The first generation of the Chevrolet Corvette was presented at the 1953 General Motors Motorama at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel. It had many flaws, from the solid axle to the lack of V8 power. However, it took off due to the styling, and this prototype helped Chevy’s people decide in which direction the C1 was going.
This 1954 Corvette is S.O. 2151, short for Shop Order, an internal designation for specific prototypes. It had been used to help GM executives visualize certain design changes they could make. As you probably know, they got really creative with the way the C1 looked.
But the prototype had another life before that. It was one of 15 Motorama cars, 1953 models that were made by hand. In that configuration, this was a yellow hardtop, and I actually prefer that look, and it’s turning into one of the most complicated Corvette stories ever told.
This sad-looking fiberglass shell actually has one of the most interesting stories to tell, documented here by the YouTuber Jerry Heasley. The prototype was in storage until 1975 when it came up for sale. A gentleman by the name of George Campbell bought it, but it took until 2015 for the 5-year restoration project to begin.
With the car back in its original condition, it’s a little easier to see how this differs from a normal C1 Corvette. First of all, they tried giving it a 55 Bel Air grille. When researching this story, I found out there was a reverse car, with the front end of a Corvette but a Nomad body that must have also been shown on the Motorama tour.
And at the back, the roadster prototype has what’s known as a Corvair-style trunk. In 1954, there was an actual Corvette Corvair concept, bright red and with a long coupe roof which ended at this style trunk. Can you imagine if the C8 Corvette suddenly got Camaro lights or a wagon body? That’d be wild.
There were, however, elements on this prototype that did make it into production, at least somewhat. Notice how the front fenders have gills, a feature that only saw production daylight with the C2 generation a decade later. And the famous exhaust tips coming through the rear bumper were tested here.
Interestingly, the S.O. 2151 prototype is also asymmetrical. The headlights are two different colors, the gills on the right are body-colored, and the Corvette badge is placed differently on each door.