Which Way Do We Go With This Needy 1954 Corvette?

By Jeff Bennett

Look carefully at the front of this car.  Now, I know it looks like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s face from Ghostbusters, but don’t get distracted.  This one is going to take some thinking on all of our parts to figure out what can be done with this 1954 Corvette being sold on eBay for the princely buy it now price of $25,000.  You see, the dilemma is that, according to the seller, what you see in the pictures is what you get.  No more, and no less only because there is not much there.  Before we buy plane tickets to see this estate sale Corvette in Chesterton, Indiana, we need a plan.

So, if this is all you have to work with, what do you do with it?  1954 was the second year of the Corvette, and sales were up from the first year, when Chevrolet only sold 300.  While sales picked up to 3,640 units pushed out the door, there were major problems to overcome.  The car was more of a cruiser than a sports car, as it was powered by Chevy’s ancient Stovebolt inline six cylinder engine and a two speed Powerglide automatic.  Performance was, to put it mildly, anemic.  Luckily, the small block V-8 would be installed in most of the 1955 models, and Zora Arkus-Duntov arrived to bring out the best in the Corvette.  Today, 1954 Corvettes in excellent condition can approach $100,000 or more, given that they are matching numbers cars restored to Bloomington Gold standards.

Unfortunately, we are nowhere near that standard.  This is at best a body in fair condition, a frame of unknown condition, a maybe original engine block with no heads or accessories, an automatic transmission, some suspension, a rear end, four wheels and some old white wall tires.  How can we make lemonade out of lemons here?  I have three ideas: the old Johnny Cash “one piece at a time” plan, old school gasser, or vintage race car.

My Johnny Cash plan would take, of course, cash and time.  You could busy yourself restoring the body, frame, suspension, and engine while buying what reproduction parts you can and scouring EBay for what original parts come available in the meantime.  This would probably take years, and the costs would most likely add up to more than you could have bought a pretty good car for in the first place.  It is a way to get into a first generation cheaply though…

The second option would be to make it into a gasser type drag car.  This gives you the freedom to replace the drivetrain with a period correct small block Chevy V-8 and the vintage speed parts to go with it.  I have seen some early Corvette gassers, and they are pretty cool looking.  You wouldn’t have to spend a ton on restoration parts, and you can have a lot of fun with it on Friday and Saturday nights at either the local drag strip or Dairy Queen.

My final option would be to make it into a vintage racer to enter into historic sports car races.  If I went down this road, I would pattern it off either the 1953 NASCAR Corvette raced at the Daytona Beach speed trials in 1956 or Duntov’s 1955 test mule with the fin behind the driver.  You would need to add some trim pieces and a vintage small block Chevy V-8, and maybe fabricate a fin.  A lot of work would be involved, but imagine the fun you could have running this car down the straightaway at Sebring with a hopped up V-8 at full song!

Now its your turn.  Tell me what you would do with this stripped out C-1.

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  1. RayT Member

    The listing “has ended,” whatever that means. Someone snapped it up right away, or the seller decided Kruse might get more money for it, or they decided to keep it, or…. Seller also has a “barn find” late-model 356 Cabrio for $205K.

    No matter what, this “Vette would have needed lots ‘o money. I suspect if someone wanted to make a $100K car out of it, they might spend twice as much getting there. Even restomodding it would take mucho dinero. So, alas, would my idea: drop in a 265 and build a duplicate of the “Nomad” show car, which was Corvette-based.

    • scottymac

      Or the original “Corvair”, the fastback Corvette from ’54.

    • ccrvtt

      The original Nomad was based on the full-size Chevy passenger cars. Look at the windshield and the height of the cowl. It was definitely influenced by the Corvette and a Nomad tribute made from this shell would certainly be a worthwhile endeavor. But it would be a bit smaller than the original, I believe.

  2. leiniedude

    I laughed when checking the Ebay post with only six photos, then I thought to myself really no more needed. Not much there.

  3. Chris Kennedy

    I was thinking, with the header “Which way to go with it” I was thinking dumpster! Ha

  4. gaspumpchas

    That Vette is picked over worse than a turkey carcass after thanksgiving. Wonder what it sold for?? Good luck to the new owner….

  5. Steve R

    There is a complete 1954 corvette drivetrain in his completed listings. That’s an indicator as to the condition of this car.

    Steve R

  6. Riichard Carey

    I would take the body off,modify it to fit a c4 chassis then give it a decent paint job.

  7. Clay Byant

    Do the “easy” work as you accumulate parts. May take years but return will keep up with your investment over time. Ever hear a 6 cyl. Corvette? Now that’s cool. Previous owner 1-53, 2-54s.(and lots of newer ones)

    • Rob

      Clay, for a younger person, that might be an option, but for me (at 60 years old), I would likely finish it just in time to celebrate my 144th birthday . . . Ironic that many younger people who might otherwise be able to realize the goal likely don’t have the coin to put down for it. I’m with all the others who say “Thanks, but pass.”

      • Clay Byant

        Rob, I’m 72 and if my plate wasn’t so full right now I’d jump on this(although it’s gone) The fun is in the trip, not the destination. At 144, you would definitely look good. You’d be 3 years younger then the car and they’d do an article on you in Antique National Enquirer…………..

  8. Rocco Member

    Did anyone notice the 4-speed shifter sticking through the floor?

  9. Jamie P

    Make it a restomod. Nice wheels period correct paint all the goodies. Give it that “shaved” look. No trim pieces. Nice billet grille. Just envision it. I see a one of a kind. On a budget

  10. Adam Wright

    That was by far not the coolest thing to go out that door last week, we were loaded to the gills! Look close, you can spy a 356 Roadster.

  11. Dt 1

    Nice car but it’s not a small project you’re going to need a lot of money

  12. Paul

    Easy car to restore, you can take apart and put together with any homeowners cheap socket set and you can get parts, they look cool. If frame is solid it maybe a good buy.

  13. Peppy

    Some like restoration (the journey guys) and some just want to drive and show (the destination guys). This is definitely a journey car. My guess is it will either soak up a boatload of cash or it will quietly soldier on as someone’s dream. Perhaps both.

  14. Charles

    When I see something like this for sale, the first thing I see is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$…..

  15. George

    relisted and sold for 20k!


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