The Best Corvettes of the 1950s: No.1 – The 1957 Corvette


The Best Corvettes of the 1950s: No.1 – The 1957 Corvette

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It is that time, folks! Our award for the best Corvette of the 1950s is… drumroll please… the 1957! In a decade full of firsts, the 1957 Corvette manages to stand out among its peers. Starting under the hood, Chevrolet bored out the 265 cube V8 from the ’56 model and the resulting engine is still legendary today; the 283 which, for the first time in Corvette history, was able to produce one horsepower per cubic inch in top-spec, fuel-injected, form.

The powerful Fuel Injected V8 was just one of many performance improvements that Zora and Co. implemented in the 1957 Corvette. A four-speed manual transmission (RPO 685) was offered for the first time along with Zora’s first “racing special” option in RPO 684, the heavy-duty suspension package. 684 added “heavy-duty” items including springs, front anti-sway bar, shock absorbers, a tighter steering ratio, a Positraction rear end, cooling fans, and ceramic/metal brake linings with finned ventilated drums. Unfortunately, these options were one or all of three things: expensive, too hardcore for most people, or unknown to the general public, which led to low production numbers.

1957 Corvette Fuelie Engine

A total of 756 “fuelies” were produced. The 4-speed was installed in 664 ’57 ‘Vettes, and the heavy-duty suspension was ordered for just 51 units (a unicorn with all three options will be crossing the block at Mecum’s Kissimmee sale the first week of the new year, bring all of your dollars if you want to take it home for your collection!).

The 283/283 could reach 60 MPH in just 5.7 seconds and run the quarter in 14.3 seconds, extremely impressive numbers at the time but it is on the track where these cars proved unbeatable. At Sebring (before the AMA Racing Ban), two production model 1957 Corvettes won the GT class (taking 12th and 15th places overall) while beating the former “world’s fastest car,” Mercedes-Benz 300SL (which we talked about in our 1953 piece of this countdown) by 20 laps!

1957 Corvette Interior

Even though it had been outsold by Ford’s new Thunderbird 16,155 to 700 in 1955, 15,631 to 3,467 in ’56, and 21,380 to 6,339 in ’57, the ‘Vette’s untouchable status on the track was one of the major factors in Ford pulling of the plug on the two-seat T-Bird after ’57. The second-generation T-Bird’s new 2+2 layout was a financial success for Ford, even though they would permanently be out of the sports car game, selling a remarkable 37,892 units in 1958. This was a number the Corvette couldn’t come close to until 1969 when a nearly 36% increase in sales saw 38,762 Stingrays find new homes.

The Corvette debuted in 1953 and got its first V8 in ’55 but we think that the 1957 model was the first time that our favorite car offered everything that we have come to expect from America’s Sports Car; world-class performance and technology, stunning looks, and a price that working-class people could realistically strive for, all on top of the fact that it sent Ford back to the drawing board with a car that many thought would shutter the Corvette factory just two years prior. For those reasons, we crown the 1957 Corvette our best of the 1950s.

1957 Corvette

Stay tuned next week as we tackle what might be the most difficult decade of Corvette production to rank, the 1960s! The Swingin’ ’60s saw the final three years of C1 production, the entire “Midyear” generation, and two of the best years of the “Shark” C3, we can feel the pressure already!

See all of our Corvette of the Decade Features:

