Pretty Girl Sitting on a 54
Ugly Dog Sitting on a 53
The Blue Flame Special Corvettes flopped in the marketplace. But they are Corvettes, nonetheless. We appreciate the cars for what they were - the first step in building a truly great car. Here are three things that 53 to 55 owner may find interesting or helpful:
1. The 1953 - 1954 Manuals.
The Original Manuals is full of maitenance information. Everything you need to maintain your car on a daily basis is in the Original Manual.
GM did not have the manual finalized when GM started selling 53s. So GM gave out a temporary manuals to 53 owners, along with a postcard to request a complete manual when finalized.. Nobody knows when GM started giving out the final manual. Sometime in late December 53 or early January 54 seems to be the best guess. The final manual was revised a number of times, and went thru two editions.
Don't have the Original Manuals??? As luck would have it, Chevrolet did not copyright the 1953 or 1954 Owners Manual. Thus, you don't have to buy original manuals on ebay for $400 to $1000. You can have a scanned copies of my manual free of charge. Just click on the icons below::
|An Original Temp 1953 Manual (from Fink 53)||Postcard Sent in by 53 Owners (Thanks to Bryk1979 for the Postcard Photo)||Letter sent by GM to 53 Owners||Manual For 53 to 55|
2. The Popular Mechanic 1954 Car Owner Survey
All of the books and articles suggest that the early cars were overpriced, underpowered, and lacking in critical creature comforts (like real windows). Attached below is an owners survey in the October 1954 Popular Mechanics magazine that contains some interesting information, however, about what the 53-54 owners thought of their new cars. The survey results were not as bleak as you would expect for a car that completely bombed in the marketplace. The people who wanted and could afford an overpriced and underpowered car were not completely unhappy with the 53-54 Corvettes. Only 1% said they would NOT buy another Corvette.
Based on this survey, I suspect that GM really just overpriced the car and misjudged the market. GM thought the market wanted great styling and reasonably good performance, and the instead the market wanted great styling and hot performance at the GM price point.:
The most frequent complaints about the car were Leaks (35%) , Top Construction (18%), and Hood Catch (13%). Chevrolet tried to address some of these complaints early on.
For leaks, Chevrolet issued Technical Service Bulletin #307 in September 1954. This TSB suggested various changes aroudn the door area. I don't know how many owners implemented these changes, but I bet not many. Very few people have ever heard of the TSB #307. Some owners apparently attempted to stop links using a differrent approach.
For the hood catch problem, Chevrolet changed the male hood catch from a smooth cylinder to a serrated one. Most of the 53 and 54 cars I have seen have the serrated version of the catch. Thus, I think this was a popular retrofit item.
For the top construction problem, Chevrolet changed the soft top frame a bit and ditch the flippers. Those changes probably did not impact the problem much, however. I think some owners approached this problem from a different angle - and retrofitted the back latching system for 56-57 Corvettes.
3. The International Registry of Early Corvettes (IREC)
In the early 1970s, George Campbell led an effort (IREC) to count and categorize the 53-55 Corvettes. It appears that IREC issued 3 reports. These reports are a great read for those who appreciate 53-55 Corvettes. The reports provide statistical information on paint colors, engine replacement and other interesting items. I suspect that these 3 reports played an important role in the views people had of 53 to 55 Corvettes, especially when it came to paint colors and possible paint combinations. The IREC reports say that the reports can be reprinted if proper acknowledgement is given (info is contained in the reports themselves). So here are the reports:
Russ Uzes Mill Valley CA Russ Email