GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

1954 Chevrolet Corvette (C1)

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SPEX

Year Represented: 1954
Country: USA

Class: Sports Car
Type: 2-door convertible
Host: GT4 & GT5


Price: $84,999 (GT4 memory card trade after winning as prize)
``````````$62,547 (GT5 Online car lot)

GT5 Mileage: 46,815.6

Construction: fiberglass body on steel frame

Length: 167.3" // Width: 69.8" // Height: 51.5"
Wheelbase: 102.0"
Overhang: 5 feet 5 inches
Track: 57" [F] 59" [R]
Ground Clearance: 6.7" 
Weight: 2,885 pounds
Wgt Distribution: 53/47

Steering: unassisted worm & sector
Turns Lock 2 Lock: 3.400
Turn Radius: 36 feet 1 inch
Layout: Front Engine / Rear Drive
Tires: 6.70 x 15"
F. Suspension: upr & lwr control arms, coils, tube shox, anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: leaf springs, tube shox, live axle
Brakes: drums

Engine: 235 cubic-inch OHV Slant-6
Construction: cast iron block & head
Aspiration: natural
Fuel system: 3 single-barrel carburetors
Valves / Cyl: 2
Bore x Stroke: 3.56 x 3.94"
Compression: 8.0:1

```````````````````````GT4````````````````````````````GT5``````````````
Final BHP: 158 @ 4,200 rpm          147 @ 4,000
Fnl Torqe: 234 @ 2,400 rpm           218 @ 2,500

Credits per HP: $537.97                   $425.49
Pounds per HP: 18.26                       19.62
HP per Liter:    40.9                            38.0

