Jay Leno Drives First Production 1954 Corvette, Defends Blue Flame Engine

The Chevrolet Corvette is considered to be the first American sports car. As such, the earliest examples are historically important, time capsules from the distant past. This week, Jay Leno had the chance to check out the first production 1954 Corvette, a unique slice of the 50s in terms of design and engineering.

Like that 1954 Corvette prototype, this model is special and has a story to tell. Owner Mike McCluskey is a Corvette expert and has done numerous accurate restorations over the years, including Jay Leno’s own 1964 Split Window.

And he spent three years bringing this roadster back to its original condition. Before, it belonged to another Corvette expert who sadly passed away. However, spending 30 years in a field had done some damage. Thankfully, the fiberglass body doesn’t rust, so it was good enough to restore without significant bodywork replacement.

One of McCluskey’s priorities was to ensure historical accuracy and not over-restore the car. Jay Leno notices how the rear end of the car sags a little, but this is not a defect. Instead, early Corvettes were designed that way because “they wanted it to look like it was taking off.”

By the second model year, GM was getting better at making Corvettes. They had superior fiberglass that wouldn’t show through the paint, for example. But there were still inconsistencies with parts, such as the trim pieces for the engine.

Early Corvettes looked cool and had this cutting-edge fiberglass body, but they didn’t have the best engines. Under the hood is a Blue Flame 150 inline-6 engine, similar to the one in the Bel Air. Engineers put side-draft carburetors on it, a dual exhaust, and a solid-lifter camshaft. It made 155 horsepower, and Jay Leno makes a point to point out that “it wasn’t bad for 1954” because a British rival might make a third the power.

This first production example of a 1954 Corvette is as close as you can get to living in that era. It has the original setup, so no power steering or brakes. If such a time capsule interests you, you’ll be glad to know that KcClushey is looking to sell the car soon, though you’ll probably need to be a multi-millionaire to afford it.



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