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Lot 428: Chevrolet Corvette Roadster

Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia, Bonhams (3 June 2012)

Back in 1953, Chevrolet's launch of a two-seater sports car was a radical departure for a marque hitherto associated almost exclusively with sensible family transport. Based on the 1952 EX-122 show car, the Corvette made use of existing GM running gear and a shortened chassis frame, around which was wrapped striking Harley Earl-styled fiberglass coachwork. Motive power came from Chevrolet's 235.5 cubic inch overhead-valve straight six and, unusually for a sports car, there was a two-speed automatic transmission, a feature that attracted much adverse criticism at the time. Sales were sluggish initially and the model came close to being axed, surviving thanks to Chevrolet's need to compete with Ford's Thunderbird and the diligent work (and persuasive abilities) of a young GM engineer, Zora-Arkus Duntov. A V8 engine for 1955 and a radical restyle for '56 consolidated the 'Vette's position in the market, the model going on to become the world's best-selling and longest-lived sports car.

The Corvette in its second (1956-onwards) incarnation evolved slowly, gaining a four-headlight front end for '58 and a re-styled 'duck tail' rear, featuring a quartet of tail lights and an enlarged trunk, for '61. The 'Vette was face-lifted and improved annually, more and more options becoming part of the car's standard inventory in the process; in 1962 a stock Corvette came with electric clock, rev counter, seat belts and outside rear-view mirror. Major chassis engineering changes were few.

1960 was a watershed year for the Corvette. With some power under the hood, the 'Vette was now selling swiftly and 1960 was the first year in which over 10,000 were produced. Briggs Cunningham also chose to enter three 1960 Corvettes in that year's Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing a respectable eighth overall with one of his entries.

The example offered here what produced in October 1959, the first month of production for the 1960 model year 'Vettes and was only the 464th example to roll off the St. Louis production line. Finished in Roman Red with Ermine White scallops and a Roman Red interior, it is powered by the reliable 283/230hp V8 mated to the 3-speed manual transmission, although the date coding of the motor would indicate it is not the original engine. The recipient of an older, frame-off restoration that has been well kept and mechanically maintained, it is reported to be an enjoyable driver.

Few cars have captured the attention and imagination of both collectors and casual motorists as the Corvette. What better way to spend the next few months than cruising in your newly acquired red Corvette?

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Greenwich, Connecticut
Lot Number428
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$45000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$52650
Condition rating0
Registration number
Chassis number00867S100464
Engine numberF29300
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2