Numbers-Matching: 1954 Chevrolet Corvette

For Chevrolet, 1954 was a year of consolidation in the production of their new baby, the Corvette. After a year which saw only 300 cars built, 1954 production increased ten-fold. This particular Corvette is from that second year of production and appears to be a largely original survivor. It is located in Brick, New Jersey, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding is currently sitting at $33,100, and I’m not at all surprised by the fact that the reserve hasn’t been met at this point.

The 1953 Corvette was very much a “lucky dip” when it came to build quality, as the car was such a radical departure from previous cars. That year represented a fairly steep learning curve, and the result was a car in 1954 that was built to a far higher standard. After finding themselves limited to a single color in 1953, the 1954 model provided a choice of four different colors. Interestingly, for all of this new-found diversity, the majority of ’54 models rolled off the line finished in Polo White. The second most popular choice, with 300 cars built, was Pennant Blue. This is one of those cars, and the color does suit the car quite nicely. The Corvette has undergone a repaint during the 1970s, and there are some problems with that which are beginning to rear their ugly head. There are bubbles in the paint in a number of spots, and it really looks like the best option will be to strip the car to fix this. The soft-top is also looking quite discolored, and I don’t believe that this will respond to cleaning. The owner does supply a number of photos of the underside of the car, and it looks to be rock solid, which is good news.

While ten times as many Corvettes rolled out of the factory in 1954 when compared to 1953, sales were not what Chevrolet had hoped. This resulted in nearly one-third of the cars produced failing to sell. One of the culprits was buyer disappointment when it came to the car’s mechanical specifications. While the standard 6-cylinder engine didn’t present any major problems for potential buyers, the inclusion of an automatic transmission was a disappointment. Regardless of that, this particular Corvette is a numbers-matching car, with its original Blue Flame engine, Powerglide transmission, and numbers-matching rear end in the car. The car has undergone a rewire with a factory wiring loom, and the electrical system has been converted to 12-volts. The engine is said to be in good health, but the transmission refuses to engage top gear. This will need to be investigated and rectified.

The interior of the Corvette is said to be original, and it does appear to be in nice condition. The beige trim featured in this car was only available in Corvettes finished in Pennant Blue. If you chose any of the other colors, then you received red interior trim and upholstery. The owner does point out a few flaws. For instance, the original Wonderbar radio doesn’t work, and the same is true for the fuel gauge. He also says that the speedometer will need a new cable. These are all pretty minor items, and should hopefully be relatively easy to fix.

For the 1954 model year, Pennant Blue was the second most popular color in the Corvette range. When you look at cars like this one, it’s pretty easy to understand why. It is a nice looking color, and it does give the car a classy, almost continental look. This particular car looks like a solid candidate for restoration, and the end result would be a stunning car that anyone would be proud to own.

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Don’t know if I can handle seeing a C1 all in one piece and running after what we’ve seen the past couple of weeks……

    Like 14
  2. Jerry

    Unfortunately, the block is not numbers matching. The suffix code should be YG

    Like 2
  3. JTC

    No top gear? No problem, use it as a parade car.

  4. DRV

    The powerglides in the mid year ’54 to ’55 were Pontiac units. I found this out from redoing the mechanicals on one with 14k miles on it 20 years ago. When I lifted the body a wired on blue tag said Pontiac. Turns out the Chevy plant that built them burned to the ground at the time. The hardest correct mechanical part to afford was the correct upper radiator hose housing to the pump which looks good here.
    This is the best color combo IMHO and is worth 50 all day even if it needs new paint, but I would leave it and get a cheap powerglide rebuild.

    Like 4
    • Jerry Magraw

      Had my 54 transmission apart last year
      I don’t know who assembled it, but it is a Chevy cast iron pg very heavy! It’s very similar to the passenger car unit except the Corvette has a driveshaft and the Belair had a torque tube. There are a couple of extra springs in the valve body to increase the shift point
      The 54 had no accumulator so the shift is very firm.

      Like 2
    • Anthony in RI

      There was a fire in the Hydra-Matic plant in Livonia, Michigan on August 12, 1953… so some Cadillacs came with Dynaflows and some Pontiacs used Powerglides not the other way around

      Like 1
      • DRV

        Correct Anthony. It was the biggest industrial Fire for many years. Some accounts said they were making them again in 9 weeks. I may not be remembering the story correctly, but the Pontiac label was correct and it was a ’54 tranny and original to the car. It even had good original tires on it. Maybe they sourced the Pontiac tagged ones when they ran out of Chevy as they were being used across the GM platform to replace the hydra matics.

        Like 3
  5. CapNemo CapNemo

    It was repainted in the 70’s.

    Like 1
  6. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Fell in love with Corvettes thanks to a White 54 I saw on TV. Most beautiful car I had ever seen and even at 5 swore I’d have one one day. Nothing more to say other than it looks beautiful to me.

