Kevin Harris’ head was spinning. Could this 1954 Corvette, advertised on Craigslist in Indiana, be real?
“The guy responded fairly quickly. He told me information like 33,000 miles. He was the grandson. His grandfather died in 2011 and no one in the family wanted the car, so he bought it. His grandfather had parked the car in 1966 and then put a cover over it and started storing stuff in it. It was used as a shelf or a bench until grandpa died.”
What’s odd is this story was starting to sound to Kevin just like an article he read right here, in Rare Finds, about another 1954, also a survivor with original paint and also found in Indiana, near Marion.
“I’m reading your article and your article is almost identical. It was grandpa’s car and the grandson is selling it. I’m going ‘Oh, this is really fishy.’ But I keep playing with this because it is so intriguing. I mean you never know.”
Although Kevin lives in Lake Tippecanoe, Indiana, less than an hour’s drive from the 1954 model, he was visiting his daughter in California at the time (February 2017). If the Corvette is real, he did not want to miss out on what the seller, Dave Leicty, was describing as an original paint survivor. Apparently, Leicty’s grandfather bought the 1954 in 1955 from a local Indiana Ford dealer. Leicty is asking $53,000 for the 1954 model, based on a two-year-old appraisal of $63,000.
“I asked him how he came up with $53,000 and he said, ‘Well, I thought it was junk, but when the appraiser came out he said no, no, no this is really nice.’”
At this time they pulled everything and washed and cleaned up the 1954 Vette. Convinced the 1954 is real and would be a gem to own, Kevin called up his brother, John Harris, and asked him to drive over to take a look.
John explained to us that he and his brother are both into collector cars and enjoy the thrill of the chase. Kevin told his brother about the 1954 Vette before he got a call back from the owner, at which time John, when he heard Craigslist, said “Good luck chasing that one.”
But, after Kevin talked to the seller, John assumed the ad was not a hoax and agreed to drive 20 miles from his home in St. Joe to a rural address that turned out to be basically a farm 15 miles north of Ft. Wayne.
“I pulled in the driveway. The walk-in door to the barn was open. I sat there in my truck and called him. He walked to the door right then, so I got out. I walked inside and looked on the other side of the wall and here was this Corvette. I’m trying not to crap myself; you know what I mean? I’m overwhelmed by this. I’m standing there staring at this car and I probably should have taken a picture of myself more than a picture of the car. Because I was just floored.”
As John looked under the hood at the Blue Flame Six and inside the car at the red bucket seats he listened to Leicty tell the story of how a doctor bought two brand-new 1954 Corvettes in Churubusco, Indiana, one for him and one for his wife. The wife did not like her 1954 and traded it in for a new 1955 Thunderbird.
Leicty’s grandfather, Donald J. “Tod” Pressler of Churubusco bought this Corvette from that Ford dealer. After driving the car for 11 years he parked the classic roadster in his garage in 1966. Tod put the car up on jackstands, drained the gas, pulled the spark plugs and oiled the cylinders. And there the car remained for nearly half century until 2014, parked in obscurity right behind the local high school.
John called his brother to tell him the car is “like you’re walking back into history.” The paint is original. The top is original. Everything appears to be there except for the shielding on the ignition. Tod did an extraordinary job of preserving his 1954 Vette.
John found evidence of damage to the right-front fender. The story he got is in 1960 or 1961 Tod’ wife’s (Dorcas) daughter decided to pull the Corvette out one day to wash it for her father. She scraped the fender, which has some repair. Underneath the car, John found 3-inch rust holes in the bottom of the mufflers, but other than that he says the 1954 is “as crisp and beautiful to look like it came straight out of the 1950s.”
With his brother’s say-so, Kevin bought the 1954 Corvette sight unseen, over the phone. He and his brother are close and share a common interest in cars. John only wishes his brother could have been there for the discovery.