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1955 Corvette

Corvette was in trouble. Chevrolet had high hopes for this specialty sports car, however it hadn't fulfilled those dreams. The production was moved from a makeshift factory to a dedicated facility, one that has the ability to produce 10,000 Corvettes a year. In 1954, 3,640 Corvette left the St. Louis facility and at the start of 1955 production nearly one third of those cars were still sitting unsold on dealer's lots.

Chevrolet wasn't building Corvettes just to build them. They were in business to make money for General Motors, and most importantly, GM's stockhlders. A talented engineer had joined the fray to infuse some energy into the Corvette. His name, Zora Arkus Duntov. Zora would combine Ed Cole's wonderful V8 with Corvette to turn it into a real sports car.

Ed Cole was an engineer who moved to Chevrolet from Cadillac and he laid the groundwork for a new V8 engine. Up until now, most of the engines coming from Detroit were heavy lumps of cast iron. The Chevrolet V8 would feature thin wall casting that was both strong and light. The engine would also be simple, inexpensive, and easy to manufacture. The engine would be called the "Turbo-Fire V8".

The cast iron eight cylinder block of the new Chevy engine was arranged in a 90-degree V making a small compact design, much smaller and lighter than the inline six it was destined to replace. The new V8 would employ a forged steel crankshaft that was supported by five main bearings, with the force of hoizontal thrust being controlled by journal number 5. The crankshaft had four crank pins spaced at 90-degree intervals, each pin sevicing oposing left and right cylinders. The stroke of the crank was 3.0 inches, much shorter than the nearly four inch stroke of the "Blue Flame" six. The rods were sized at a length of 5.7" center to center and drove cast aluminum pistons with a 3.75" bore. The bore centers were spaced at 4.40 inches. This is the same bore center of all small block Chevrolet (now GM) engines from 1955 through 2016.

The compression ratio of the V8 mirrored that of the six cylinder at 8.0:1. The valve sizes were 1.72" for the intake, 1.5" for the exhaust. Timing for the valves saw the intakes open at 21 degrees, 30 minutes before top dead center (TDC) and close 63 degrees, 30 minutes after TDC for a duration of 265 degrees. On the exhaust side, the opening occured 22 degrees, 30 minutes before TDC and closing was 23 degrees, 30 minutes after TDC for a duration of 265 degrees. The camshaft had a lift of .4043" intake, and .4136" exhaust. On normal Chevrolet sedans, the lift was .3336 for intake and exhaust.

The cylinder head of the new V8 featured siamesed ports. The valves wer arranged in a pattern of Ex-In-In-Ex-Ex-In-In-Ex. The cylinder heads were interchangable between right and left.

The lift was attained by using a stamped steel rocker arm with a 1.5:1 ratio. These rocker arms were not supported by a rocker arm shaft as was commonplace at the time but instead used a ball supported by a stud. This clever and simple arrangement would be the basis for all Chevy V8 valvetrain action until the LT4 350 CI engine showed up in 1996. The engine had a single Carter four barrel carburetor and featured an automatic choke rather than the manual of the six cylinders. The V8 produced 195 horsepower as 5,000 rpm and developed 260 lb/ft of torque at 3,000 prm. V8 cars used a polished aluminum air cleaner with louvres on the perimeter and an oil wetted air filter. An oil filter was not part of the V8

The new V8 also carried with it a new electrical system, a more reliable 12 volt one. The generator for the 12 volt system was 30 amps versus the 45 required for the 6 volt system that six cylinder cars still employed.

A three speed manual transmission with a floor mounted shift lever did become available durng the 1955 model year, however it is estimated that far fewer than 100 Corvettes were built without the Powerglide automatic.

On the exterior, the "Corvette" script on the bodyside of V8 models had an enlarged "V". Other detail changes to the V8 cars were a revised tachometer. The V8 tachometer climbed in 1,000 rpm increments on its way to 6,000 rpms. The tachometers in six cylinder cars ended 1,000 rpm lower at 5,000 and reached its way to that level in increments of 500. In the engine bay, the V8s had chrome plated steel valve covers with the Chevrolet script embosed into the upper surface. Corvette Copper, Gypsy Red, and Harvest Gold were added to the color palate for 1955 and Black and Sportsman Red were eliminated as selections.

When production ended, only 700 Corvettes left the St. Louis facility leaving the furture of the Corvette in serious doubt. Most likely, it was Ford and their two-seat Thunderbird that kept Corvette in the fray. If not for the Thunderbird and the showroom buzz it drew, there would be little need for a two seater at Chevrolet. The Thunderbird was a much more refined car than the Corvette, offering more luxury and even mundane things like roll up windows and a removable hardtop. If Corvette was to survive, it was going to have to evolve. Nineteen Fifty Six would have to be the answer to those issues if the marque would continue.

Total Production - 700
Model Number Description Production Base Price
2934-6 Corvette Roadster 6 Cylinder 7 $2,774.00
2934 - 8 Corvette Roadster 8 Cylinder 693 $2,909.00

Engine Codes
RPO Cu. In. Horsepower Torque Fuel System Trans Block Code Comp Ratio :1
235.5 155 @ 4200 225 @ 2400 3 Carter 1bbl PG YG 8.0
265 195 @ 5000 260 @ 3000 Carter 4bbl PG FG 8.0
265 195 @ 5000 260 @ 3000 Carter 4bbl Man GR 8.0
Color & Trim Codes
Code Exterior Colors Interior Colors
573 Corvette Copper Dark Beige
596 Gypsy Red Light Beige
632 Harvest Gold Yellow
570 Pennant Blue Dark Beige
567 Polo White Red

Dimensions
Corvette Roadster
Overall Length 167.0
Height 48.5 (Top Down)
Width 69.8
Wheel Base 102.0
Track F / R 56.7 / 58.8
Curb Weight 2805 6 Cyl / 2775 * cyl
Dimensions are in inches, weight in pounds unless otherwise noted.

1953 - The Motorama Special come to Life
1954 - Continuation
1955 - Ed Coles Magic V-8
1956 - Sports Car Renewed
1957 - Fuelies and Four Speeds
1958 - Longer, Lower, Wider
1959 - Sales Record Breaker
1960 - A better drive awaits
1961 - Ducktails become fashionable
1962 - The Imortal, the 327

C1 - 1953 to 1962
C2 - 1963 to 1967
C3 - 1968 to 1982
C4 - 1984 to 1996
C5 - 1997 to 2004
C6 - 2005 to 2013
C7 - 2014 to 2019

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