One of the earliest known examples of the 1953 Corvette will be featured at the RM Auction in Phoenix, Arizona next month. Chassis #005 was the fifth Corvette ever built and one of the first three Corvettes to be sold to the public. RM is expecting the Corvette to fetch between $450,000 and $600,000 at the Arizona sale on Friday, January 20th.
As VIN #005 was one of the first Corvettes to be built, the early roadster features a variety of early production components. It was the last 1953 Corvette built without an outside rear view mirror and was one of three early Corvettes (#004,#005 and #006) to wear the basic chrome Chevy Bel Air hubcaps because the hubcaps for the new sports car were not yet available. Another interesting early production feature is stainless-steel VIN. Later Corvettes were fitted with an aluminum VIN tag.
The 1953 GM Motorama whipped up excitement for the new two-seater and 6 months later, the first Corvettes rolled off the temporary assembly line in Flint, Michigan. Chassis #005 was shipped to Diver Chevrolet in Delaware where it was purchased on July 16, 1953 by Crawford Greenewalt, a noted chemical engineer and president of DuPont. The Corvette was a present for his wife Margaretta DuPont Greenewalt.
GM engineering test driver and three-time Indianapolis 500 Champion Mauri Rose was tasked with inspecting the early Corvettes to report on build quality. Rose’s four-page memo called the #005 (along with #004 and #006) Corvette a “Work in progress” and cited numerous “Objectionable and in the writer’s opinion not commercially acceptable” deficiencies.
Interestingly, Diver Chevrolet offered the Greenewalt’s a 10% discount due to the build quality, but they refused and insisted on paying the full list price.
The Greenewalts owned the early Corvette for three years then traded it for a new 1956 Corvette in March 1956. The car went through several owners before being acquired by Ed Thiebaud who was one of the first serious collectors with an interest in the early Corvettes. He advertised the sale of the #005 Corvette in 1972 as “One of the First Real McCoys” for “serious offers over $10,000” and the Corvette was purchased by Randy Hickman. In 1997, John and Melanie Kocsis of Athens, PA purchased the #005 Corvette and painstakingly researched and restored the sports car back to its original condition.
With the restoration completed just in time for the Corvette’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2003, the #005 Corvette was judged and received a 99.6% Top Flight certification at the Hershey, PA NCRS National Convention.
Accompanying the #005 Corvette is an impressive amount of documentation including the original sales invoice from Diver Chevrolet, a copy of the invoice for the new 1956 Corvette which shows the 1953 Corvette was used as a trade-in, and a copy of the original internal GM memo from Mauri Rose.
As one of the first three Corvettes ever to be sold, chassis #005 ranks as one of the most important early Corvettes in existence today and should have no trouble reaching the $450,000 to $600,000 estimated sale price at the January auction.
For the full auction catalog description of Chassis #005, visit RM Auctions.