in the 50s, Chevrolet hit a kind of drop in sales where none of their cars was enough to make a brand or make some money. Chevy’s rescue came in the form of Project Opel, an American version of the lightweight British sports cars of the time, combined with fiberglass bodywork and a 3.9-liter inline six-cylinder engine running on a two-speed automatic transmission. It wasn’t a very new idea at first, nor a great car, and yet things turned out in Chevrolet’s favor.
The “Opel” debuted at GM’s Motorama show in 1953, and despite the lackluster engine and less exciting transmission, it received a warm welcome. Enough for an official launch of 300 cars, heralding the birth of the Corvette. People weren’t really queuing up to buy the 1953 Corvette, although we all know this story has a happy sequel, given the huge popularity of America’s favorite sports car. These days it can give more expensive sports cars a run for their money, especially since 2020 the Vette now comes mid-engine for better balance and ride.
However, when it comes to the classic Corvettes, the 1955 C1 is starting to grab the attention and the fun. So here’s everything that’s special about it, and why you might want to look at it differently.
The history of the C1 Corvette
After GM Motorama’s reception, Chevrolet rushed the Corvette into production, resulting in the first-ever 150-horsepower Vette, all 300 in Polo White with a red interior. This was in 1953 and Chevy managed to sell only 183 of them, with many calling it not sporty enough to be a sports car, and others finding it a little too wild in the stable.
The following year, 1954, three new body colors (black, blue and red) were introduced, along with a revised camshaft that now tuned power to 156. Chevy only made 3,640 units, although the factory was equipped to make 10,000 a year. . The first two years of its life the Corvette did not have it easy.
Finally, Chevrolet figured out what the problem was and gave way to the 1955 C1 Corvette, which dropped the Blue Flame straight six on the side of the road and picked up a real V8 for good sports car performance.
The 1955 Corvette got turbo fire
Since everyone seemed to want the Corvette, but with more power, that was exactly what the 1955 Corvette got. In 1954, a new 4.3-liter V8 was developed, with a single Carter four-barrel carburetor, a high-lift camshaft and a compression ratio of 8:1. After the engine passed all the tests, Chevrolet donated it to the Corvette.
The 1955 Corvette, which delivered 195 horsepower, had a 40 horsepower improvement, allowing it to race from 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds, two seconds faster than the six-pot ‘Vette. This was also the year a new three-speed manual transmission came to the fore, and top speed went from a measly 107 mph to a much better 120 mph. Chevrolet even improved fuel economy and turned the Corvette into a limitless sports car that most Americans quickly came to love. Add to that the convenience of parts, aftermarket improvements and service, as this was a GM product, and there was nothing foreign competitors could offer in lieu of the Corvette.
When GM wiz Zora Arkus-Duntov finally saw that the Corvette was on a new path, he cemented his image by breaking up a V8 Corvette on the Pikes Peak Hill climb, setting a stock car record. He later also drove a V8 Vette up to 250 mph in the Daytona Flying Mile Speed Trials, making Corvette synonymous with performance.
The value of a 1955 C1 Corvette today
Of course, the value of a classic depends most on its condition and popularity, but also on its rarity and availability. A total of 700 copies of the 1955 C1 Corvette went to dealers, placing it second in rarity after 1953, but more attractive for the sheer amount of power it carried, evident in the “CorVette” badging. This put not only the V8 in the spotlight, but also the 12-volt electrical systems.
Most 1955 Corvette C1 models sell for over $80,000 easy, although there have been plenty of auctions where bids easily crossed six figures depending on the condition of the model in question. Concours Edition 1955 Corvette Can and Has Exceeded $250,000 also, though most go for $100,000-150,000 or thereabouts and the value seems to be steadily rising. Because the 1955 Vette comes with more power, it’s simply a better classic than the 1953 model, given the change in engines. The 1955 Corvette also came into the limelight because of Duntov, who later went down in history as the father of Corvettes, and it was this car that led to the survival of the ‘Vette at a time when GM was seriously considering culling of the car. Simply put, the 1955 Corvette is why the ‘Vette still exists and therefore deserves some TLC.
Sources: classic.com, Hemmings