A new focus for the Corvette arrived in the form of a thoroughly new V8 engine which would be known and loved as the "Chevy small block". More than what the Corvette needed, it was also a major milestone in automotive engines. The engineering was advanced and featured a compact design, overhead valves and low production costs. Whenever a list of the worlds most significant automobile engines is compiled, the Chevrolet small block is always included.
Left: Cutaway drawing by David Kimble of the new small block engine. Below: As installed in a 1955 Corvette. Its weight of 531 pounds was 41 pounds less than the six cylinder, which aided handling.
All but seven of the 1955 Corvettes received this wonderful new engine; the remaining very rare cars were delivered with the six cylinder engine.
Additional colors were available. A few "Corvette Copper" (kind of a bronze) Corvettes were built along with Gypsy Red and a Harvest Gold. V8 engined cars would get a 12 volt electrical system; six cylinder Corvettes made do with a six volt system. An electric windshield wiper was also part of the V8 package.
700 Corvettes were produced in 1955. Chevrolet wisely did not repeat the overproduction mistake of 1954 and instead produced only what could be sold.
A few late production Corvettes, approximately 75, were equipped with a three speed floor mounted manual transmission. The remaining performance element - a four speed transmission - would have to wait for another time.
Above: 1955 V8 equipped Corvettes can be identified by the gold "V" in the "Chevrolet" side marking.
Above: 1955 Corvette in "Corvette Copper", one of only 15. Other colors included Pennant Blue (45), Gypsy Red (180) and Harvest Gold (120). Almost half of the 700 unit production was Polo White (325). Photo courtesy of Corvette Fever Magazine
Below: Official GM press photo of the 1955 Corvette.
1955 Chevrolet Corvette at Barrett Jackson auction, October 2008. Hammer price was $102,000.
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