Then GM’s Motorama was held in January 1953 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Chevrolet unveiled its new Corvette.
Six months later, the first Corvette rolled off a makeshift assembly line in Flint, MI. The sleek and sporty Corvettes were built by hand using a body of lightweight fiberglass instead of steel. Exterior styling featured a rounded body, toothy grille, mesh stone guards over inset headlights, a trendy wraparound windshield and jet pod rear fenders with “rocket ship” taillights. With a soft top that folded out of sight beneath a lift-up panel and side curtains, it was an authentic roadster.
Using an upgraded version of the 235-ci Chevrolet six found in other Chevrolet cars, the Blue Flame Six offered 150 hp, thanks to a high-lift cam, dual carburetors, and dual exhausts. The only transmission available was Chevrolet’s two-speed Powerglide, and the car relied on handling and road feel rather than straight-line performance.
With a remarkable 1,374 original miles on the odometer, this 1954 roadster is one of the most important Corvettes in existence. It has been extensively featured in numerous books and magazines. Since day one, the car has been extraordinarily documented.
The owner states: “The story begins on March 21, 1955, when Robert E. Schroeder of Chicago, IL, received a Western Union Telegram from Ed Pacdur, an editor at TV Guide, informing him he had won a Chevrolet Corvette in the Long Grey Line “Whoozzits” contest and they would like him to appear on the Tom Duggan Show to receive the key to the car. Mr. Schroeder obliged.”
The chronicle continues with Mr. Schroeder driving the 1954 Corvette Roadster for a mere 300 miles to conclude he didn’t like it, at which point the car was passed to his sister. She logged about 1,000 miles before arriving at the same conclusion and in 1957, the car was parked in a shed behind their house, where it sat for 33 years. During that time, the shed’s roof collapsed, exposing the car to the elements.
Resurrection of the entombed Corvette occurred in 1990 after it was removed by ProTeam Corvette of Ohio. It’s believed that Buckeye State dealership acted as a broker for the new Pennsylvania owners, Joseph and Karen Kappel. Possession was short-lived and unrealized, as Mr. Kappel was sent to prison on racketeering charges and the car seized by the U.S. government.
The 1954 Corvette Roadster next came into the possession of the Vectura Group, which sold it to Duane Turnbull of West Virginia on September 16, 1999. It took Turnbull three years and thousands of letters, phone calls, and faxes to discover and document this long-lost car. His effort resulted in a staggering number of documents, including the original telegram from Western Union, the invoice in Schroeder’s name from Merit Chevrolet, indicating “N/C” as a prize. There was an owner service policy, clock instructions, car papers, Wonderbar radio instructions, owner’s manual, original build tag, and an odometer statement when the car was transferred from Mr. Schroeder to Mrs. Kappel at 1,368 miles in 1990.
A careful and meticulous restoration began in 2000 using the skill and knowledge of Corvette restorer Bill Kuhn of His Place Inc., in Maryland. The aim was to keep the car as original as possible and the car is remarkably complete, with its original mufflers, tailpipes, brake lines, clamps and hoses as far as possible. On removing the trim, the car’s original Polo White color was revealed-it had been repainted red for the television show. After three years and over $100,000 invested, this 1954 Corvette was completed and is fully documented with records of the work.