GT4 & GT5 Idle: 750 // Redline: 4,750 // RPM Limit: 5,000

Transmission: 2-speed automatic
Differential: open

`````````````````````GT4 ````````````````````````````GT5```````
0-60 mph: 9.850 seconds         10.964 seconds
0-100mph: 26.333 seconds       32.729 seconds
 
400 M:   17.381 @ 85 mph       18.284 @ 81 mph
1 Kilom: 31.340 @ 103 mph     32.687 @ 100 mph

1/4 Mile: no test                       18.348 @ 81 mph
1 Mile:    no test                       45.993 @ 103 mph

 
Test Track Lap: no test performed

100-zero mph: 3.28 seconds
Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: 2,750 in GT4, 2,900 in GT5

Top Speed at Redline (GT4):
1st: 49 mph
2nd: 106.60 mph @5,000 rpm (gearing/RPM limited)

Top Speed at Redline (GT5):
1st: 47.4 mph
2nd: 103.9 mph @ 5,000 rpm (gearing/RPM limited)

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------------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY-----------------

Elegant. Stylish. Compact. Classy. These are four words not typically chosen to describe America's longest-running premier sports car. Or are they? Turns out at one time, they certainly were. But we have to go back....all the way back...to 1953, to find out how it all started.

The C1 was Chevrolet's first effort at making a genuine sports car with 2 seats, an agile drive (rather than a clumsy one), and a classy look. Notice how different the C1 is from later Corvettes. Chevy was after a European feel with a European look when they introduced this car, inspired by English, German, and Italian models of the times. American automaker Nash had recently gone into partnership with English Healy to produce a small, stylish 2-seater. Though sales of the Nash-Healy were low, this didn't seem to matter. Chevrolet (and possibly Chevy's boss GM) took notice.
 
Some websites also tell us that during the post-WWII era, some car-makers were interested in catering to GIs who returned to America, didn't have families, and therefore wanted to find a smaller automobile, rather than the typically large land-yachts of the '50s. After serving in Europe, these fighters got a taste of the vaster sports car market happening overseas. Chevrolet's Corvette, and later in 1955, Ford's Thunderbird therefore broke some barriers waiting to be broken.

Not very many 'vettes were made in that first year, matter of fact just 300 hit the market in 1953. In doing so, Chevy started a tradition that has lasted to this day, since they used a fiberglass body in the spirit of some Euro sports cars from the day. Fiberglass was a fairly new material. After World War II, raw iron was at a premium. Part of the reason Chevy chose to use fiberglass for their new model was simply that iron could be saved for others on GM's assembly lines. These earliest Corvettes were also hand-built, which is a tradition that did not last, no surprise.

These earliest versions represented the Corvette at its least garish, and most stylish. Early Corvettes resembled the beautifully-designed Nash-Healy in its first incarnation, matter of fact. Both cars share similar features. But within just a few years, the Corvette would take on more American-ish looks, which means more chrome, bulgey fenders with a deep concave area that bled into the doors, and quad headlights. Arguably, it became uglier, too--but this was all in keeping with the flavors of the era, and sales were doing well.

By 1958, the C1 Corvette was at its most grotesque. I'm making it sound worse than it actually was, but when you compare this year to the '54 that's in our game, it's obvious Chevrolet now had different goals in mind. The Thunderbird (which had previously been a meek 2-seater in competition with the 'vette) became a 2+2, gained weight, and gained tailfins; eventually becoming a long, stylish, but also non-sporty automobile. This means 'vettes would now get all the attention they deserved. Thankfully, Corvette designers did not follow the Thunderbird's path; instead sticking to a formula that worked, keeping the Corvette as a true sports car.

...Keeping the Corvette as the only mass-produced sports car made in America for a long, long time.
After 1958, the C1 changed. Again, this was due to customer demand, as cars started to become less monumental as the sixties approached. Less chrome was used as the 'vette was gearing for a huge identity shift towards the super-sonic C2 generation.

But as I said, at first the Corvette was a quaint design. Eye-catching, but not over-excessive as many later 'vettes are. This sweet ride weighs in at just 2,885 pounds, and can be won only as a prize here in the land of GT4. And what a prize it is, with its wire mesh headlight covers, tiny tailfins (which oddly never grew in size and even disappeared before the C1's most aggressively-styled days), and whitewall tires. Like many other classics from this game, we'll need to install N tires to make them whitewalls, otherwise there will be blackwalls if we keep sports on.
 
GT5's models can only be found in the Used Car Lot, so good luck finding one. I never fully lightened the car in GT4, but in 5 we can get down to an even 2,400 pounds with all weight & glass removed. The interior view in 5 feels cramped, but also delightful. This car's two mirrors are nearly useless, but are pleasantly-shaped. When Chevy originally made this car, they were trying to please the driver with European design; and perhaps a daring drive along the Pacific Coast Highway. They never imagined their limited-build sports cars would be chugging it out with others in the land of Gran Turismo.   
 
The word "Corvette" was originally used to describe a small, agile fighting ship. And as we'll see, the Chevrolet Corvette is certainly small, agile, and a surprising fighter. This mostly depends on which game we're driving one, though.   

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-------------------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------------------------------
 
Actually, let's return to that definition for just a moment. Here is Dictionary.com's description of the original meaning of corvette.
 
corvette
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This
cor⋅vette
