Ron Pratte’s 1954 Corvette An American Classic
The history of the “only true American sports car” has seen a tradition of innovation, exploration of performance technology and always-edgy styling that started with this shape you see here, little changed from it’s 1953 intro appearance. With our 20/20 hindsight, we might not think the first Corvettes were that cool, but in those early years it’s clean roadster shape and rocket-booster taillights were a galaxy away from the stodgy passenger cars of the time. For Boyd Coddington Garage to tackle one of these rare beauties, customizing the body was not considered necessary, what was needed was a wolf-like chassis and drivetrain to purr beneath the sweet sheep’s clothing.
An Art Morrison GT Sport tubular chassis was made to order and fitted with modern Corvette C5 front suspension, six-piston Wilwood disc brakes, triangulated four-bar rear end, and the goodies and geometry required to put Now handling under the Then body. Given the Corvettes we’re used to today, it’s hard to imagine that the one thing lacking in the early ‘Vettes was performance to match the sexy shape. They had a warmed-over passenger six-cylinder with a two-speed iron Powerglide.Boyd and crew solved this handily with the injection of an up-to-date Chevrolet LS2 motor and a rugged Richmond five-speed stick.
They topped the engine with custom valve covers that disguise the individual spark plug coils, adding later-’Vette-styled fins and lettering, and making a new engine top with a finned “plenum” like the Sixties Rochester FI units. Looks, power, handling and comfort is the desired quartet, and Gabe Lopez and crew fulfilled that last item with their buff-colored leather interior with darker-brown inset details. The woven-wool carpet and wood-trimmed Boyd 3-spoke steering wheel add the classy touches of expensive vintage sports cars. Lets face it, an 80-year-old man with glasses and no teeth could get dates if he held the keys to this machine.