When the opening gavel is pounded to begin the April 10 through 12, 2014 Mecum’s Auction in Houston, Texas, a stunningly rare Corvette will take center stage. It all started in 1959 at the New York Auto Show with the debut of the Sting Ray racer, which inspired the legendary XP-755 Concept car (also known as the Mako Shark). Joining the crowd of spellbound onlookers were numerous high-ranking Chevrolet executives including Chevrolet Division General Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen. So impressed with the car was Bunkie that he arranged for Chevy to build a similar Corvette Convertible for his personal driving pleasure.
This Corvette will highlight the Mecum’s spring auction. It is literally a one-of-a-kind creation so rare and special that bidding is expected to exceed the $1-million mark.
At first glance the brilliant Crimson Firefrost metallic lacquer, with body-length white stripes and a white convertible soft top, appears to steal the show and then you notice the polished stainless-steel factory headers exiting through the front fenders and tapering into specially designed side pipes which are covered with chrome-plated heat shields. Corvette emblems adorn the hood and deck lid with “Fuel Injected” badging on both front fenders.
The interior is every bit as unique as the exterior, if not more so. White seats with crimson red striping are from the succeeding year model. They are covered in soft Naugahyde, as are the door panels and specially designed center console. Instrumentation was also from a 1964 model Corvette, stylishly placed in the color matched dash. Seat belts from a 1967 Corvette were added later during the car’s Meier restoration.
Under the hood is a factory fuel injected 4.8-liter (327 CID) small-block engine with many factory chrome components and crinkle finish black paint. The engine bay was modified to accommodate the unique exhaust headers, chrome accents have been added to the firewall area, and the battery has been relocated underneath the passenger seat.
Bunkie Knudsen possessed several unique Chevy automobiles. A Chevrolet Nova, Corvair, and Impala included. All were painted in Crimson Firefrost Metallic. After the ‘Vette was returned to Chevrolet it was restored to near ordinary condition, including removal of the custom factory exhaust system. It was originally sold to a Chevrolet designer and then resold several times, eventually falling into an abhorrent condition. In the 1980s it was discovered by Corvette collector Wally Abela in a Detroit area garage where it was being used as a scaffold. The exterior was damaged from foot traffic and the entire car was in major need of a restoration.
Something told Abela that this was not your average Corvette, so he enlisted the help of famed Corvette restoration specialist Werner Meier to aid in the evaluation process. Once it was determined that this had been Knudsen’s Corvette, Abela quickly obtained the vehicle and turned it over to Meier for restoration, in 1984. After two-years of meticulous research and a lot of help from Chevrolet, as well as a number of machine and fabrication specialists, the Corvette was finally complete.
This car has changed hands several times and has appeared in many Concours d’Elegance events across the nation. It has also been a regular guest at the National Corvette Museum. It will hit the auction block on April 12, 2014 at Mecum’s Classic Car Auction to be held in the Reliant Center Houston, Texas.