1955-1957 Chevrolet Corvettes - Remember When...

Thoughts From The Automotive Past

Doug Marion Aug 29, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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Of the 700 Corvettes sold back in 1955, 693 were V8s. Dave & Fran Filson's 24,000-mile original is car No. 590. Some 25 years ago, they felt that only 200 '55 V8s remained. Their gem has its original Powerglide transmission and 3.55 gear ratio.

Forward by Alan Colvin
Back in the day, say 35-40 years ago, I lived my daily life mostly through the car mags...primarily through Super Chevy Magazine, which was then edited by Doug Marion. At that time, I was just a redneck Chevy guy in high school, but Doug Marion had seen and done it all and he talked about it in the pages of Super Chevy every month. My first car was a '57 Chevy, my second car was a '72 Monte Carlo Custom, and both were purchased and built because of Super Chevy project cars. I went to many Super Chevy events each year, including the giant one in Indianapolis, and I sold lots of parts at the swap meets. I even bought a current car I still own, a '71 GMC Sprint at the Super Chevy Indy event in 1984. Eventually Doug Marion and I met at a Super Chevy Limited convention in Dayton, Ohio, where my name was listed on the TOC as a Tech Expert. I think we also spoke to one another at SEMA one year. I also told my editor at Robert Bentley Publishers, John Kittredge, that Doug should be asked to proofread my Chevrolet by the Numbers books, which he later did.

Life is a funny thing. Here we are many years later...and I am the editor of a major magazine and now I have the opportunity to have Doug Marion, one of the most respected names in the Chevrolet hobby, write for this magazine. Doug was there at the beginning of the performance years and I have asked him to write some vintage Corvette stories for Corvette Fever. He must have a million of them-most of which should include historical facts and data-plus "how it was" back in the day. From drag racing and cruising the streets in the '60s, Doug was always paying attention to "hot setups" that guys built.

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The Filson's original 265 engine-rated at 195 horsepower is original-as are much of the engine compartment surroundings. There's nothing like seeing a real McCoy original, eh? Oh, if 'Vettes could only talk!

For example, Doug's Corvette days began 49 years ago on December 22, 1960, when his mom and dad bought their new silver '61, 270hp, four-speed, 4.11s. Doug got to drive it home-at age 16. He even remembers his first power-shift a month or so later, plus all of his early-on street races, plus his first run at the drags in mid-'61. Back then, Doug also did a ton of engine buildups as well as super-tuning too. He even drove many Vettes for owners who had no drag strip experience.

Well, I have said enough. I will now let Doug have the floor. Come on Doug...tell us like it was.

C1 Historics
A Quick Look Back At 1955 - 1957
Without question, the American automobile with the most storied performance history is Chevrolet's Corvette. Due to its ongoing, never-ending, 56-year evolution, today's street versions clearly surpass every 'Vette in the past-as well they should. But reading about Corvette's high performance history is something that should be ongoing. Ironically, because of all the year-by-year factory doings back then, it was easy to forget about all the original C1 owners' deeds and the fun of ownership they all had. Our C1 1955-1957 story is best told with photos and captions so buckle up and read on.

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This official '56 Corvette ad says it all. A lot was said in six lines.

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The '57 fuel-injected Corvette SS was built as an engineering study prototype to road race, and it did at Sebring. But it was soon pulled from the '57 24 Hours of Le Mans and mothballed when GM pulled out of factory-assisted racing-per the AMA edict. Two years later, at the '59 Daytona 500, Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov was clocked in a pre-race lap on the new track at 155 mph.

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The European six cylinder road racing cars were no match for a new '57 Corvette and Chevrolet Marketing decided that would make an effective ad campaign. During the next 5 to 7 years, many '56-'57 Corvettes were updated by-owner with powerful 327 engines giving them absolutely blistering acceleration due to a 2,800-pound curb weight.

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28 years later, in 1987 at the Monterey Historics, the '57 SS drove many non-competition laps. Zora Arkus-Duntov is seen here in the yellow helmet riding shotgun.

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This photo marks a salute to all high performance, early V8 owners who made performance modifications. This looks like a rare air box, FI '57 but it's actually Tom Parsons' '56 built to the hilt. He could never find a '57 so he built a '56 to his liking. The engine is highly modified and the F.I. doghouse was also modified back in the day by Bill Thomas and Hayden Proffitt for more top-end power. The underside of the hood has a huge autograph-put there by the late Dale Earnhardt of NASCAR fame.

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Back in the late '50s and early '60s, the No. 1 Chevy V8 performance induction system was the factory 2x4 aluminum intake setup that came on '57-'61 245- and 270hp 'Vette engines and '57 passenger cars. The '56 2x4 induction version had a cast iron intake manifold and was very rare.

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