1953 Chevrolet CorvetteC1 - Ex Charbonneaux
Year of manufacture1953
Car typeConvertible / Roadster
Number of seats2
Ex Philippe Charbonneaux - From the Musée de Reims Champagne collection
French registration papers
Rare example of the first-generation Corvette
The American way of life on four wheels
At its launch, the catalogue for the Corvette billed it as ‘The American Sports Car of the Future’. The copywriters had hit the nail on the head. To be sure, the Corvette was a dream car, but for the average American that was just what it remained. It wasn’t just a question of price, but also one of image. As the first production model to be directly spun off from a concept car, and above all as the first one to be made of glassfibre-reinforced plastic, it was just too ahead of its time. It was also small, at 4.25m (13ft 11in) long and 1.77m (5ft 10in) wide, at a time when big was best. At the beginning of the 1950s Americans saw the automobile as an object of everyday consumption rather than as a leisure object. Sports cars were reserved for an elite, and here was Chevrolet trying to democratise the breed. But as with every product that is ahead of the curve, after a hesitant start the Corvette begun to win hearts and eventually became an undoubted success.
The car presented here has a fascinating history, as it once belonged to French industrial designer and car stylist Philippe Charbonneaux. After working in the 1947–48 period on the mid-engined Wimille conceived by racing driver Jean-Pierre Wimille, in 1949 Charbonneaux left for a six-month placement in the General Motors styling department. During this time he developed various themes that would find their way onto future GM designs – including the original Corvette, whose form owes something to his work. The scooped sides of the ’56 Corvette, furthermore, are a typical Charbonneaux detail, also found, for instance, on the Presidential Citroën 15–Six that he created for Franay.
Later in life, Philippe Charbonneaux was keen to bring together in one place all the vehicles with which he had been associated over the years, and in 1985 he set up his own museum in Reims, the Centre Historique de l’Automobile Française, of which some exhibits were offered to the Cité de l’Automobile in Mulhouse in 2015. It is this context that he bought this 1953 Corvette, equipped with the correct 160bhp 3.9-litre straight-six. Complete which is important given the scarcity of first-series Corvettes, the car was put into working order a few years ago by the Charbonneaux family. A fuel system and new tires were fitted. Equipped with a two-speed Powerglide transmission, the car is ready for the road, and is a wonderful slice of classic 1950s Americana. Here is a rare occasion to acquire a genuinely mythical car, with a very special provenance.
This car will be sold by auction by AGUTTES Auction House, in Lyon, France, on November the 9th, 2019.
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