1953 Corvette - Number 274 out of 300

RM Auction Listing:
Lot 125
To be auctioned on Saturday, March 14, 2015
$300,000 - $400,000
Chassis no. E53F001274
Engine no. LAY566968

150 bhp, 235.5 cu. in. "Blue Flame" OHV inline six-cylinder engine, three single-barrel Carter carburetors, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, independent front suspension with unequal length A-arms and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102 in.

  • The first year of the Corvette
  • The 274th of only 300 built
  • Masterfully restored by a Corvette expert

In the early 1950s, a team of GM engineers, headed up by Harley Earl, went to work trying to create a fiberglass-bodied car that had the appeal to compete with European sports cars. Harley Earl had excelled at swooping designs since the 1920s and designed aircraft-looking features into the car, including round dials blended into a curved dash, all of which were sheltered under a roofline that stood just under 47 inches tall. The six-cylinder engine was positioned farther toward the rear, which gave the flat hood a long, sleek appearance. By the time it was ready to be unveiled, it is reported that GM had spent over $1.5 million on the project.

This car, dubbed the Corvette "Dream Car," debuted at the GM Motorama show, which was held at the stylish Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, and it achieved astounding results. Following the first weekend of the Motorama event in New York, over 300,000 people had seen the car and spent $800,000 on GM products. At the conclusion of Motorama's U.S. tour, GM stated that over four million people had seen the car.

Production of the two-seat roadster started in June 1953, and by year's end, a total of only 300 Corvettes rolled off the assembly line. This first year of Corvette production signified an important technical milestone: GM was the first major American car manufacturer to successfully mass-produce a vehicle whose underpan and body shell were made entirely of fiberglass.

The Corvette featured GM's 235-cubic inch "Blue Flame" inline-six engine, which had triple Carter carburetors and a dual exhaust. The engine's respectable 150 horsepower was transmitted to the road via a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. All 300 cars that were built in 1953 were visually identical, as they were all finished in Polo White with a Sportsman Red interior. The car was fitted with subtle pieces of chrome trim, which ran along either side, as well as wire meshing covering the headlights.

When compared to the Jaguar XK 120 and the MGA of the time, the Corvette was proportionally smaller, yet it was more responsive and superior in handling. Unable to resist its magnetism, virtually every auto enthusiast felt compelled to get behind the wheel of the new Corvette. Even though its initial success was impressive, it is doubtful that even those at GM could have thought the Corvette would achieve the success it has over the six decades it has been in production.

The car offered here was the 274th Corvette produced. It has undergone a body-off restoration, which was performed by Blue Flame Restoration, of Pendelton, Indiana, the shop of respected 1953 Corvette expert Brett Henderson, and it is equipped with a Wonderbar radio, spinner wheel covers, a center-mounted tachometer and speedometer, and bullet air filters. It presents well and authentically throughout, with its iconic colors and high-quality finishes, which are appropriate to how this car left the factory. The panel fit is notably good for one of these early cars, as is the concours-quality brightwork and the proper safety glass windshield. The car is also equipped with its original side curtains in the trunk, as well as a CD of documentation on the restoration.

The restoration still shows 45,750 miles, and it is believed to have not been shown since its completion. This is a clean and lovely example of a car that every Corvette enthusiast needs in their collection. The 1950s were the beginning for America's sports car, and it all began right here.