Restored 1954 Chevrolet Corvette inspected by Jay Leno

Given that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Chevrolet Corvette, Jay Leno recently had the opportunity to inspect one of the first production cars, courtesy of owner and Corvette restorer Mike McCluskey.

This 1954 Corvette comes from the second model year of the ‘Vette’s production. Because just 300 Corvettes were built for the first 1953 model year, Leno believes 1954 to be the year in which the Corvette began full-scale mass manufacturing.

When the Corvette first came out, it wasn’t a great seller, in part because of what was going on behind the hood. Due to the fact that the Blue Flame inline-6 was shared with more modest Chevrolets, it did not elicit enthusiasm among sports car fans.

1954 Chevrolet Corvette on Jay Leno's Garage

1954 Chevrolet Corvette on Jay Leno’s Garage

At the very least, the Corvette version of the Blue Flame was equipped with three single-barrel side-draft carburetors and a solid-lifter camshaft, resulting in a maximum output of 155 horsepower. That was competitive with other compact (mainly British) sports cars of the day, however the Corvette weighed far more than the others.

Early Corvettes were also notable for having a few peculiarities. They lacked outside door knobs and side windows, making it possible for anybody to reach in and open the door for them. It was also decided to install the trunk lock underneath the rear license plate. Engineers in the 1950s were less concerned with ergonomics than they are now.

McCluskey, who also worked on Leno’s 1957 Corvette and his 1963 Split-Window, restored the 1954 Corvette to its original factory condition, warts and all. For example, the rear of the vehicle is lowered, which was done on purpose by Chevrolet to give the impression that the vehicle is taking off. The car received a near-perfect 99 points and the Duntov award for its restoration, both from the National Corvette Restorers Society, of which McCluskey is a member, in recognition of his efforts.

1954 Chevrolet Corvette on Jay Leno's Garage

1954 Chevrolet Corvette on Jay Leno’s Garage

He had to deal with decades of degradation before he could even think about such little matters as they came up. The car had been resting in the garden of a fellow Corvette fan for 35 years before being restored to its present state, which took three years. At the very least, the Corvette has a fiberglass body, which will fare better in the elements than steel will.

Speaking of fiberglass, McCluskey pointed out that the 1954 automobiles were built with a better grade of the material than their predecessors. The fiberglass fabric used in the mostly hand-made 1953 versions showed through the paint, but the 1954 models have a smoother surface that is closer to ordinary sheet metal.

For a good portion of the second half of the film, Leno gets into his car and drives around. The putter of the engine can be heard clearly, and it is hardly something that would excite any sports car aficionado. For even more amazing features on this expertly restored Corvette, make sure to watch the complete video. And if you enjoy what you see, keep in mind that everything is available for purchase.

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