Arizona

19 - 20 January 2012

Lot 212

1954 Chevrolet Corvette "Bubbletop" Roadster

To be auctioned on Friday, January 20, 2012

Sold for $176,000

  • Chassis no. E54S002189
  • Engine no. 0792486F54YG
History is important to us, and all lots offered are fully researched. All corresponding information and accessories, from certificates to tool kits, stays with the lots we sell. All of this is held at our library on site, under the Access the Knowledge banner, so please visit us there or contact us before the auction if you require further information.


150 hp, 235 cu. in. inline six-cylinder engine, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, unequal-length A-arm front suspension with coil springs and anti-roll bar, live axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring rear suspension, front and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102"



• Featured in August 4, 2010 issue of Auto Week

• Rare, factory option bubble-top canopy by Model Builders of Chicago, Illinois

• Equipped with period aftermarket chrome wire wheels

• Less than 57,000 miles from new



The Chevrolet Corvette was officially born on June 30, 1953 when the first production model rolled off a special Flint, Michigan assembly line. The car owed its humble beginnings to the popularity of English sports cars (such as the MG and Jaguar) with American servicemen who became enamored with them during their service in Europe during World War II. Even though the market for such cars was small (just about 11,000 in 1952), General Motors styling genius Harley Earl had a vision for an American-made version of what was being built in Europe. In conjunction with a brilliant young engineer named Ed Cole, the two set about designing “project Opel,” as the car was known.



GM President Harlow Curtice and Chevrolet Division Chief Tom Keating blessed Earl’s mockup, and a prototype was built in time for a January 1953 introduction as a dream car at the General Motors Motorama at New York’s Waldorf=Astoria Hotel. The car would be called “Corvette,” a naval term meaning a small, fast, maneuverable warship. It featured a fiberglass body and was powered by a modified 150 horsepower Blue Flame six with triple carburetors, higher compression, solid lifters and a high-lift camshaft. At a base price of $3,513, a total of 315 were made in 1953, all in Polo White with red interiors.



Even with all the parts utilized from other models, the Corvette had its own X-member frame with box-section side rails, outboard-mounted rear leaf springs for better cornering stability, Hotchkiss drive and an engine set back 13 inches further than in other Chevrolets for better weight distribution and, thus, better handling.



Despite a shaky start, the dream car returned as part of Chevrolet’s lineup for 1954. Prices increased $10 and production moved to St. Louis, Missouri in December 1953. Production increased significantly to 3,640 units, yet 1,076 remained unsold by the model year’s end. Nonetheless, GM sought to increase the dream car’s appeal to the public. A unique jet fighter-like bubble-top canopy was fashioned for the fledging sports car by Model Builders of Chicago, Illinois. Depending on the source, between 20 and 25 of the clear plastic bubble tops were produced. The bubble-top mimicked those of the GM dream cars like the Bonneville Special and Cadillac’s Cyclone. A Corvette thusly equipped was owned by Eugene Kettering, chief engineer for GM’s Electro-Motive Division (producer of railroad locomotives) and son of GM engineer Charles Kettering. Others included Dwight H. Green, the former governor of Illinois, and R.H. McWilliams, president of the Royal Crown Bottling Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri. Reportedly costing $500 each, the fiberglass bubble tops were certainly a pricey option. Today, the bubble-top provides a glimpse into the futuristic thinking of dream car designers of the 1950s and is a unique example among 1954 Corvettes.



The current owner purchased this example as a project car from a St. Louis dealer in 2005. Following an 18-month total restoration, the “Bubbletop” was finished in correct Pennant Blue with a beige top and interior. It is equipped with period aftermarket chrome wire wheels, though the standard original-type tires, wheels and wheel covers are included. According to the owner, this exceptional ’54 Corvette has less than 57,000 miles from new. In addition, it was featured in the August 4, 2010 issue of Auto Week in an article chronicling the unusual bubble-top accessory as well as in Noland Adams’ Corvette Restoration and Technical Guide (pg. 37).

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alex Classick

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United Kingdom

Alex Classick joined RM Europe in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in Business Mana... read more

Alexander Weaver

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California, USA

Alexander Weaver joined RM Auctions in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born into ... read more

Annette Abaci

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Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Dan Warrener

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Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, USA

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Auctions in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and restora... read more

Ian Kelleher

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New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

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+1 818 703 2816
Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Auctions in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in Monte... read more

Max Girardo

mgirardo@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Rob Myers

rmyers@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Shelby Myers literally grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to w... read more

Vinnie Mandzak

vmandzak@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Vinnie Mandzak joined RM Auctions’ California office in 2012 as a car specialist, following more than 30 years’ experience... read more