1955 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, steering, 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 at the time was the ancient 235 ci “Stovebolt Six”. They slapped three side-draft carburetors on it, tuned it for better performance and gave it a new name, “Blue Flame Six”. 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 1955 Chevrolet Corvette would get the best of them.
1955 Chevrolet Corvette INTERIOR
1955 Chevrolet Corvette ENGINES
1955 CHEVROLET CORVETTE ENGINE OPTIONS: SMALL BLOCK V8
The big news was Chevy’s introduction of its game-changing new small block V8. Designed with the help of engine guru Zora Arkus-Duntov, the ubiquitous small block Chevy V8 has proven itself to be quite extraordinary in many ways. For the 1955 Chevrolet Corvette, only one version was available, the 265 ci V8 with single 4-barrel carburetor, making 195 hp. It came standard with a 3-speed manual, but the 2-speed Powerglide automatic was optional. Since only 700 1955 Corvettes were built in total, all numbers are very low.
ABOVE & BELOW: The only V8 offered in 1955 was the 195hp 265 Small Block.
1955 CHEVROLET ENGINE OPTIONS: BLUE FLAME SIX
1955 being the year Chevy introduced their game-changing small block V8, most 1955 Chevrolet Corvettes were ordered with the new engine. However, some were sold with the original “Blue Flame Six”. Like the 1953 and 1954 model, the standard engine for the ’55 ‘Vette was the ancient 235 ci “Stovebolt” Six dating back to 1929, modified for higher performance and given the fancy new name. The Stovebolt Six had served Chevrolet well over the years, powering nearly every vehicle they built. In standard 1955 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. 1955 was the final year that this engine was offered in a Corvette. From here on, it was V8 only, baby!
BELOW: The mighty 235 cubic inch “Blue Flame Six”.
1955 Chevrolet Corvette SPECIFICATIONS
Base Price, 6-cylinder
Base Price, V-8
VE55S001001 to VE55S001700 (“V” omitted on 6-cyl cars)