1957 Chevrolet Corvette

This is one of 6,339 Corvettes built in 1957, and one of only 10 cars produced in Inca Silver with Imperial White coves and a red interior.

It was the recipient of a complete frame-off professional restoration to original specifications, including the replication of factory markings. Professionally detailed, it features a 283-ci, 270-hp V8 with dual quads, dual exhaust, an electric clock, tachometer, windshield washer system, courtesy lights, a deluxe heater and an outside rear-view mirror.

Ready for NCRS judging or Bloomington Gold, it would make an excellent addition to any collection.


SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1957 Chevrolet Corvette 283/270 convertible
Years Produced:1957
Number Produced:6,339 (1,621 270 hp)
Original List Price:$3,756
SCM Valuation:$50,000–$93,000 (270 hp)
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:N
Chassis Number Location:VIN plate on the steering column
Engine Number Location:Pad on front of block below right cylinder head
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society
Alternatives:1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, 1957 Ford Thunderbird E-code, 1959 Cadillac DeVille convertible
Investment Grade:N

This 1957 Chevrolet Corvette 283/270 convertible, Lot 395, sold for $99,000, including buyer’s premium, at the Auctions America by RM Spring Carlisle auction on April 29, 2012.

The 1957 Corvette is one of the few Corvettes that can rightfully be called “iconic,” coveted by both Corvette and non-Corvette collectors alike. But in reality, it’s the ’57 Corvettes equipped with the innovative Rochester “Ram Jet” mechanical fuel injection, especially those with the 4-speed manual gearbox, that are true icons.

Part of their mystique is the space-age fuel-injection system, part is the magic one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch output of their powerplant, and part is their rarity — availability was limited, and only 756 283-hp cars were built that year. Throw in the 4-speed, which was not available until April 9, 1957, and you have the formula that legends are made of.

Second-best to injection

But what about the next best thing? The performance Corvette that most buyers chose was the 270-hp car. Equipped with twin Carter 4-barrel carburetors and the famous Duntov cam, the RPO 469C option was readily available, cost $301.25 less than the Fuelie, and could be worked on by any shade-tree mechanic. This was a Corvette that had a lot going for it, but how did it fare against the fuel-injected icon?

Testing in the real world

John Dolza’s mechanical fuel-injection system was created with competition in mind. His design offered faster throttle response, eliminated fuel flooding or starvation during high-speed cornering, and added an advertised 13 horsepower to boot. But it was hastily rushed into production for non-competition sedans and Corvettes at the urging of Harlow Curtice, GM executive vice president of North America, who himself was pressured by design chief Harley Earl.

In their June 1957 issue, Sports Car Illustrated magazine decided to find out if the extra expense of fuel injection was really worth it. With a 270-hp Corvette on the East Coast and a 283-hp Fuelie Corvette on the West Coast, SCI compared the performance and drivability of both cars.

They found the fuel-injected ’57 was as advertised: a complex system with superb throttle response, no flooding or starving, better fuel economy, and the kick of at least 10 more horses. But they also discovered what owners were also encountering: that the injected cars were difficult to start when the engine was hot — something the engineers were able to cure a few years later.

But Sports Car Illustrated also found that the dual-quad 270-hp car was no slouch, though with a more traditional feel: “Starting the dual-quad car was easy, by twisting the ignition switch, though some care was needed to avoid flooding on hot starts. Once warmed up, the idle was low enough at 500 rpm, but it was full of lumps and shook the car. This can be handed to the competition cam, which was installed in both cars… The power from this cam comes on strongly at about 2,700 rpm and stays that way until about 5,300, after which it falls off rapidly, apparently due to valve gear. At the end of a fast run, the idle was extremely bad, and after each stop in the braking test, the carbs would stall the engine dead. The dual-quad setup is by now a familiar one, so rigged that the rear carb runs all the time and the front one cuts in only at about two-thirds throttle.”

Although the cars were not otherwise identical, SCI felt the difference in performance between the Fuelie and the dual-quad ’57 was consistent with the advertised horsepower of both cars. So while the dual-four car fell in behind the Fuelie, it was a close second that became even closer if tuning and maintenance were of any concern to the buyer.

A rarity in silver for 1957

GM also quietly introduced another technological advancement in ’57 — the first use of Dupont Lucite acrylic lacquer paint.

GM pioneered the use of Dupont Duco nitrocellulose spray paint in the early 1920s, when the rest of the industry still brushed, dipped, or flowed on paint — a carryover from the carriage trade. But nitrocellulose paints were prone to fading, yellowing and cracking with age, and were especially dangerous to use. The only ’57 acrylic lacquer color was Inca Silver, and only 65 were built (including just 10 with the contrasting Imperial White coves). Within a few years, all GM products had switched to acrylic lacquer.

Premium pricing? Must have docs

Fuel-injected ’57 Corvettes, especially properly documented 4-speed cars, command premium prices, occasionally surpassing $250,000 for the best examples. The ultra-rare (43 built) competition “Air Box” FI cars can add another $100k or more. But the typical 270-hp Corvette is in the $50,000 to $93,000 range, although two top-notch cars sold for over $105,000 in the middle of the past decade.

Our feature ’57 looks to be properly restored, and it claims to be one of the 10 Inca Silver/Imperial White cars built. But no mention of documentation is made, and without documentation, this is just another ’57 Corvette.

First-generation Corvettes don’t have a trim tag, so claims of a rare color have to be met with a window sticker, invoice, build sheet, or some other proof. And terms like “ready for NCRS judging or Bloomington Gold” hardly instill a peaceful, easy feeling in bidders thinking of shelling out more than $100k for a Corvette.

With that NCRS Top Flight or Bloomington Gold certification in hand, this Corvette might have topped the charts for a 270-hp car. But without documentation, it’s just a very nice Corvette that went above the market value for comparable cars. I’d say very well sold

Comments are closed.