Early 1953 and 1954 Corvettes were underpowered with few, if any, options and their handling left a great deal to be desired. But still, for their time, the Corvette was an acceptable sports car. In time, enterprising young men added the newly minted small-block Chevy V-8 with better transmissions, and the tide was turned. Dick Takashima was one of them that saw the potential of the car and did something to improve on its shortcomings.
Starting out with a 283ci small-block and a three-speed stick, he later moved on to a healthy Pontiac V-8 attached to a four-speed. Dick campaigned the car from 1963 to 1966 at The Dalles, Woodburn, and McMinnville, Oregon dragstrips, then moved to Southern California, and parked the car under a peach tree. Dick passed away in the late ’90s, so his brother Fred rescued the car and brought it back to Oregon.
After some time passed, Fred had the big picture in his head of how he wanted his brother’s car to look. First, the chassis had to be addressed. Bill Sluman out of Gresham, Oregon, was the go-to guy, and did just what the “doctor ordered” on the classic Vette. A Fatman IFS and rack-and-pinion steering, along with four wheel disc brakes, were fit to the chassis. Add to this a 1957 Chevy rearend and the framerails were ready for ample amounts of power to be added. A 350-inch small-block outfitted with a vintage, first-generation Rochester fuel injection unit and a TH350 three-speed automatic transmission were dropped into the chassis by Harley Parmenter out in Orient, Oregon. Meanwhile, BJs Body and Paint, in Springdale, Oregon, massaged the body, adding the custom hoodscoop and modified the rear valance for the Porsche Boxster exhaust tips. A custom silver paint blend put the final touches to the wow factor on the outside. Inside, Dan’s Auto Upholstery in Portland, Oregon, known for his very high quality stitching, did up the interior, adding a custom-made console to top it off.
The 1954 Vette now rides on 17-inch Cragar wheels shod with 215/45R17 Hankook HR2 tires.
Looking back at the sad old Vette sitting under a tree and comparing it now to Fred’s finished product, Fred’s brother Dick would sure be proud of the car’s transformation.