Market Finds: The Chevrolet Corvette Is An American Dream Driveway Queen

The Chevrolet Corvette Is An American Dream Driveway Queen

Andrew Golseth By Andrew Golseth
January 22, 2016
1 comments

Photography Courtesy of Auctions America

Here’s a fact: the Chevrolet Corvette enjoys some of the most active and loyal supporters of any vehicle made, let alone Jet Age sports cars. There are few vehicles whose production run spans more than a decade. The Porsche 911, a vehicle often used as a rare example for a vehicle that’s retained the same the basic layout and design philosophy since its introduction in the ’60s, arrived on the scene 10 years after the Corvette.

Much like how the Germans retained the 911’s original disposition, the same is true of the Corvette. So with early 911s surging in value, perhaps there might be something to this 1953 C1 Chevrolet Corvette you see here. Like the C7 2016 model, this 63-year-old C1 has a large displacement engine up front, seating for only two, and is rear-wheel-drive. It’s the first recipe, so to speak.

The Corvette has transcended fads and even, if just barely, survived the ’70s Oil Crisis. Although sales figures have fluctuated throughout its run, the Corvette has always managed to stick around. So what’s the secret behind such a lasting campaign? I’m not sure it’s any one particular thing, but rather several factors for the Corvette’s stamina.

My theory? It’s always remained competitive against its counterparts. The car isn’t without faults; it’s been nitpicked for a number of things—from cheap cabin materials to a functional but archaic leaf spring rear suspension. Yet, the Corvette generally makes up for the critiques with an affordable-enough price tag and enough power to hang with its rivals. Simply put, it fits into the “American Dream”: If you work hard, you—an “Average Joe”—can afford your very own sports car.

More than six decades in, and today we have a Corvette that’s been universally praised for performance, practicality, and (drumroll…) plush interior—at least compared to the earlier models. Let us not forget the “original” sets the pace and without the C1’s foundation, the Vette wouldn’t be where it is today.

In the early 1950s, General Motors decided to try their hand in the European dominated-sportscar world. Spearheaded by designer Harley Earl, the group aimed to build a lightweight convertible that’d hold its own against the competition, if not raise the performance bar altogether.

The concept was called the “Corvette Dream Car,” and the underpan and body were constructed entirely of fiberglass—a first for a road car from a large American manufacturer. Evident in the C1’s smooth lines and trim physique, Harley Earl incorporated aircraft-like design elements—just look at that profile! Producing around 150 horsepower, the 235 cubic inch triple Carter carb-fed inline-six “Blue Flame” engine mated to a Powerglide two-speed automatic outperformed the Jaguar XJ120 and MGA—mission accomplished, at least on paper.

Needless to say, the C1 was a hit—perhaps a larger one than GM had initially realized. Just 300 Corvettes were produced in 1953, all finished in Polo White on Sportsman Red interior—this car being number 214. The car was diligently restored in the 1990s, and still presents in time capsule-like condition. Optimistically, the 1953 brochure claimed the Corvette was, “The American Sports Car of the Future.” How right they were.

History

– One of 300 built in 1953 (#214), the first year of production for the Corvette

Specifications
~150 horsepower 235 cubic inch, inline six-cylinder “Blue Flame” engine, and two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission.

Vehicle information
Chassis no.: 214 (of 300)

Valuation

Auction house: Auctions America
Estimate: $180,000 – $200,000
Price realized: April 2, 2016

 

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Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant

I admit to being a fan of early ‘Vettes, (pre ’67) but your article needs a couple of points of clarification Andrew. It is believed that the “powers that were” at GM at the time were fans of the Jaguar XK-120 not XJ as mentioned in your article and that it is thought to have been the inspiration for moving forward with the Corvette. However, the Corvette preceded the MGA by 3 years, so it is doubtful that it had any influence on the Corvette either from a design perspective nor as a competitor in the sports car market at… Read more »