   /kɔrˈvɛt/ Show Spelled Pronunciation  [kawr-vet] Show IPA Pronunciation 
 
–noun 1. a warship of the old sailing class, having a flush deck and usually one tier of guns.
2. a lightly armed, fast ship used mostly for convoy escort and ranging in size between a destroyer and a gunboat.
 

Starting in 1955, the Corvette was offered with only a V8 engine, but for those first 2 years (1953 and 1954) the C1 had a 235 cubic-inch slant-six under the hood. This is yet another reason why the earliest C1s differ from later ones, and later Corvettes altogether.
 
Though not endowed with over-the-top power like later Corvettes possess, the slant-6 is still a good motor with plenty of torque in our game (once we tweak it up), and feels right at home when mated to this car's chassis, as we'll see shortly. As we all know, C2s and C3s have greater power, but half the time they don't seem to know what to do with it, as Corvettes from later eras happen to be clumsy, under and over-steering messes oftentimes.
 
Public interest in the Corvette started well enough, but towards the end of 1954, sales were already lagging. Mostly, this was due to the fact that the "Blue Flame" slant-6 was underpowered. This engine, in fact, was used in some other Chevy models, including pickup trucks. Thankfully, the 235 is at least a torquey motor...it gets the job done....it's just not fast enough. Chevy fed the slant-6 via three carburetors, but buyers were not fooled. Just take a look at the test results for the SPEX section above, and you'll see what I mean, as this car has dismal acceleration. After 1954, Chevy wisely started dropping in some V8s to get the C1 on stronger turf.
 
While we can't get a later model with a 283 in our game, it is possible to get some engine upgrades: 3 NA kits, and a supercharger. In real-life, there actually was a supercharger available as an option for 1954 C1s, keeping things completely within the realm of possiblities for GT4. Good work, PD. These upgrades provide decent jumps in horsepower, too: *vamp*
 
Another issue is just behind the engine: that "Powerglide" 2-speed transmission. Yes. 2. As in two. Dos. Duo. This was an issue for real-life buyers as well as modern drivers in the game. 2- and 3-speeds were not uncommon during this time, hard to believe but true. With its low 4,750 rpm redline, the 235 slant-6 hasn't got much room to get busy, and paired with just two speeds, only makes it to 106 mph tops before revs start to max out. Ooof.
 
Surprisingly, it is possible to win some races with all these lacks, and alot of the reason has to do with what's going on in the next section.

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--------------------CHASSIS / HANDLING-----------------------
 
So many words have been written online and in print about America's longest-running sports car, it's only true mass-production sports car till the Pontiac Fiero and later the Dodge Viper came along, you'd think there would be many paragraphs devoted to how the earliest version actually drove. Not true. So far, I've had little luck.
 
The few sites that do describe what it's like to drive a C1 seem to compare it to a small truck, and after all, it does have a solid rear axle, leaf springs, and drum brakes that perhaps were not re-configured heavily from what was available in early 50s. Which means it's possible parts were shared between the C1 and an actual truck Chevy was producing in the day. But still, I truely believe the C1 must have had a better ride, with more agility and possibly greater capabilities in motion than anything else from America at the time, simply because it was smaller than anything else available at that time.

...Well, there was one American car which was smaller: the Nash Metropolitan, but this was an early city car, not meant to be fast and sporty like the Corvette.
GT4
In the game, what we have is a vehicle that feels over-confident, yet allows one to explore such behavior. Let me explain.

Braking can start extremely late for instance, despite the fact that the real-life car had drums all around, with narrow 6.7" size 15-inch tires that had giant sidewalls. That website I found that described the C1 as having a truck-like ride also said its brakes were horrible, which contradicts my experiences in the game, because the C1 happens to be one of the best trail-brakers I've ever driven in GT4! Braking late is always a possibility in this car, even with N tires to some degree.

Next, we have mid-cornering capabilities, which are also awesome. You'll find the '54 progresses here with extreme assurance, as it often feels downright gummy with grip. Nowadays, most cars need anywhere from 28 to 35 psi (pounds per square inch) of air, if you're sticking to manufacturer's specs. Back in the '50s, most cars rolled on bias-ply tires (rather than radials) and required much less air, typically no more than 20 psi. Look carefully at the C1 as it corners, PD actually modeled these low-pressure gumballs accurately: as the car leans from side to side, we can actually see its tires compress as weight gets thrown to them, and their contact patches increase (see picture below).

As I was saying, this car grips the road, rather than sloshing about with heavy mid-corner exaggerations (sliding) like I suspect it was supposed to. Even with N2 tires, which I use to simulate all-season radials, understeer does NOT dominate above oversteer; although the C1 does start to get more slidey with these tires. Add a 1-way diff, and it also becomes a fine drifting baby, just as confident with oversteer as it is with everything else when sport tires are in place.

The only major issue so far as handling goes happens when we boost power with either a supercharger, or a Stage 2 NA kit. Now, the rear tires have a habit of "lifting", which encourages inside-wheel spinning as the car's engine slips from 2nd to 1st gear and all that torque finally has something to say.

Overall? We have (in my opinion) an inaccurate car to play with here. Which works to our advantage in just about every arena we can enter.
 
GT5
It's rare you'll hear me complain that a car handles too well, and then praise it for maneuverability which is more sloppy, but that's just what I'm about to do.
 