    Like 1
  7. Chas358 Chasman358

    The Oldsmobiles F-88 is, IMO, the car GM should have built. However, since Chevrolet was the big dog at GM, the performance potential of an Olds V8 and Hydramatic trans were not used and the world got a lame 6 cylinder and 2 speed automatic.

    Like 2
    • Alan Brase

      Yeah, what were they thinking to not build the F-88? With a 324 and Dual Range Hydramatic it would have been LeMans and Carrera Panamerica ready. Briggs Cunningham or John Fitch could have brought home the gold with these. Not behind some Lincolns.

  8. Jack Quantrill

    Who cares if these are not true sports cars! They still look fine, and drive great in a straight line.

    Like 2
  9. Will Owen Member

    The postwar Chevy sedans were pretty good-handling cars, especially relative to the Fords and Plymouths- at least up until the mid-Fifties. That’s just me remembering, not any recognized motoring authority, but I’ll stand by it … I’ve not gotten to ride in, much less drive, any C1 Corvettes, but I would expect them to be at least well-mannered cars for the time. That Powerglide was kinda tragic, but the rest was pretty sound …

  10. BruceB

    It’s a great find, but not for me. I had the same basic engine (minus the multi-carb) in my first car, a 1955 Chevy sedan. It was not exactly a power house. If I was going to spend the money that it will take to buy this car, it would be for a V8 powered one.
    Bruce

  11. Maestro1

    I had a 53, they ride like a truck, other than that I loved it, sold it based on an offer I could not refuse. Still love the design, 6 cylinders don’t bother me, Powerglide I can live without but it never failed me, I have no room, if the price is not in the atmosphere, somebody jump on this car.

  12. Willowen Member

    @ Maestro1: Most sports cars in 1953 rode like trucks. The Jaguar XK120 not only rode like a truck, it felt like you were sitting on a cushion in the truck bed, legs stuck straight out, with a windshield and a long hood in front of you instead of a cab … at least yr Chevy had you sitting a little lower!

    The 2-carb 6 was rated at 150 hp. FWIW so is the V6 in my ’87 Alfa Milano, though it’s blessed with a nice 5-speed manual and is probably lighter than the ‘Vette.

    Like 2
  13. TimM

    It is the quintessential American sports car!! Low production numbers for that year I wouldn’t be surprised even know the market has softened on the early Vetts of this one didn’t sell north of $60 K!! It’s a really nice car!!!

    Like 1
  14. Willowen Member

    Okay, I am an Old Duffer, but I’m remembering when these were new and kind of amazing, and every one I saw (until much later) was Polo White. I think I’d feel kinda weird driving one of any other color! So few cars were white in those days, and so the color was as much a part of the Corvette’s mystique as its plastic body and low-slung glamor. Our local dealer’s son was 17 or 18 I think at the time, and he cut quite a figure around town driving that exotic white thing with the red upholstery!

    Like 1
  15. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Very nice ride. They weren’t very fast and didn’t handle as well as the European sports cars of their generation, but the have class.
    God bless America

  16. W9BAG

    Were the power glide tranny’s in the C1 reverse valve bodies ?

    • Jerome Magraw

      Great info. I had no idea that most cars were colors other than white.
      The shift pattern (front to rear) RLDNP. That was a common pattern until ’58

  17. Clay Bryant

    I think they were reverse valve. Anyhow, before a tear down, pour a quart of diesel in the tranny, sit there and shift the tranny from drive to reverse for awhile. Sometimes varnish builds up in the seat where the ball sits in and lets fluid by causing it to not fully “power up”. Fluid keeps passing where the ball sits in the seat. Or at the very least try some TransMedic or TransX..If perchance that works, for Gods sake, change the fluid right away.

  18. Dickie F

    Due to my age, I do not remember the 50s well, but I always look at some classics driving around with RED wheels, and wonder if there ever was any new car ever sold with red wheels?

  19. Bodyman68

    This car is a driver anyway you cut it ! With the 6cyl and powerslide its indestructible . Id drop the valve body and clean it and with fluid flush ,I’ll bet it’ll work fine as pg’s rarly gave problems. Never underestimate the power of cleaning products of today as the top im sure will come clean . This car is in decent driver shape and id drive it !

  20. John B.

    Anthony in RI was correct; some Pontiacs did receive the power glide that was used in the Corvette. Several years ago I drove from my home in Kentucky to Pennsylvania and purchased a power glide transmission over the Christmas break (I was a teacher then). It was in a 1953 Pontiac and it was identical to the 1954 Corvette. It was a bear to pull in the gentleman’s driveway on the outside!!

    Like 1
    • Alan Brase

      Seems amazing that Pontiac tooled up adapters to put the Power Glide in their cars, when HydraMatic was in production again so soon.
      Lucky find, though for you. Not any harder to remove than a 4 speed Hydramatic, tho! One has to take the whole torus cover loose. About 20 bolts.

  21. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    sold for $39,000

    Like 2
    • Alan Brase

      That seems about right for a nice driver quality car. I prefer the blue. I wouldn’t think the powerglide would be much of a problem.Probably less than $1000 if you have a good local old school shop.

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