The Don Davis Collection

27 April 2013

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Lot 125

1953 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster

  • Chassis no. E53F001274
  • Engine no. LAY566968

Sold for $346,500


150 bhp, 235.5 cu. in. “Blue Flame” OHV inline six-cylinder engine, three 1-barrel Carter carburetors, Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with unequal length A-arms and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102 in.

  • The original and iconic Corvette
  • The 274th of only 300 built
  • Restored by a Corvette expert and not yet shown


In the early-1950s, a team of GM engineers, headed up by Harley Earl, went to work trying to create a fiberglass-bodied car that had the appeal to compete with European sports cars. Harley Earl had excelled at swooping design since the 1920s and designed aircraft-looking features into the car, including round dials blended into a curved dash, all of which was sheltered under a roofline that stood just under 47 inches tall. The six-cylinder engine was positioned farther toward the rear, which gave the flat hood a long sleek appearance. By the time it was ready to be unveiled, it is reported that GM had spent over $1.5 million on the project.



Dubbed the Corvette “Dream Car,” it debuted at the GM Motorama show held at the stylish Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City with astounding results. Following the first weekend of the Motorama event in New York, over 300,000 people had seen the car and spent $800,000 on GM products. Concluding Motorama’s U.S. tour, GM stated that over four million people had seen the car.



Production of the two-seat roadster started in June 1953, and by year’s end, a total of only 300 Corvettes rolled off the assembly line. This first year of Corvette production signified an important technical milestone: GM was the first major American car manufacturer to successfully mass-produce a vehicle whose underpan and bodyshell was made entirely of fiberglass.



The Corvette featured GM’s “Blue Flame” inline six, 235-cubic inch engine, with triple Carter carburetors and dual exhaust. The engine’s respectable 150 horsepower was transmitted to the road via a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. All 300 cars built in 1953 were visually identical, finished in Polo White with a Sportsman Red interior. The car was fitted with subtle pieces of chrome trim, which ran along either side, as well as wire meshing covering the headlights.



Compared to the Jaguar XK 120 and the MGA of the time, the Corvette was proportionally smaller, yet it was more responsive and superior in handling. Unable to resist its magnetism, virtually every auto enthusiast felt compelled to get behind the wheel of the new Corvette. Even though its initial success was impressive, it is doubtful that even those at GM could have thought the Corvette would achieve the success it has over the six decades it has been in production.



The car offered here from the Don Davis Collection was the 274th Corvette produced, and it underwent a body-off restoration performed by Blue Flame Restoration, of Pendelton, Indiana, the shop of respected 1953 Corvette expert Brett Henderson. Equipped with a Wonderbar radio, spinner wheel covers, center-mounted tachometer and speedometer, and bullet air filters, it presents well and authentically throughout, in its iconic colors and with high-quality finishes throughout, which are appropriate to how this car left the factory. Panel fit is notably good for one of these early cars, as is the concours-quality brightwork and proper safety glass windshield.



The restoration still shows 45,750 miles, and it is believed to have not been shown since its completion. Equipped with its original side curtains in the trunk, as well as a CD of documentation on the restoration, this is a clean and lovely example of a car that every Corvette enthusiast needs in their collection. It was the beginning of America’s Sports Car, and it all began right here.

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

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

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

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

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

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more