For Year Three the 1955 Corvette brought more Speed and New Transmission
At first glance the 1955 Corvette looked much the same as the previous two versions but it was what was put under the hood that would make this Vette dynamic and different. For the first time in the young model’s run the 1955 Corvette came with a V-8 engine that made all the difference in the world.
The 265 V-8 from Ed Cole was a small block and was installed in all but six Vettes for that year. Chevy made it known that the 1955 Corvette sported the bigger engine with an exaggerated ‘V’ that overlaid the existing Chevrolet name tag on both fenders. The advertising department at Chevy marketed the new engine as the V-8 that goes like a V-2 referring to the 1955 Corvette moving like a guided missile.
The comparison was not far off either. The new engine gave a pickup in horsepower from 150 with the six cylinder engine all the way up to 195 horsepower with the new V-8. That meant that the 1955 Corvette did 0 to 60 miles per hour in only 8.5 seconds and the car had a top speed approaching 120 miles per hour. While this pales in comparison to the Vettes of today, those numbers represented blistering speeds back then.
For all the added power it would have been the logical thought that gas mileage would have suffered but in fact the opposite was found to be true. Road and Track tested the 1955 Corvette and reported that the miles per gallon was up to 22 with the Powerglide transmission which was some 2 to 3 miles per gallon better than the six cylinder engine. With the added power and better gas mileage it was a true hit to the bull’s-eye.
While the engine was indeed the big news for the 1955 Corvette there were also some other notable changes. These included:
- New Transmission: Also a first for the Corvette, the 1955 model had the option to have a three speed manual transmission installed which gave many a more controlled and welcomed feeling while driving the car. This came later in the model year after about the first 75 cars of the run had the classic Powerglides only installed.
- New Electrical System: The 1955 Corvette moved from the six-volt electrical system that was typical back then to the improved 12-volt electrical system.
- Tires: The 1955 Corvette swapped out the older tube tires for new and improved tubeless tires that came in all black or classic white walls.
While the 1955 Corvette did have vast improvements overall they were less than stunning in the eyes of the public who were still just getting to know this new super car. Sales for the year actually dipped a bit and saw 700 total units move. Chevy was still left trying to figure out a better and more efficient way to produce the car because it was made with a different composite than the rest of the lineup and while marked improvements were evident, the engineers at GM were not totally happy with the Corvette; at least not yet.