VIN # E53F001003
The 1953 Corvette #003, was virtually hand built at the Customer Delivery Garage in Flint, Michigan on July 1, 1953. The garage at Atherton and Van Slyke Avenue was converted to produce just 300 of the 1953 models and was known as GM Pilot Assembly. It arrived at the GM Technical Centre in Warren, Michigan, on July 7, 1953.
Serial Number Three (code-named ES-127) had 67 miles on it when delivered. It was immediately sent to GM’s Harrison Radiator Division at Lockport, New York, where it was subjected to a shake test in Harrison’s Cold Room for 14 hours at 20 degrees below zero. The test consisted of front and rear body excitation (with wheels out-of-balance and driveshaft removed) to simulate vehicle shake at road speeds. The object was to determine how low temperatures would affect the plastic body. The conclusion was no serious body failure.
The car was returned to the engineering staff on July 10.
At the Tech Centre, #003 was put to 5,000 grueling miles on the famed GM Belgian Blocks to determine body, chassis and drivetrain operation, driveability and durability. During this time, extensive reports details, problems, fixes and recommended changes were considered for other production 1953 Corvettes.
On August 20, 1953, before being unveiled to the motoring press, a Chevrolet Engineering work order was issued to “recondition the car and to make the various fixes which have been found necessary on regular production cars.”
Corvette #003 continued to be used as a production design check vehicle until the end of October. During this time, extensive testing continued and other production engineering change recommendations were installed, tested and further analyzed by GM and Chevrolet.
Zora Arkus-Duntov later used, in part, prior analysis of 003’s production driving characteristics in a memo to Maurice Olley, director of the Chevrolet Research and Development Section. “Summary Report of Changes to Achieve Improvement in Corvette Handling and Ride” was an important memo outlining changes that were eventually incorporated into the 1956 Corvette.
Once use with the engineering staff was completed, #003 was delivered and sold to an unknown buyer in Los Angeles, sometime in late 1953. It was purchased by John Crockett of Hollydale, Calif., on a used car lot in 1958. Mr. Crockett retired the car to storage in 1963 after experiencing powerglide transmission problems, and remained inoperable. It was then sold to Ed Thiebaud of Fresno, California, in 1969 and kept in storage until 1987.
The next owners are John C. Amgwert, Lester D. Bieri and Howard R. Kirsch. They had the car meticulously disassembled, inspected, researched, documented and restored over three years in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Completion was in May 1990.
Corvette #003 is the oldest surviving production Corvette in existence. Numbers 001 and 002 were reportedly destroyed.