Stored 42 Years: 1954 Chevrolet Corvette

General Motors designer Harley Earl had a vision in the 1950s for a sports car. It would have a fiberglass body and draw from the existing parts bin for engines and other mechanicals. The result was the Chevy Corvette, which debuted in 1953. Slow sales for the first three years almost killed the project, but thankfully that didn’t happen and the ‘Vette is still with us 70 years later. This rough example from 1954 has been off the road since 1980 and is said to be 99% complete for someone to restore. Located in Rochester, Michigan, this classic is available here on craigslist for $36,000.

Production numbers would be low from 1953-55 as Chevy engineers focused on shifting the car from mostly hand-built construction to an assembly line in St. Louis, Missouri. Only 300 copies would emerge in 1953, 3,640 in 1954, and 700 in 1955. Fortunately, a restyle and the availability of a V8 engine (finally) would bring the car out of the shadows and into the forefront. The car got cheaper to make and sell as time went on. From 1953 to 1954, the MSRP dropped by more than $700.

The cars changed little in 1953-55 as Chevy was focused on building them. For example, in 1953 you could get a Corvette in any color you wanted as long as it was white. The next year, four colors would be offered, while the “Blue Flame” 235 cubic-inch inline-6 picked up five extra horsepower. The 2-speed Powerglide automatic was the only transmission choice at the time.

Corvette’s eventual evolution was impacted by Ford’s new Thunderbird (1955) which was also a 2-seater but not really a sports car. That product focused mostly on the “personal luxury” segment of the market. The two autos would part company in terms of any physical similarity when the T-Bird grew into a 4-seat people mover in 1958. That brings us to the seller’s 1954 Corvette, which we’re told was recently pulled from a barn.

This car was last on the road 42 years ago. It’s correct (not original?) motor is stuck, which may or may not be why the car went off the grid for so long. Until the seller came along, the Chevy had only had three owners and none of them ever repainted the vehicle. So, the white paint and red interior are original, but well-worn and ravaged by the passage of time. We’re told the car was the 106th copy built in 1954 and has 74,000 miles under its belt.


  1. drew

    The MSRP was lower in ’54 because the Powerglide was listed as an additional cost option. There were no other available transmissions however and you couldn’t order the car without one.

    Like 1
  2. Chris In Australia

    I don’t know why Chevrolet didn’t use a floor shifted version of their three speed manual in the Corvette. A non synchro 3 on the floor wasn’t uncommon in the era.

    • Jack Quantrill

      In ‘55 they did offer a 3 speed floor shift manual. As a teenager, I put down. $50 deposit on a red one. V-8! Sadly, I couldn’t get past the $50.

  3. Bamapoppy

    All hail the Corvette! I once owned 2, a ‘64 coupe and a ‘76. Mighty cars from a byegone era. To the eventual owner of this one, please respect its history and go for originality, as much as possible.

    Like 4
  4. Mike

    BF’s favorite car. There have been 27 ’54 Vette posts in the last 2 years. Got to find them all.

    Like 2
  5. Bruce Trump

    An early 54 with the choke on the right side of the steering column.

  6. charlie Member

    Owned one from ’66 to ’68. GM built plenty of these engines, so parts are easy if it needs to be rebuilt. The 3 Carter sidedraft carbs might be tougher. The 2 speed Powerglide was the same as the rest of the GM family that used them. This has the hard to find headlight grills, rear plate cover, but who knows about the unobtainium fake spinner hubcaps and plexiglass sidecurtains. They were fast for 1954, went well in a straight line, did not want to go around corners, mine had a dent in one member of the X frame. A toy then, and now.

    Like 1
    • gaspumpchas

      Yea Charlie Plus the mill is the later 235 with full oil pressure and insert bearings. Would be great to bring back stock but then the driveability issue. That six has dual exhaust; silly question, does that use a split exh manifold or did they split the pipe after the engine?? Guess if you were gonna spend that kind of coin you would have a plan on what to do. Sky is the limit. I have used the mustang 2 type front end in a 53 chev sedan delivery; unbolt the old and bolt in the new. Good luck.

