1954 CHEVROLET CORVETTE BACKGROUND
After first appearing as a GM Motorama Show Car on January 17, 1953 at the swanky Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, the Corvette was a show-stopper. GM styling czar Harley Earl, wanted Chevrolet go have a sports car, much like the ones he so admired in Europe. He rushed it to production in just 6 months. But to make it a viable business case, the new Chevrolet Corvette had to be built with as many off-the-shelf components as possible. So, a shortened Chevy passenger car chassis was used, along with suspension (king pins up front), rear end, engine and transmission. They hung a sexy new fiberglass body on top and an all new interior. Unfortunately, the only engine in Chevy’s inventory a the time was the ancient 235 ci “Stovebolt Six”. They slapped three side-draft carburetors on it and tuned it for better performance. The only transmission offered was the 2-speed Powerglide. Overall, it was a all show and no go. It launched in 1953 to much fanfare but few actual sales. A total of 300 Corvettes were sold in the 1953 model year, likely partially due to a slow ramp-up of production for the new fiberglass bodies, which needed time to cure, and problems with the finicky new technology. A new factory was opened in St. Louis MO in December 1953 just to build Corvettes, and capable of turning out 10,000 cars a year. The 1954 Chevrolet Corvette is a carry-over from 1953, with few changes, however 3,640 Corvettes were sold in 1954. But big changes were on the way. Chevy would introduce its seminal 265 ci small block V8 in 1955, and the Corvette would get the best of them.
THIS 1954 CHEVROLET CORVETTE HAD ITS HOOD UP
Unfortunately, the hood was up on this lovely ’54 Vette all day at this car show. I understand why guys do it. They spend a lot of time making things look perfect under the hood and they want to show it off. Unfortunately for guys like me who photograph these cars, it makes it impossible to take nice shots of the exterior. In a case like this, I will make several attempts during the day, hoping to catch the owner nearby. He never showed, so here you are. I’m always on the lookout for better pictures. So, if and when I’m fortunate enough to find another 1954 Chevrolet Corvette as nice as this one, with the hood down, these hood-up shots you see here will get replaced. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see this car again and actually find the owner this time. Or perhaps he’ll decide to show that luscious body and leave the engine covered.
1954 Chevrolet Corvette INTERIOR
1954 Chevrolet Corvette ENGINES
1954 CHEVROLET CORVETTE ENGINE
Like the 1953 model, the ’54 ‘Vette was offered with one engine only, and one transmission only. Of course Chevy really only had one engine, the 235 ci “Stovebolt” Six is an ancient engine, dating back to 1929. It served Chevrolet well over the years, powering nearly every vehicle they built. In standard 1954 passenger car form it made 115 hp with 7.5:1 compression and a Carter 1-barrel. With no V8 available until 1955, for Corvette duty, they hopped up the “Blue Flame Six” (it’s new name) as much as they could. They added Chevy’s first aluminum pistons, steel-backed rod bearings, a fully-pressurized lubrication system (it was by “splash” before), a bump in compression to 8.0:1, a hotter cam with solid lifters, dual valve springs, and 3 Carter side draft carburetors on a special aluminum manifold. You have to admire their effort. The Blue Flame Six produced 150 hp, giving the 1954 Chevrolet Corvette a top speed of 108 mph. The only transmission available was the 2-speed Powerglide. Not big on performance, but proven to be reliable.