-->Skip to main content
300! That’s how many 1953 Corvettes were produced when what’s now known as the C1 was originally produced. Fast forward to late April in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and one of those original 300 (serial #100 to be exact), will cross the auction block on Friday, April 21. That’s right, a 1953 Corvette, one of the first 40 or so actually sold some 70 years ago, will be up for grabs as part of Carlisle Auctions’ two-day classic and collector car auction at the Carlisle Expo Center, April 20-21, 2023. Think about it. In 70 years, nearly 2 million Corvettes have been built and sold. This is the 100th ever created; talk about rarified air!
The auction starts at 12 p.m. each day and the fact that a 1953 Corvette is even crossing the block is nothing short of a big deal. The National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS), the premier authority on all things Corvette has judged only 60 ‘53s all time and rarer yet, over the last five years, only 16 ‘53s are known to have sold. Most have sold through “as seen on TV” auction houses. Currently, there’s only one other known active sale for a ’53 and its part of a non-auction/boutique dealership sale.
With this ’53, it’s the first time such an iconic and rare ride will be made available by Carlisle Auctions. Built in October of 1953, this ’53 was delivered by Tom Hoskins of Hoskins Chevrolet in Chicago to a prominent man of the time, Cyrus Rowlett (C.R.) Smith. Mr. Smith was the founder and CEO of American Airlines from 1934-1968 and again from 1973-74. Smith also served his country, both as a Major General and as the wartime deputy commander of the Air Transport Command during World War II. He also served under President Lyndon B. Johnson as the United States Secretary of Commerce. Mr. Smith is regarded as one of the titans of U.S. airline history and when he passed in 1990, was laid to rest within the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.
In addition, Mr. Smith was very close with the Roosevelt family, specifically first-lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her son Elliott. Smith aided Mrs. Roosevelt frequently with travel plans and even introduced Elliott to his second wife, serving as best man at their wedding.
While the car has changed hands multiple times since Mr. Smith’s ownership, there is meticulous documentation of its ownership record. Its engine number is 535454 and there are many original elements to the car too, including valve cover (one of 305 produced), 3836066 special Corvette cylinder head, body, and specially engineered open drive shaft two-speed power glide automatic transmission, which was all-new for the Corvette only. The ’53 also retains its original vacuum bag molded fiberglass body made by Lunn Laminates of Huntington, New York which is currently adorned by a 2019 repaint in acrylic lacquer formulated in the Delaware factory of E. I. du Pont de Nemours.
Under the trunk bulkhead is the #100, further solidifying its place in the production line. This is not a restoration piece, though it has been re-painted. It’s also won numerous awards, including as recently as 2021 when it was tapped as the NCRS’ Top Flight Award winner.
“This 1953 Corvette is an excellent unrestored/first year Corvette with full provenance,” notes Alan Blay, editor of On Solid Ground, the Solid Axle Corvette Club magazine (solidaxle.org) and columnist and historian for six-cylinder Corvettes built in 1953, 1954, and 1955. “Its body has never separated from the chassis and other than a 2019 repaint, its emulated as close as possible to the car’s original finish and appearance,” continued Blay.
“It’ll roll across the auction block with all original hardware still intact and drives as it did when it was brand new 70 years ago. In fact, its current owner still drives it and has logged about 5,000 miles in the past 18 years. This car is not a trailer queen,” concluded Blay.
Carlisle Auctions is no stranger to big names and cars, as it has previously worked with the late Burt Reynolds to sell a few cars associated with his collection. In addition, a pair of Fast and Furious movie franchise vehicles have crossed the block, a 1968 Dodge Charger that was used for stunt and green screen scenes in Fast and Furious 4 as well as Fast and Furious 5 and a 1967 Ford Mustang that was screen used as part of Fast and Furious – Tokyo Drift.
Further, with an average of 1,600 consignments per year, Carlisle Auctions frequently sees many of its top-dollar sales come by way of the Corvette.
“What an opportunity to own a very rare piece of American history,” noted Tony Cline, Director of Auction Operations. “We are thrilled to be able to offer this 1953 Corvette at our Spring Carlisle Collector Car Auction.”
The Spring Carlisle Collector Car Auction takes place in conjunction with Spring Carlisle, a five-day event that includes an automotive flea market and car corral. Spring Carlisle happens April 19-23 at the neighboring Carlisle PA Fairgrounds and welcomes nearly 100,000 guests from around the world. There’s reciprocating admission to the events too, meaning by attending one, you can easily and conveniently attend the other.
To learn more about Spring Carlisle, secure a vending space or purchase discounted shopper admission tickets, visit CarlisleEvents.com or call 717-243-7855. For complete information on the auction, including even more details on this ’53 Corvette, call 717-960-6400 or visit CarlisleAuctions.com.
Book online or call (800) 216-1876