg

    Back in about 62 I bought a complete 58 Vette frame and running gear from a salvage yard for $150. The Vette had flipped and went over an oak tree stump upside down completely demolishing the body but no damage to the frame or suspension.Carb and destributer had been shired off but no other damage to the motor. I put a early 30s chivy pickup body on it and made one hellav a street rod. wish I still had it.

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