The 1957 Corvette Super Sport first introduced by GM at the New York International Auto Show in 1957.
FOR SALE: The Original 1957 Corvette Super Sport Show Car!
In the past, we’ve showcased some rare “for sale” Corvettes on our website. I think I can say with some certainty that this may well be one of the rarest Corvettes we’ve ever had the opportunity to present. This 1 of 1 model is none other than the original 1957 Corvette Super Sport Show Car developed by GM Styling. It will cross the auction block at Mecum Auctions in Kissimee, Florida in January 2022. Listed as Lot R661, this is the one to watch – even if you can’t afford to buy it – as it represents a pinnacle in the history of the Corvette brand: it was the very first vehicle to carry the “SS” moniker! It is also the Corvette that introduced Rochester Ramjet Fuel Injection when it was unveiled.
The 1957 Corvette Super Sport Show Car concept was built by Chevrolet under shop order SO-90181. It began life as a 1956 Corvette (VIN E56S001589) and was transformed into the Super Sport model at a cost of more than $18,000 (or $169,900 in adjusted 2021 dollars). The car made its debut at the 42 Annual New York Auto Show on December 8, 1956.
The car was constructed after Ed Cole saw the overwhelming response that Harley Earl’s original SR-2 race car received when it appeared at various events across the United States. Essentially, the Corvette Super Sport was developed to offer consumers a more competitive version of the Corvette – something that had been lacking up to this point in time. The car was dubbed the Corvette Super Sport as its creation (and eventual introduction at car shows across the U.S.) coincided with the development of Zora Arkus Duntov’s SS race car.
Before work began on the car, it was given a new VIN number and re-cataloged as a 1957 model. Recognizing that a production Corvettes would eventually use the E57S1001589 VIN number, Chevrolet introduced a ZERO in place of the number ONE as the fifth character of the Super Sport’s VIN number (E57S0001589).
When building the Super Sport, Duntov introduced a brand new 283 cubic-inch, 283 horsepower V8 engine with an all-new Rochester Ramjet fuel injection system. He paired the engine to a three-speed manual transmission. A polished injection plenum was installed and the engine was wrapped in chrome. The car was also equipped with a limited-slip differential, metallic brake linings, finned brake drums, heavier-duty springs, and strategically placed air ducts for the braking system.
The exterior of the car received a number of notable modifications. The car’s original Venetian Red paint was replaced with custom-mixed pearlescent white. A pair of full-length blue stripes, developed after the Sebring racers were first introduced in 1957, was added to the exterior. Similarly, the bodyside covers on the race-built SR-2 Corvettes inspired the brushed aluminum side covers on the Super Sport model, as well as the unique body side scoops and their custom-built surrounds.
To give the Super Sport a more distinct, race-ready appearance, the car’s original windshield was abandoned and was instead replaced with a pair of rounded windscreens like those found on both the SR-2 and SS racers. Custom inserts were also developed to enclose the window openings at the leading edge of each door. Special taillamp assemblies were fabricated and worked into the rear fenders. The car also came equipped with a
The interior of the Corvette Super Sport was covered in blue-dyed leather (this was a first for Corvette, which had used vinyl prior to this example). The color was selected to match the exterior stripes. That same color motif followed for the dash pads, the shifter book, and the center console, as well as the door panels, and the armrests. Even the trunk carpeting received the same color treatment!
The car’s floor panels were modified with plywood and aluminum to create custom footrests for both vehicle occupants. A tachometer was mounted on the steering column, as was a console-mounted clipboard for use during rally racing. The Corvette Super Sport was also the first Corvette to include cup holders! The car even came equipped with a pair of blue, anodized drinking cups.
The Super Sport originally rode on U.S. Royal thin-line, whitewall XP-140, non-DOT experimental tires. Each tire was custom built for the Super Sport model and each had Corvette crossed flag emblems affixed to their sidewalls. A total of five sets of these tires were manufactured in 1957 (including the spare tire).
After making its debut in New York City, the Corvette Super Sport continued to travel the auto show circuit, making stops at the Chicago Auto Show, the 1957 Sports Car Club of America event in Detroit, and onto the June cover of “Speed Age” magazine. Once it had completed the show circuit, it was sold to its first owner, Shurley Wilsie, a partner in Wilsie-Kelley Chevrolet, Caro, Michigan.
The car has changed hands a few times since its introduction in 1957. It has been in the hands of its current owner since 1997, who faithfully and extensively restored it to its original show car condition. It is both significant and remarkable that the Super Sport has retained every single one of the original features applied to it by GM Styling. What makes it even more incredible is that the original drivetrain is reported to have just 4,372 miles on it.
The original EL-stamped engine retains the original 4360 first-design fuel injector with double spider fuel distribution lines, 889 first design distributor with the original tag, and the ultra-rare first design, one-piece, louvered chrome air cleaner; the off-road exhaust system and 3-speed close-ratio manual transmission are likewise original, as are all the custom exterior and interior trim, including the blue leather upholstery. The trunk still contains the original blue carpet, jack and handle, lug wrench, spare, and tire board cover marked with the S.O. number. Another historically significant feature is that the car includes a set of the original US Royal XP-140 non-DOT narrow whitewall tires. It is believed to be the only set still in existence today.
After decades out of the public eye, the Corvette Super Sport returned to national prominence at the 2017 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it won the unique Presentation of Significant Cars Award. Subsequently, it received the prestigious Historical Vehicle Association’s National Heritage Award. It was featured in the May 2018 issue of Vette Vues Magazine.
The Super Sport car has also completed the first half of obtaining the NCRS (National Corvette Restorers Society) Heritage Award. To achieve this coveted award, the car’s owner must earn a judging score of at least 97% out of 100 % based on an original “as manufactured” standard at a National or Regional NCRS event. Additionally, they must present the car for a rigorous performance test of all vehicle mechanical components and functions, all of which must operate as they did when the car was new, without a single failure. The second half of this judging may be completed by showcasing the car at a National NCRS meet, after which the award will be presented in the new owner’s name.
When this car crosses the Mecum Auction block in January, we expect that it will draw out many of the most serious Corvette collectors in the world. It is our sincere hope that this car finds its way to Bowling Green, Kentucky, so that it can be preserved and honored as part of the incredible collection of Corvettes on display there.
The fact that this car still exists today is nothing short of miraculous, especially given that most of the early concept cars showcased by GM were later destroyed at the completion of their auto show circuit tours. To own this piece of American history would be a rare and unique opportunity, so we expect this car to sell for big dollars…we can’t wait to see the gavel drop in January!