Now before all the purists get upset that someone modified a
somewhat rare 1954 Corvette, take a closer look. This one was
skillfully built from the ground up as a tribute to Zora
Arkus-Duntov's V8 test mule, the car that virtually guaranteed the
Corvette's future. The fact that it also pares the early Corvette
shape down to its bare essence only helps in the looks department
and with modern tech under the skin, it remains highly usable every
Everything on this car is newly restored within the last year and the custom body modifications closely mirror those used by Duntov to create a legitimate 150 MPH Corvette. The early Corvette's soft, doughy look is gone, replaced by a clean, pared-down racer look that's quite possibly the most attractive C1 ever built. No wasted pieces, no extraneous chrome, just straight fiberglass and that beautiful Corvette shape that simply speaks for itself. Build quality is very good, and the builder skillfully kept the "test mule" vibe intact, with some extra details beautifully done. Note the Lexan windshield that is similar to the one the mule wore most often during development work, the single chrome rear-view mirror, and, of course, the traditional toothy Corvette grille. The paint has a bit more pearl in it than the original Polo White, which gives it an updated look. Bottom line, when you show up in this car, you're guaranteed a lot of attention.
The interior skillfully blends the modern with the vintage, starting with the beautifully tailored bucket seats, which are more like racing shells than the Corvette's original chairs. The speedometer has been relocated to the center of the dash, which is where all the auxiliary gauges lived on the original Corvette, and they're Equus instruments that do a far better job of monitoring the engine's status. A modern tilt column and billet wheel make it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and we especially like the custom-made door panels that eschew comfort in favor of functionality. Yes, it's probably a lot nicer than the test mule, but given unlimited time and money, don't you think Zora might have liked his to look this good? There's no radio, no heater, no extraneous gear to get in the way of going fast, which is consistent with the original test mule, although it does include a fully finished trunk with subtle Corvette embossing on the rear panel, a nice touch.
Reports vary, but we're pretty sure the original test mule wasn't making anywhere close to the 300 horsepower now on tap from a fuel injected 350 cubic inch LT1 V8. It's a neat fit in the engine bay, and it's been smoothed and cleaned up to make the engine the star. However, again in deference to its intended mission as a test mule, it isn't over-dressed, wearing simple stamped steel valve covers and cast iron exhaust manifolds. UP front there's a big aluminum radiator and electric fan, so it never gets cranky, and the LT1 is one of the most reliable powerplants ever devised by GM, so no worries about putting this one on the road. It's backed by a 700R4 4-speed automatic and a Ford 9-inch with 3.50 gears, so it's a comfortable highway cruiser, which is certainly not something that could be said about the original mule. Front disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, and those cool American Racing Salt Flat Special wheels all add up to a car with an awesome retro look and modern performance.
The original was possibly the most important Corvette ever built. To live the legend without compromise, this Corvette is a winner. Call now!
’63 coupe and ’64 convertible created by and for GM styling leaders
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If the owner gets more than $200,000 for it, we’ll be quite surprised
Steve Stone bought the car new when he was 18 and is still racking up the miles
It took three months, but the classic is back in the owners’ garage
This is the 23rd in a 30-day countdown to Barrett-Jackson’s annual Las Vegas collector car auction
This is the 20th in a 30-day countdown to Barrett-Jackson’s annual Las Vegas collector car auction
In the debut episode of Driven, Nick and Kristen discuss why the car could be a good classic entry point