Everything expected in GT4, everything we've seen from later Corvettes, is included in this game. So this means: understeer, lots of rear-end issues, and this sort of thing. If power is stock, there might not be too much slipping and sliding going on if sport tires are equipped, but with this car's factory-installed soft radials, that's exactly what we're going to see.
 
Braking is also terrible. :) Forget about trail-braking. The original Corvette never trail-braked like the car in GT4 did, trust me. In GT5, what we'll get if we try to perform such a daring stunt is a sideways slide into the nearest sand trap. Granted, I'm not using ABS here, so somebody who does use it will see better results than I do. But in my game, braking is terrible. The '54 Corvette's braking distance is no longer beyond-par when compared to modern GTs & sports cars. In GT5, it is only slightly better than the others it competes with during the few Historic events it can duel in.
 
I've found that during the Classic Muscle Car Championship at Monza, for instance, a typical muscler will need to start braking into the first turn (that deadly chicane) somewhere before 200 meters, assuming it's just rolled down Monza's entire front straight. Let's say a typical spot might be 210 or 215 meters. The '53 Corvette can only manage 200 in this same situation. So yeah, slightly better. If we could place the GT4 version of this car here at Monza, chances are we'd be slowing down from 150 instead of 200.      
 
The front-end is catatonically-slow, when it comes to doing its job (turning in). Eventually, the understeer stops. But (unlike GT4) you gotta usually prepare for some front-end pushing, even if it doesn't show you'll always feel better that you at least prepared for it. And this is while driving on medium sport tires, not radials or hard sports. We can blame GT5's horrible braking on my refusal to use ABS, but we can't blame GT5's understeer on this.
 
Now, understeer has been mentioned, but it's not all bad. Assuming the driver actually takes the time to brake earlier (a LOT earlier than in GT4), the front-end will do its job. But it feels nowhere near as confident as the car in that previous game. Assuming understeer (or even a slight push) shows up while entering a turn, it'll be awhile before it finally goes away.
 
 Leaving turns is also .... everything we'd expect from a 60 year-old, rear-drive car. Messy and sloppy. The car leans heavily on its worn-out springs (yet another trait not found in GT4).  Limited-slips and sport suspensions still tame this action, but only to limited degree.
 
On the other hand, this is just how it should be. If you ask me, I'd rather drive the GT5 muscle-Corvette, instead of GT4's anomaly, which is (in my opinion) a huge case of mistaken identity.  

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C1 tire flexes under hard braking!

PROS---------------------------------

1). Just about everything regarding this car's looks. Its paint jobs. Its bodywork. Its tires (whitewalls or blackwalls can be shod as you switch from N to sports tires). Its tin-pan hubcaps. Classy, classic, and unlike any other Corvette.

2). It's hard to say whether the engine's sound is an actual C1 or not, but it certainly sounds like a straight-6 from the time. Understated and hummy, rather than loud and bossy as later 'vettes can be. Sports, semi-racing, and full-racing exhaust do not ruin this car's stock tone; instead, they simply modify it a bit.

3). One of the best-handling cars in the game (GT4 only). In some ways, the C1 feels more confident to drive in this particular game than any other Corvette, even C4s from the '90s. Lack of understeer, lack of oversteer, and generally very controllable. The C1's handling prowess is unrealistic, but it's what we have to work with. It's a Pro, rather than a Con!

4). Makes a great prize in any color.

5). Engine upgrades include all 3 natural-power kits + the supercharger. Though it is slow when stock, the 236 slant-6 at least starts off as a small torque-monster.

6). That long list of GT4 races the '54 Corvette can conquer. Spiders & Roadsters, 3 of the American League showdowns (Muscle Car, Stars & Stripes, and Hot Rod), Sunday & Clubman Cups, NA-Tuned races, 90 laps at Laguna Seca, Seattle 100 Miles, 1,000 Miles, and any other "classic car" events I'm forgetting.
 
GT5 has a shorter list of races to fairly use one of these in, but it can still be driven here and there.


CONS----------------------------------

1). Can only be won as a prize in GT4, rather than hunted down as a rarity from the Historic Lot. GT5's models are now used cars, and can be hard to find.

2). Starts off with below-average power and poor acceleration. At times, the C1's stellar handling (GT4 only) can't make up for its lack of starting power, unless we're doing some super-easy racing.

3). At nearly $90,000 in GT4, this car makes an expensive memory-card trade. GT5's used cars have knocked-down this price considerably, but not realistically.

4). That 2-speed transmission! First gear plows off, allowing wheel-spinning torque. 2nd is way too tall, yet peaks at just over 106 mph.

5). Some rear-wheel issues (mostly wheelspin) will make sure we'll eventually include a limited-slip differential to our list of purchases.

6). GT4: Some may find the C1, with its lack of tire-shredding track prowess, unlike later 'vettes, and be disappointed with it.
...Hey, I'm only copying what I've read some folks write as they visit online bulletin boards!
7). GT5: all the things I complained about in GT4 (unrealistic handling & braking) are in this game. Late-braking is no longer a possibility, and even with ABS turned on, this one is not the car it once was. Understeer is now a huge factor too, even with sport tires. 
 
8). GT5 again: cramped interior view. Mirrors have a classic, classy shape, but are often too small for usefulness. And there's no passenger-side mirror.  

Published: November 14, 2008
Edited for GT5 content: ?
Re-edited for GT5 content (mostly discussion) June 20, 2014
 

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