An early ‘best buy’
Since I was big enough to look out the car window and spot the dusty 1960 Corvette in my neighborhood, I’ve been a straight-axle Corvette fan. Of those, I consider the V-8-powered 1955 Corvette the greatest for its combination of eight cylinders with styling worthy of the Motorama stage. However, they’re rare and they’re quite valuable. Along with first-year 1953s, 1955 Corvettes regularly fetch six-figure prices, but for the fan of very early Corvettes, there’s a lower-priced alternative — the 1954 Corvette roadster.
While some collectors pay big bucks for the privilege of owning a first-year 1953 or a V-8-powered 1955, the 1954 languishes with values at least 25 percent less than a 1955 model and a smaller fraction of a 1953. Yet, there’s virtually no external difference between the 1953 and 1954 Corvette. In fact, both can be had in Polo White with red interiors, but if that combo is not your flavor, Pennant Blue, red and black were also available colors in ’54. Also, the six-cylinder’s three carburetors were improved for 1954 and a new camshaft bumped up horsepower. For 1954, the Corvette was improved and Chevrolet expected to sell a lot and so it built a lot more. As a result, 1954 Corvettes are the most common from 1953-’55, which helps them remain the best deal.
Driver-quality or better 1954 ’Vettes are selling in the $30-50,000 range — that’s a big stack of $100 bills, but it’s the same or less than a new SUV or pickup. Before taking the plunge, research the cars carefully: ’54 ’Vettes are rare and so are parts, so buy the best car. After you jump in, keep it from becoming the “dusty” ’Vette in the neighborhood. Old ’Vettes are meant to be driven.
The unique 1955 Corvette V-8 emblem.
A Gypsy Red 1955 Corvette V-8 at the 2010 Iola Old Car Show.