The idea of concept cars (or the concept of idea cars?) has been around for a long time. A concept car is a great way to gauge people’s reaction to new and sometimes revolutionary car designs, which was even more true before the advent of the internet. And, after all, it’s a lot cheaper to build a few than to commit to a full year of production on a car that might turn out to be a dud.
What What happens to concept cars when they’re done showing?
Unfortunately, most concept cars are lost. Why? Well, since most don’t carry real VIN numbers, they can’t be sold or even driven on the roads. So once their work is done, manufacturers either have to pay to store them or simply send them to the grinder after being stripped of any useful bits. Some manage to survive thanks to devious employees, and some notable ones have been placed in the historical collections of manufacturers, but they usually cease to exist. Such was the case with the original 1954 Corvette Corvair concept cars. It seems five (a number open to debate) were built by GM to show off the fastback body style, and the first was unveiled at the 1954 Motorama Show. held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. GM liked to make variations of its new Corvette, including a convertible, a sporty fastback and a nice two-door station wagon. Most simply disappeared, although the station wagon eventually transformed into a full-size vehicle called the Nomad. The fastback body style shown here was retained, but was produced as an entirely different car than the four-seat, rear-mounted engine, and futuristic design you see here, called the Corvair (a portmanteau of “Corvette ” and “Bel Air”).
This 1954 Corvette was hand-built to replicate the Motorama Corvair coupe and was built by Brett Henderson of Blue Flame Restorations, with every effort made to faithfully reproduce the concept car. It is equipped with stock 1956 rear axle and a set of AC Delco shock absorbers, as well as stock 1954 front suspension and steering parts. stop with more confidence, while the 265 ci (4.3 liter) V-8 engine is powered by a four-barrel Holley carburetor and is backed by a 700R four-speed automatic transmission linked to a shifter Two-speed Powerglide. The 15-inch steel wheels are wrapped in a set of vintage Firestone whitewall tires, giving it even more vintage originality. Finished in a fresh coat of Crystal Red, the interior uses custom-designed Al Knoch bucket seats, custom glass, gauges from a 1956 installed in the 1954 factory dash, and more. Entered in the 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the car was also named a personal favorite by legendary custom car builder George Barris at the Corvette Funfest, also in 2015.
Why Did GM ever produce the Corvette Corvair?
When the 1953 Corvette was released to the public, its styling and fiberglass construction were revolutionary, but only 300 were sold. It looked amazing, but compared to the sports cars coming out of Europe, competitive performance was sadly missing from the mix, in part because of the Blue Flame straight-six engine and two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. Without a manual transmission to compete with German, Italian and British offerings, the Corvette was not a viable choice for many. As such, sales were poor, and Chevrolet considered killing the Corvette.
Enter Zora Arkus-Duntov (remember him and his Ardun flathead Ford OHV engine kit?). Zora knew a few things about performance and had big ideas about adding V-8 engines and manual transmissions to the Corvette so it could better compete in the sports car segment. However, his rescue of the Corvette didn’t happen fast enough to save the Corvette Corvair design, and the concept cars were sent into oblivion. The red pictured here disappeared right after the Motorama show, and a Seafoam Green version (some say it was actually the same car, repainted) was shown around the country before doing the same disappearing act.
1954 Chevrolet Corvette Corvair Concept Replica Mecum Highlights
- Hand-built by Brett Henderson of Blue Flame Restorations, with every effort made to faithfully replicate the original GM Motorama concept car
- 265ci V-8 engine
- Holley four-barrel carburetor
- 700R four-speed automatic transmission mated to a two-speed Powerglide shifter
- 15 inch steel wheels
- Vintage Firestone White Walls
- Fresh paint
- Entered in the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in March 2015
- Stock 1956 rear and AC Delco shocks
- Original 1954 front suspension and steering parts
- Front disc brakes
- Gauges from a 1956 model were laid in the 1954 factory dash
- Custom designed Al Knoch bucket seats
- Custom glazing
- Named a personal favorite by legendary custom car builder George Barris at Corvette Funfest in 2015