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For Sale: 1954 Chevy Corvette Design Prototype With a Canceled Factory Facelift

Here's your chance to own a gorgeous C1 with factory styling updates that never reached production.
1954 Chevrolet Corvette S.O. 2151
Josh Hway for Gooding & Company

An original 1954 Chevrolet Corvette design prototype with an unreleased facelift is coming up for sale at auction. It’s actually one of GM’s original Corvette show cars, updated with design cues that never made production on the C1.

The one-of-a-kind C1 is listed for sale by Gooding & Company and is identified by its unusual serial number: S.O. 2151. That stands for “shop order” according to Motortrend; it denotes a special-production body. It was originally one of 15 cars designated S.O. 2000—handmade one-piece fiberglass shells built for testing or display at GM’s Motorama auto show exhibit—and was initially a pale yellow hardtop numbered EX-129. In early 1954, though, it was sent back to GM’s “Art and Colour” department to be used as a “proposal car,” a design prototype for the 1955 model (the first to feature a V8).

Under famed designer Harley Earl, who was also behind the GMC L’Universelle, the body was mounted on a 1954-spec chassis with the 235-cubic-inch (3.9-liter) Blue Flame inline-six. Its body, however, was intended to preview the V8 model and had new Corvette lettering, gold V script to signify the (absent) V8, a modified Bel Air grille, custom side vents, a cosmetic hood scoop, and more. Most of these updates never reached production, and the car disappeared entirely for more than 20 years.

At some point, the Chevy fell into private ownership through undocumented means and was sold through Hemmings in 1975 with its unique unreleased touches removed. But its new owner (or a subsequent one) actually understood what they had bought, and in 2015 paid to have it restored to its 1954 spec. That meant professionally recreating the proposed styling changes by hand and redoing its Bermuda Green paint.

And now, the coulda-been ’55 Corvette is coming up for sale again at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach auction on Aug. 18 and 19. As a unique piece of Corvette history, it’s expected to snag serious money: up to $2 million. At that price, one would hope it comes with a pair of gold-plated New Balances—but of course, its prospective owners probably already have a closet full of them.

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