The car that saved Corvette
‘Lost’ GM Motorama car may be the most historic and important in existence
VANCOUVER - As General Motors was making history with America’s first production sports car, building 300 Corvettes in 1953, the styling studio pulled No. 260 off the assembly line for a special project.
The Corvette’s original design had a fundamental problem: the new curved windshield was so low that the top of the frame blocked vision. In addition, the convertible top was cumbersome, had clip-in side curtains instead of roll up windows and was not weather tight.
GM stylists would rework and improve the Corvette for display at the lavish GM Motorama shows to kick off at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Then GM would take it on a road trip to Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.
The Motorama shows attracted thousands to witness the latest dream machines in the form of prototypes and concept cars heralding the styles of the future.
There were three Corvette-based futuristic sports cars displayed at the 1954 Motorama shows in the U.S.: the Corvair, the Nomad and a prototype Corvette painted cream yellow which was the first with a removable hard-top and roll-up windows, features that would be available on the 1956 Corvette.
Other Motorama sports cars displayed included the famous gold Oldsmobile F88 — which sold at the 2005 Barrett-Jackson Auction for $3.2 million — and the Pontiac Bonneville which fetched $3-million at auction. Both were two-seat sports cars with fibreglass bodies and neither made it into production.
The Corvette with serial number E53F001260 became the second Motorama hard-top Corvette, specially built for display in Canada. It was painted candy maroon and sent to Toronto for display at the Canadian National Exhibition in the summer of 1954.
The yellow Motorama Corvette that toured the U.S. was eventually returned to Detroit where, sadly, like many other concept cars, it was scrapped.
Remarkably, the Canadian car survived and is owned by longtime Corvette expert Bruce Iggulden of Surrey, B.C. Bruce has operated a Corvette restoration business called Corvette Specialties for 43 years and, for the past five years, an online business called Corvette Parts Worldwide.
In 1973, he was looking for a firstseries Corvette to customize and heard about an old GM show car stored in the backyard of a home in Burnaby. It was registered as a 1954 Chevrolet coupe. The car had a hard-top and roll-up windows.
“I thought I could restore it and put on the right doors with no windows,” Iggulden recalls of his decision to buy the car.
He contacted GM of Canada to get information about the car and, and while talking to the archivist on the telephone, a man walking by overheard the conversation and asked what was being discussed. Turned out that one of his colleagues had owned the car under discussion and put the former owner in touch with Iggulden.
Bill Patterson had been selling AC Delco parts for General Motors in the mid-1950s. He knew about the car that had originally been driven by the company president and used for dealer promotion. He spent more than three years trying to buy “this very special car” from GM before finally acquiring it in August 1957 for $1,500.
He used the car to deliver parts in the London, Ont., area and modified it to use a 1957 Corvette convertible top because the hard-top was difficult to remove. By 1960, the car had been sold and driven across the country, ending up in Vancouver at Don Krug’s Sharp Used Cars, located at 1703 Kingsway.
Iggulden traced all the Vancouver owners, including one who couldn’t find a replacement for a cracked windshield to install on the hand-built GM show car. So he took the entire windshield frame to a Corvette salvage company in Seattle and traded it for a complete 1956 Corvette assembly. The original hand-built solid bronze chrome plated windshield frame was sold for scrap.
THAT is proving to be the most elusive part for Iggulden as he would like to put the 1954 Corvette Motorama show car through his own restoration shop. He is also looking for an original 1953 Corvette engine valve cover.
Corvette historian and author Noland Adams has called this car the most important and influential Corvette in existence: the first to feature a hard-top, roll up windows and a glove box — located inside the kick panel on the passenger side.
GM built 3,640 Corvettes in 1954 and, as a result of poor sales, only 700 Corvettes in 1955. The production of future Corvettes was in jeopardy and the end of production for Corvettes was a possibility.
However, the overwhelming success of the Motorama Corvette convinced GM to produce the 1956 Corvette. GM built 3,467 Corvettes in 1956 — all with roll up windows as standard equipment and optional hard-top. In 1957, 6,339 Corvettes were built and, over the years, annual production of the Corvette continued to climb as it became America’s iconic sports car.
Currently, the historic 1954 Motorama Corvette that changed the course of automotive history remains unrestored and occupies a corner of Bruce Iggulden’s showroom at Corvette Specialties, next to the Scott Road SkyTrain station. For more information on this car, visit
GM Canada’s 1954 Motorama Corvette ended up for sale on a Vancouver usedcar lot in the early 1960s.