To continue our story from yesterday’s Miniature Wheels feature about Chevrolet’s Plastic Fantastic, we leave our 6-cylinder 150-horsepower Pennant Blue 1954 Corvette behind and go over to our V8-powered 290 hp Venetian Red 1957 Corvette.
As we mentioned yesterday, these “solid-axle” Corvettes are first-generation cars (C1) that debuted as a roadster in 1953 and underwent several upgrades, starting with a new 265 cubic-inch (4.3-liter) V8 engine in 1955 and a new body in 1956. Chevrolet equipped the ’56 with real glass roll up windows (instead of side curtails) and a more substantial convertible top while options included power assisted convertible top, a removable hardtop, power windows, and a signal-seeking transistorized Delco car radio.
The Corvette continued unchanged in 1957. The displacement of the V8 was increased to 283 cubic inches (4.6-liter), fuel-injection became an option, and a 4-speed manual transmission became available, replacing the standard 3-speed. A 4-barrel Rochester Quadrajet carburetor helped the engine churn out 290 hp at 6,200 rpm and 393 Nm of torque at 4,400 rpm. Finally, the Corvette had the brute power to accompany its sleek looks.
Chevy die-hards argue that the Chevrolet’s claim of 290 hp for the Corvette was underrated to allow for lower insurance premiums while racing aficionados claim that Chevy intentionally underrated the power figures to “sandbag” competition and give the Corvette a racing advantage. However, it was an achievement for Chevrolet engineers to produce “one horsepower per cubic inch”, which allowed their advertising department to claim that their 283 V8 was the first mass-produced engines to do so.
The Corvette also received the racing and high-performance pedigree it desperately needed with the help of Chevrolet engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov. He came out with Corvette Specials that were meant to push the envelope of high-performance. Meanwhile, 1957 Corvettes could be ordered ready-to-race with special performance options, such as an engine fresh air (early ram air) package, tachometer, heavy-duty racing suspension, and wider 15 x 5.5 inch wheels with meatier tires.
Despite the racing pedigree, newfound power and swoopy design update, only 3,467 Corvettes found new owners in 1957, with 1,040 fuel-injected models. This is a low number by any contemporary standard and even lower than the 3,640 units sold in 1954, making it the third lowest in Corvette history. In comparison, Ford sold 21,380 Thunderbirds in 1957. GM management wanted to axe the Corvette but Chevy won’t back down from a fight with Ford.
Our “little red Corvette” perfectly fits the red American sports car in Prince’s hit song, except our 1957 Corvette is really small because it’s a 1:18 scale die-cast model made by Bburago in their Italian factory. It features opening doors, trunk and hood, which hides the 283 V8 with mechanical fuel injection and ram’s horn exhaust manifold. The engine is painted black instead of the factory Chevy orange for the engine block with silver valve covers, but that can easily be corrected by a dedicated modeler.
What will be more challenging to correct are the wheels and Dunlop tires which appear to be too fat and modern for the car’s era. Ditto the black 3-spoke steering wheel that appears to be a miniature aftermarket Momo, Personal or Nardi wheel, which stands out against the white seats. Perhaps, Bburago’s Italian model makers took the ’57 Corvette’s racing pedigree a tad too seriously.
Oh, did we tell you that we have thee (3) 1957 Corvettes? The 1:18 Bburago is the very first scale model car that the author bought while other two are 1:24 scale models that were gifts from close friends.
The white car with red coves is a Bburago 1:24 model car given to the author as a prize by The Philippine STAR Motoring Editor Manny delos Reyes for being his co-pilot and winning a Nissan/UMC road rally.
The red Corvette with white coves is a Maisto 1:18 model car that was given by Steve Spivey of Hot Rod From Mar’s in gratitude for the author’s help in acquiring a fiberglass model for Steve’s Corvette project car.
Log on again tomorrow for another installment on our first-generation Corvettes. To see other scale model cars and motorcycles that we have previously posted here in the Power Wheels Magazine website, please click “The Rack” button on the header bar near the top right of your screen (if you’re using a PC, laptop or tablet), or type “The Rack” on the Search bar (if you’re using a mobile phone).
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