This ’54 is way more than just an ol’ used car!
Story Andy Bolig - February 09, 2014 10:00 AM
Jim Hawkins stands proudly beside the ’54 that has served as a calling card for his family’s dealership for so many years.
The Corvette shares showroom floor space with two of its older brethren. All three cars were trade-ins.
To say that Corvette hit the ground running would be an understatement.
When those curvy lines first appeared at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel during GM’s 1953 Motorama, crowds clamored over themselves to get a glimpse.
As the show concluded, throngs of desiring enthusiasts migrated to Chevrolet showrooms, trusting in GM’s promise to have the car in production within six months. Elbows and ankles flailed throughout the small Flint, Michigan, plant where the first “production” car rolled off the line on June 30 of that same year.
Even though customer interest was so great that Chevrolet literally doubled production quotas for the first year from 150 to 300 units, folks on the marketing floor felt that Corvette needed an air of distinction and they chose to offer the first cars to VIPs and “approved individuals” that would garner Corvette with the social standing they felt the car deserved.
Their plan backfired. While GM muckety-mucks boarded the doors that prevented droves of enthusiasts, cash in hand, from buying the new, needy sports car, they secretly courted Hollywood stars and starlets in hopes that their social standing might rub off on the newcomer. As GM, seeing the interest in their little two-seater, increased production at Corvette’s new St. Louis assembly plant for ’54, throngs of disenfranchised, would-be buyers moved on to other chrome-laden beauties offered that year. They wanted to take a ride, not “pick a number”.
Overshadowed by its older brother’s “first-born” status and a more muscular younger sibling, the ’54 Corvette never enjoyed the showroom splendor intended for it. The hot spotlights of stardom and blazing neon signs eroded into hand-painted “Used Cars” billboards for the little ’54.
That’s exactly where this Polo White example got its second lease on life. An employee at Hawkins Chevrolet in Danville, Pennsylvania, traded the two-seater in on a newer means of transportation, and just like many other family members (beloved, or not), the car never left. It has been owned by the Hawkins Chevrolet family ever since, spending most of its time throughout the years in the dealer’s collection, welcoming customers with a history lesson amid their desires for the newest and best.
Read more about this unique 1954 Corvette in the April issue of Cars & Parts, on sale Feb. 25.