  7. Norman K Wrensch

    Chevrolet was the only GM brand to use the powerglide. There were a lot of GM 2 speeds but the power glide was only chevy.

  8. Dennis E. Stoeser

    Powerglides used in Pontiacs for awhile in in 53 maybe even early 54 after the Hydramatic factory burned.

  9. Larry D

    @Russ Dixon
    You wrote: “Only 300 copies would emerge in 1953, 3,640 in 1954, and 700 in 1955. Fortunately, a restyle and the availability of a V8 engine (finally) would bring the car out of the shadows and into the forefront. ”

    The Corvette got the 265 V8 starting in 1955 just like the full-size Chevrolet did.

    Like 4
  10. panther1000

    The ad description does note it’s correct original engine.

    Did the author miss that?

    I’m in Australia and restored one which I imported in the late 1980s, worse shape than this one, but I only paid $13,000 for it. It was my new wife’s daily driver for a few years until she upgraded to a ’59 Eldorado Biarritz.

    Like 3
    • Bruce Trump

      I sold one for a friend that went to Australia. It was in Indiana.

    • Frank Sumatra

      I, and maybe others here, would like to hear the stories behind importing the cars. Thanks.

      • Panther1000

        My first imported cars were a 1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible, a 1954 Corvette and a 1957 Thunderbird, all which required restoration. I sold the Thunderbird and kept the Corvette and the Cadillac.

        I’ve imported several cars since then. Several ’50s Cadillacs, 4 x 1978 Lincoln Diamond Jubilees (all gold), a 1957 Imperial, 3 x 1973 Mustang convertibles, a 1973 Eldorado and now another 1978 Diamond Jubilee and 1966 gold Toronado requiring cosmetic restoration (which was featured on this page a day after I bought it)…and an Indian Chief.

        I think that might be about it, off the top of my head. |

  11. JagManBill

    I owned a 54 for about two hours the summer of 76. I went to look at a roller 57 XK140 OTS from a guy in east Texas. Got there and the XK was rough and no engine/trans. But for $150 I couldn’t pass it up.
    Sitting next to it was a white 54 Vette. No engine/trans/top but otherwise complete (and decent looking). I really didn’t even consider the 54 till the guy asked if I knew anybody that wanted the Vette…for $300.
    So I gave him the $300 and loaded it (before he changed his mind) and took it back to my Dad’s station before taking the XK. Dad wasn’t happy (pissed really) about the Vette. We rolled it off the trailer and into the wash bay, washed it with whitewall bleach white and rolled it back out front to dry while I went back for the XK.
    Stopped for lunch, picked up the XK and got back about an hour later and the Vette was gone. Dad said a guy came by and saw it, offered him $1,500 for it and was back and loaded/gone even before I got back. He said it was the best return on a car wash he ever had. Needless to say he wasn’t upset about bringing back the Vette at that point. Took another 2 weeks to flip the XK.

  12. DA

    A pretty tall ask for a vehicle that needs pretty much everything, including an engine overhaul. Without some documentation for originality, I can’t see anybody paying 36K for it. I don’t think CL is the place for it, and many, many more pictures – especially of the frame – would be required.

  13. George Birth

    A Stuck motor, rough interior and exterior and $36K should be more like $3600. Get smart let the seller keep his vette. If it was in perfect condition, run and drivable, then it would be worth the asking price

    • bone

      For $3600 you’d be lucky to find a ’77 Corvette that’s been in the woods with the windows down for a decade . I’m no Vette fan, but these first gen cars are scarce , and while rough, it seems to be complete . I dont know if it will sell for 36K , but it wont be going cheap

  14. Big C

    This car needs a nice 302 Ford small block. That’d get the pearl clutcher’s goin.

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