Product: Mechanically, cars weren’t fancy in 1954. But some were drop-dead gorgeous, such as the then-new Corvette.
This was Chevrolet’s early foray into the burgeoning sports car market. GIs returning from Europe after World War II had fallen in love with two-seat sports cars they saw overseas, mostly in England. By the 1950s they were starting to earn the income to buy such cars and Chevy was among the first to jump into the segment.
Autoart, which has created nearly all the key Corvette models in 1:18 scale, now rolls out the first truly popular early model that launched the vehicle to its iconic status … and in a gorgeous Sportsman red. Polo white was the most popular color in 1954, selling about 3,200 units, while only 100 of the red were made. For the record, 300 pennant blue and just four black models were produced in this second year of Corvette production.
Unlike today’s ’Vettes that crank out 550-plus horses, the early ’Vettes boasted modest power, but ground-breaking looks. Its straight six engine created just 150 horses from 235.6 inches of displacement. The starting price in 1954 was $2,774, which seems tame now, but back then the average car cost $1,700.
Performance: Autoart continues to wow collectors with the detail and breadth of its offerings. It still provides a high value, although the price has been creeping up the past several years. This year, as Chevrolet celebrates its 100th anniversary, re-creating the iconic 1954 ’Vette is particularly timely.
Outwardly, this Corvette continues Autoart’s high standards for sterling paint jobs, plus it adds detailed chrome trim along the sides and finely executed bumpers, complete with the jet-like protrusions that set off the Corvette’s styling. Up front is the toothy chrome grille along with fine metal mesh coverings for the headlights. The thin chrome strips around the windshield and the twin cockpits are well done, along with the delicate windshield wipers.
Out back are the rocket-shaped single taillights and two small, chrome-tipped exhaust pipes protruding from the body. My only disappointment in the body is the modestly defined gas-cap flap and convertible-top cover.
The doors, trunk and hood all open smoothly; the hood properly folds forward to reveal a blue inline-6 with sidedraft carbs and the Blue Flame and 150 logos atop the valve cover. There’s a battery, fuel pump and some wiring under hood, too, plus hoses to the radiator. But as was the case in the 1950s, it’s pretty clean beneath the hood, enough so you can even glimpse the ground below the engine. Ah, the old days!
The tires are balloon-like white sidewalls with a red inner ring by the wheel and hubcaps. No brand is printed on the large tires, but the hubcaps include a small Chevy logo in their center. The car’s undercarriage is fairly detailed, too, including the suspension, frame and driveshaft, so it will look good in a display box with a reflective bottom.
This Corvette’s interior is sharp and is rendered in red with tan trim on the dash and doors. The steering wheel is tan with a detailed spoke and horn. A shift lever with a tan knob sticks directly out of the transmission hump, and there’s a rearview mirror atop the dash, similar to the original. The gauge and dash detail are equally good, which is important because it’s being displayed with an open top.
Marketing:: Mark Chevy’s Centennial in your store with a big Chevrolet display and put a few 1:18 Autoart Corvettes in the center, especially some of the incredibly popular 1960s models.
These are finescale die-cast models that your Baby Boomer buyers will bond with. Be sure to have at least a couple out of the box on display to showcase their quality.
Meanwhile your display can include plastic Chevy models, everything from the 1950s and ’60s icons up to today’s NASCAR racers (remember, Tony Stewart just won the title). Mix in some 1:64 and 1:43 die-cast cars that younger collectors can also afford and enjoy. And include some acrylic display cases as great add-on sales.
Product:1954 Chevrolet Corvette
Stock number: 71082
Iconic American vehicle
Features excellent detail
Good value at this price point