Owning a Corvette from the very first year of production is a very notable status. Owning an award-winning first-year Corvette signed by the man who may have single-handedly saved Corvette from a premature fate is a whole ‘nuther level.
That’s exactly what enthusiasts will have opportunity to do when this rare ’53 Corvette goes up for auction at the Vicari Auction being held in New Orleans, Louisiana (August 24-25th). Interestingly, it was a prototype ’53 Corvette that drew Zora Arkus-Duntov to Corvette when he first saw the car with millions of others during the 1953 Motorama in the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City.
The car had a huge impact on Zora and ironically, he would return the favor years later as a Chevrolet employee and Corvette’s first Chief Engineer. He tirelessly sought to increase Corvette’s performance rating among sportscar enthusiasts and many of the advancements that secured Corvette’s early racing accomplishments were directly credited to him.
Zora’s determination to make Corvette a dominating force was not always shared among the higher-ups at Chevrolet or GM, and many times, his exploits were shared only on a “need to know” basis. Some of the most desirable Corvettes are direct descendants of Zora’s secret cauldron of Corvette performance. Even when instructed to cease and destroy some special cars, Zora chose to scuttle them around various warehouses until they could be secured in the hands of those who would appreciate them for what they were.
While the 1953 Corvette was aimed at the sportscar market, a case could be made that its performance left a lot of room for improvement. This car is number 268 of only 300 examples built that first year in a hastily-prepared building alongside what is now the Flint Assembly facility. The cars were all treated to six-cylinder engines and Chevrolet’s Powerglide, two-speed transmission. Also, all 300 cars were painted Polo White with red interiors and black, retractable tops. To spice up Corvette’s performance over the pedestrian family sedans where the Stove-bolt Six originated, a trio of carburetors were affixed to the engine alongside a set of dual exhaust outlets out the back.
Zora’s main contribution to Corvette was in its performance, but his involvement to this particular car, which rolled out the doors of the assembly plant long before his influence was felt, is thanks to his endorsing signature. But that’s not the only thing this particular Corvette has going for it.
With only 45,763 miles on the odometer, this car is definitely low-mileage, and even with the lack of highway miles, the car was reportedly treated to a full frame-off restoration by Harvey Wimmer in the mid-70s when he acquired the car. From there, it began a life on the show circuit that served to keep the mileage low but upped the awards count exponentially. Of note, is the AACA National Senior First Prize won in 1982 in Hershey, PA. The car also enjoys NCRS Second Flight and Top Flight awards since its restoration.
As noted, the car will be offered with no reserve during the Vicari Auctions NOLA event and all documentation goes with the vehicle. While not considered the pinnacle of performance, this first-year Corvette has so many things going for it that it will surely be a prized addition to any collection.