16 August 2006

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Fuelie Convertible

In 1956 Chevrolet introduced a restyled Corvette that was a complete departure from earlier models. The new Corvettes gave the American sports car a new identity that was much more sporting. They were fast, sleek, and extremely clean in their appearance. Recognized by collectors as benchmark years in Corvette styling, the 1956 and 1957 models generally draw the most attention at shows and events nationwide.

By 1957, Corvettes were offered in many configurations. Now more than ever, customers had the daunting task of weighing all the options and choosing the right car. The 283-ci powerplant was available with two different fuel injection options and two different four-barrel carburetors. Furthermore, the appearance, though not really changed from the 1956 models, was spruced up with added colors, tops, and power accessory options. Nevertheless, it was true to the Corvette ideal in every way.

The Corvette offered here is fitted with the rare and desirable fuel injected V8 rated at 283 hp. This matching numbers California car has traveled just 18 miles since completion of a no-expense-spared, body-off restoration. All mechanical and cosmetic systems were given everything they needed and the finished product is better than new. The restoration was fully documented and the engine was dyno-tested and broken in by a GM engineer.

This stunning Corvette is finished in Onyx Black with silver coves, a red interior, and black soft and hard tops. It is fitted with the optional (and working) clock, rare four-speed close ratio transmission, parking brake alarm, and correct whitewall tires. Like most cars ordered with “go-fast” options, the radio was deleted. The first-year “Fuelies” are among the most collectible and valuable.

Chassis number: E57S103787

Engine number: 3731548 EL

DETAILS: 1957 Chevrolet Corvette

  • Years produced: 1956–62
  • Number produced: 64,375; 7,828 FI cars
  • Original list price: $3,200–$4,000
  • SCM Valuation: $42,000–$60,000
  • Tune up/major service: $175–$200
  • Distributor cap: $19
  • Chassis #: On plate in driver’s door jam
  • Engine #: Top left surface of flange on rear of block
  • Club: Corvette Club of America, P.O. Box 9879, Bowling Green, KY 42102-9879
  • More: www.corvetteclubofamerica.com
  • Alternatives: 1956 Austin-Healey 100-Six; 1957 Ford Thunderbird F-code; 1958 Arnolt-Bristol DeLuxe
  • SCM Investment Grade: B


The SCM analysis: This car sold for $132,000 at RM’s Monterey sale, held August 19–20, 2005 . A ’57 Fuelie ’Vette is one of the hallmark cars of the 1950s, the work of Harley Earl, one of the most important automotive stylists of all time. The designs he spearheaded during this e

The car had been unloaded by its transporter at the top gate of the 17-Mile Drive entrance to the Lodge. Someone had to drive it down the beautiful, tree-lined road that wound around to the auction tent, so I eagerly hopped in, warmed it up, and off I went. But as I gained just a little speed things went awry.

This twisty section of road was part of the famed course that had once been the site of the treacherous Pebble Beach Road Race. I realized rather quickly that my steed was not really up to the task, and as I struggled to keep the Corvette on the road, I felt like I was sitting on my living room couch and someone had pushed me over the crest of the Laguna Seca Corkscrew.

It was an exciting ride, to say the least. As I headed vigorously into a tree-lined left-hander, I prayed I’d be able to get the four screeching tires around the turn. The extreme amounts of body roll and lethargic steering, however, also had me wondering for a few split seconds if indeed the chassis and body had become detached. Thankfully, I arrived at the tent in one piece. More importantly, so did the car.

While blame for such typical ’Vette behavior is usually cast on Zora Duntov and GM, responsibility for the many unflattering words I shouted while heading down that hill would more accurately be leveled at this car’s old bias-ply tires and unsorted brakes and suspension. This is a common affliction of even “perfectly” restored cars. Just because a car exhibits the highest cosmetic finish does not mean it is capable of performing as capably as it did when new.

Corvettes of the ’50s have a broad appeal and a devoted following. Their sensational styling, strong reliability, and wealth of spares make them fun and reasonably secure investments. Anyone thinking about playing with ’Vettes, however, would do well to start by picking up a copy of Mike Antonick’s Corvette Black Book. It contains enough information about vehicle numbers, engine numbers, and option codes to convince you to seek help from an expert before you raise your hand at auction.

Corvettes are among the most well documented collector cars out there, so making a mistake with regards to things like “numbers-matching” claims or certification by organizations like Bloomington Gold and the National Corvette Restorers Society could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

So, too, can not knowing the history of the car you’re bidding on.

The car pictured here sold for $100,440 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in 2004. At the time, it was rated “#2+” by the SCM auction reporter and described as “an excellent restoration that has seen some over-the-road usage.” The car then appeared at Silver’s 2004 Hot August Nights sale in Reno , where it was bid to $59,000 without selling. Fast-forward to RM Monterey a year later, where the car sells for $132k – very strong money, especially considering those last two trips across the block.

An astute bidder is going to have a lot of questions about a car like this, starting with why it’s been offered for sale so many times in the past year and a half. Just as people assume the house that’s been on the market for months must have something wrong with it, frequent auction appearances do not usually result in a bump to a car’s value.

Documentation of the “18 miles since completion of a no-expense-spared, body-off restoration” claim, however, would. Assuming the bidder did his homework, and that the car is both authentic and well sorted out, I would call this price top-of-the-market, but not crazy.

David Gooding is the president of Gooding & Company as well as a long-time collector. Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Richard Polleri East Meadow NY. February 5, 2014 at 15:21
    I thought there was something i read somewhere that they had tires that looked bias-ply but were radials.......??

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