Lucas Scarfone ©2020, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
  • One of just 1,040 Fuelies built for 1957
  • Comprehensively restored in 2011
  • Superbly presented and ready for anything

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1957 Chevrolet Corvette 283/283
Years Produced:1953–62 (C1)
Number Produced:756 (1957 283/283)
Original List Price:$3,756
SCM Valuation:$97,500
Tune Up Cost:$300
Chassis Number Location:Plate on the steering column
Engine Number Location:Pad on front of block below right cylinder head
Alternatives:1957 Ford Thunderbird F-code, 1963 Chevrolet Corvette 327/360 coupe, 1957 Chrysler 300C convertible
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 130, sold for $81,200, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island, FL, auction on March 6, 2020. It was offered with no reserve.

Chevrolet’s small fold-out brochure for the 1957 model condensed the Corvette experience into one word: FUN!

The 1956 models brought the Corvette’s sports car mission into focus: updated body styling with roll-up glass windows and a real convertible top, the second-year 265-ci V8, smooth 3-speed manual, and improved suspension. But the 1957 Corvette finally turned fun into FUN! How? Two firsts: the optional Rochester “Ram Jet” mechanical fuel injection and a 4-speed manual, available mid-year.

Fuel injection was a hot topic in 1957. Open-wheel and sports-racing machines were transitioning to FI. Chrysler and American Motors sold a few cars with highly problematic Bendix electronic FI systems (and recalled them to install carbs). But GM’s Rochester system, designed by the brilliant John Dolza, was elegantly simple, and worked amazingly well for such a new concept. It added horsepower over carbureted versions of the new 283 V8, and it also prevented fuel flooding and starvation when driven hard.

Road & Track recorded 0–60 in 5.7 seconds with 132 mph top speed in a 283/283, stating, “The data are unequalled by any other production sports car.”

Burden of proof

Just 756 283-hp models were built out of 6,334 Corvettes in 1957. The market reflects that: The SCM/ACC 2020 Pocket Price Guide shows the median for 1957 283-hp Corvette is $97,500, while exceptional vehicles sell for as much as $170,000. What makes those top-selling Corvettes so much more valuable than a comparably restored Fuelie? Invariably it’s Bloomington Gold or NCRS Top Flight certification.

First-generation Corvettes are exceedingly difficult to document. The VIN number simply indicates that it is a Corvette and nothing more. Unlike most vehicles, including later-generation Corvettes, there is no trim or equipment tag to indicate how a C1 Corvette came from the factory. That’s the beauty of certification.

Bloomington Gold states: “A GOLD CERTIFIED car appears as it would just after completion of ‘typical factory production.’” It means that a Corvette has been preserved or restored within 95% of the way it appeared when it left the factory — no better, no worse, no different.

Bloomington Gold’s standards for authenticity and condition are clear — the goal is to attain historic perfection, not cosmetic perfection.

The National Corvette Restorers Society states: “NCRS does not consider the restoration or replacement of components as counterfeit as long as the intent is to restore the car to its former or original state as it left the factory.”

Without an original window sticker, bill of sale or factory build sheet, there is no way of knowing what the correct paint, trim or options are. At the very least, Bloomington Gold requires the owner to attest that to the best of their knowledge, their Corvette is equipped as it was from the factory. Some buyers, desiring the very best Corvette possible, will gladly pay the premium for this accuracy.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

But what about the enthusiast who wants a nice Corvette yet doesn’t want to shell out $100k? Most previous owners didn’t keep the original documents, and today there is no evidence to support what many Corvettes really were. Our Aztec Copper ’57 is a perfect example. It has no awards from NCRS or Bloomington Gold. Is it one of the 452 that left the factory in this paint color? Is it even one of the 756 283-hp FI cars? What’s a potential bidder to do?

The ACC Premium Auction Database can yield a trove of information. Searching VIN E57S104676 returned three previous entries.

The oldest, from an eBay/Kruse auction in 2002 (ACC# 25965), stated: “23-year-old frame-off nut-and-bolt rotisserie restoration, same owner 25 years. Fuel injected, numbers matching including motor, transmission, fuel injection, generator. 283 with 283 hp (one of only 43), factory 4-speed (first year), factory radio delete, rare tan interior. Texas car.”

While some of the data is circumspect — this clearly is not one of the 43 “Air Box” fuel-injected competition cars, and 1,315 ’57s had the “tan” (actually beige) interior — I’m now much more confident this is a true Fuelie 4-speed, though the complete entry stated the Corvette was black at the time. It also was a no-sale at $47,000.

The next result is this car’s sale at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2015. Barrett-Jackson’s site shows the Corvette looking exactly as today and selling for $106,700 with claimed matching numbers (ACC# 257945). Finally, E57S104676 was a no-sale at $85,000 at Mecum’s Chicago auction in October 2019 (ACC# 6921330).

So, a little sleuthing delivered important information: two thorough restorations, photos showing the radio-delete option, and claimed long ownership and numbers-matching components way back in 2002.

Dealing with a major auction house like RM Sotheby’s is also important. They have a reputation to maintain, and they state, “Our team works hard to make sure all lots we offer are fully researched and historically accurate.” They call the engine “reportedly original to the car.”

One other fact comes out: E57S104676 sold in 2020 for almost $25k less than in 2015, and $16,300 under median. Perhaps the Aztec Copper paint limits its appeal? Maybe the resto-mod movement is continuing to diminish interest in restored vintage Corvettes — after all, median prices for ’57 Fuelies are down 14% since 2015.

All things considered, I’d say this beautifully restored — and fun — Corvette was well bought at the price paid.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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