The 1950s

The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 1990s

The 2000s

The 2010s

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  1. Hard to argue with this choice. The closest I came to buying a ’57 Corvette was in the late ’70s. I was a car-crazy young man looking for something cool to buy, but I had a very low budget as I was still in school. I was a Chevy man (following in my father’s footsteps) and owning a pre-’73 Corvette was my dream, but any decent one was well out of my price range. I went to look at a ’57 Corvette that was advertised in the paper for $400. It turned out that the seller had another ’57 Corvette (dual quad, 4 speed) that he had recently finished restoring and the one he was selling for $400 was clearly the remains of a donor car — rolling chassis, body from the windshield back, a very rough hand-made front clip and 2 seats — that was pretty much it. My father talked me out of buying it — he said by the time I finished buying all of the missing parts and doing all of the work needed to make it functional I would have spent way more than the car was worth, and that I should wait until I had more $$ and find one that was reasonably complete, and preferably running. I took his advice and ended up buying a complete and running ’58 Impala Sport Coupe (a car I fell in love with after watching the movie American Grafitti). I enjoyed driving and working on the Impala for 10 years, at which point I was finally in a position to realize my dream by buying a ’66 Corvette convertible, which I still own today.

  2. The 1957 Corvette is the very first Corvette I ever rode in, Loved that car. A friend owned a beautiful ’57 when I was just 16, it was about a 4 year old car by that time but will never forget that Awesome Corvette. Would have been my #1 choice for the 50’s Corvette! Thanx for listing them in this order, totally agree. :-))

  3. One small issue I have with the ’57 Corvette is that the scoops on the tops of the front fenders, while very cool looking, were non-functional. As far as I am concerned if you are going to put scoops on a car, make them functional!

  4. My first Corvette was a 57, and I bought it when I was 18. 283/270 HP engine, dual quads with that great
    “Duntov Cam and a 4-speed . My first car was a 51 Ford, and I traded the 51 in for the Corvette, It was like going from a horse drawn wagon to a rocket sled..The first time I drove it, I never realize a car could go that fast. It kept a smile on your face all the time. The only thing I was not too happy about was the tachometer. Positioned over in the middle of the dash, it was rather small and wasn’t the best Tach for “spirited” driving. It wasn’t long before I had a Sun electric tach on the steering column

  5. I was bitten by the Corvette when I saw my first in June of 53 at a indoor Michigan Custom Car show. I had driven my 49 Chevy chopped top ( 2 1/2″ and still folded ) convertible from Auburn, NY. It wasn’t until September when the Corvette was released to the public. Discovered later this Corvette was XP 122 a development car, later a RPD engineer Jon Blanchette restored this very car. I still have the picture that I took in June of 1953
    In 1955 I started my GM Tool and Die apprenticeship in Rochester, NY at $1.66 per hour. In 1957 my wife ( she was also working at RPD ) and I ordered a new 57 Corvette in the spring. As I remember I think I was making $2.25 per hour by then. To keep the price down we ordered only three options, white walls, windshield washer and Positraction, which makes it one of 327, an easy number to remember.
    Hadn’t made my first payment when I was offered a lower interest rate. The payments went down to $67 a month, damn………. I could have afforded the 4 speed.
    We enjoyed the Corvette for two years, sold it in 59 to buy a home, we think of it often and wonder if it’s still alive. It was delivered to Heinrich Chevy and we took delivery July 2nd or 3rd 1957
    It looked just like the 57 Corvette pictured above with a white top.

    In 1972 I purchased a 63 Corvette convertible, recently I gave it to my Son Gary and more recently bought half of a Corvette, a 2004 Cadillac XLR. Which many of you know has a Corvette chassis.
    You can see my 49 Chevy Custom in Custom Car Chronicles. Google me.
    Dick Lippert

  6. Some amazing stories here in the comments! Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing!

  7. Enjoyed your article.
    I’m not much of a mechanic, but have read a fairly good amount.
    I would also agree: the ’57 would be the “best” of the 50’s. (British types would enjoy the single headlights, etc, over the ’59. But probably a few too many “teeth” in the grill for their taste.)
    But all in all, the ’57 is a wonderfully clean, “simple”-looking car.
    (I don’t like it at all . . . when recent folks do a “custom”-type job . . . and put mag-wheels and thin whitewalls on ’57’s and ’59’s; and put a big “scoop” coming up out of the hood. They should just restore things to their pristine original.) To each his own.

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