While 1954 Corvettes are far from ordinary, VIN #2771 of 3640 produced in the second year of Corvette production took the
path that few Corvettes seldom see and has survived to tell the tale 54 years later. This Corvette would become part of an
exclusive club known as "style" Corvettes. Style Corvettes were cars usually pulled off the assembly line and sent to GM's
design studios where they would undergo a host of interior and exterior design changes as Chevrolet looked to improve and
refine the looks, comfort and usability of the two-seat sports car.
The life span of a "style" Corvette was usually short. It was common for these cars to be destroyed after their "styling"
exercises were concluded, but in some instances they were returned as close as stock as possible and resold. In some rare
cases, they were kept in their restyled configuration and sold to GM employees or outsiders with ties to the Corvette program
Yet E54S002771 wasn't pulled from the assembly line like the typical style Corvette. She started out the way most 2nd year
Corvettes did - delivered to her new owner with a factory fresh Polo White enamel exterior with Sportsman Red interior. The
original owner of #2771 was a GM employee named Roger Crispel. Roger longed for a 1953 Corvette, but being neither a VIP nor
a celebrity, the two credentials needed to secure 1 of the 300 Corvettes built in that first year, had to settle on a 1954
Roger received his Corvette in the middle of 1954 and thoroughly enjoyed the car until he started having issues with the
mechanicals and the top. His Chevrolet dealer was powerless to help and may have actually contributed to Roger's problems
as at one point the Corvette wouldn't go any faster than 15 mph. Copies of letters exist today show Roger wrote to Chevrolet
Chief Engineer Ed Cole, describing his issues with his 1954 Corvette and how his euphoria and enthusiasm for the car had turned
to dismay. Cole suggested dropping off the car at GM's executive garage and Roger was given use of a company car while the
mechanical problems could be correctly diagnosed and fixed. GM performance contributor and 3-time Indy 500 winner Mauri Rose
signed off on the engine performance once the repairs were completed. Fitted with the second generation top now found on 1955
Corvettes, the Corvette was reunited with her owner.
In 1955 Roger was leading one of GM's various interior design studios and needed a Corvette for a proposal. Instead of
requesting a Corvette off the assembly line, he offered up his own car for the exercise. The first design exercise for #2771
was Shop Order 2536 and was dated 4-14-55. That exercise had the Corvette painted orange and black. "Hideous" is the word
that Roger used to describe the appearance of his Corvette at the conclusion of the study.
A second Corvette design proposal was floated a few months later and once again Roger offered up his own 1954 Corvette
as the subject. This exercise was Shop Order 10028 and was dated 2-11-56. The Corvette was repainted in a finish that Roger
himself created. The color was described as having a goldish-silver hue and so he named it "Sahara Silver". The interior was
redone in a two-tone black and silver alligator leather trim and the original beige top was replaced with black canvas which
really complimented the silver exterior and black and silver interior. Other styling enhancements included an engine-turned
gauge bezel, a prototype three spoke Corvette steering wheel, vertical "shark-fin" headlamp fittings and a center armrest
The "shark-fin" headlamp fittings are one of the more interesting aspects of the second design proposal. 1953-1955 Corvettes
are well known for their wire-mesh basket headlight covers, but due to laws in several states that prohibited obstruction
of the headlights, the vertical shark-fin was tested as an alternative to the production headlamp baskets. In the end only
two sets were made with one set installed on this 1954 Corvette while the other set found its way to GM Design Chief Chuck
Jordan's own Corvette.
The details of the two separate style exercises were well documented as Roger kept fastidious records. The 2-inch GM binder
retained with the Corvette details the progress of the design proposals and numerous photos show the corvette undergoing the
work in GM's design shops. The Corvette itself is documented with the shop order (SO) id and date stamped on a metal plate
that was then riveted to the Corvette's cowl.
Sometime in the early Seventies, the Corvette was sold to Bruce Fulmer who restored the Corvette back to its original Polo
White with Sportsman Red interior. The custom parts like the shark-fin headlamp splitters, dash, steering wheel and top all
remained on the car. Shortly after this restoration, #2771 was parked in a heated garage where it remained for 30 years. Family,
work, and money are often the reasons why cars are parked and forgotten and such was the case with this 1954 Corvette Roadster.
Corvette restorer Werner Meier knew #2771's second owner Bruce Fulmer and had seen the Corvette in person. He had also
seen the two-inch binder that documented her time in GM's design studios. Knowing the special history of the Corvette, Werner
often tried to convince Bruce to let him restore the car, but to no avail. Finally, the time was right and the Corvette was
sold to well known automotive collector Ken Lingenfelter (no relation to John), who had the car transported to Werner's Masterworks Automotive Services in Madison Heights, Michigan for restoration.
Werner used the data and pictures from the second design exercise as the basis of the restoration and the results of his
eight months of labor are stunning. Much of the chrome had to be redone and Werner concentrated much of his talents on improving
the fit and finish of the panels and gaps that early Corvettes are notoriously known for. Werner also had to take special
care when working on the car's custom pieces like the "shark-fin" headlight splitters. They were showing deterioration when
he received the car and should anything have happened to them during the restoration process, there was no supplier call to
order a new set.
The future of #2771 remains to be written, but looks to be much brighter since becoming one of the cornerstones of Ken
Lingenfelter's 150 car collection. Ken recently shared this Corvette and several others as E54S002771 made her public debut
at the NCRS Michigan Regional Meet in Novi in Mid May 2008.
More Pictures Here