1959 CHEVROLET CORVETTE FUEL INJECTION ROADSTER
Chassis No. J59S104115
Engine No. F116CS
Snowcrest White and Inca Silver coves with black interior
Engine: V8, Rochester mechanical fuel injection, 283ci., 290bhp; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: front, independent with coil springs and tubular shocks, rear, live axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs and tubular shocks; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
Twenty-two years toiling in the shadow of the dynamic and volatile Harley Earl finally paid off for Bill Mitchell in December 1958 when Mitchell was named to succeed Earl as director of GM Styling. He loved sports cars, having started his career as an illustrator for Barron Collier's Street Railways Advertising Company which introduced him to the early road racing activities of the Collier brothers. Mitchell's auto illustrations caught the eye of Harley Earl and in 1935 he joined GM's Art & Color section.
Mitchell was much more in the school of contemporary industrial designers than the flamboyant Earl. His first tempering influences on Corvette design came quickly, on the 1959 model introduced even before Mitchell formally ascended to the section's directorate, which he quickly renamed "Design" to reflect a broader vision than simply styling. Major changes in Corvette would have to endure a longer cycle, but Mitchell's first revisions, while minor, signaled Corvette's new cleaner, simpler and integrated theme simply by eliminating the 1958 Corvette hood's washboard louver effect and the rear deck's chrome spears.
Other changes in 1959 included the first appearance of the T-handle reverse lockout for the 4-speed manual transmission and significant interior changes for occupant comfort and driver convenience, including instruments redesigned for better visibility and a standard 7,000 rpm tachometer.
Mitchell's love of racing was mirrored by Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov who, despite the AMA racing ban instigated by GM Chairman Harlow Curtice, kept a steady supply of high performance parts on Corvette's options list. Headed by the increasingly potent and subtly developed fuel injected V8, it was possible to create simply by checking a few boxes on a Corvette order form (and writing the requisite rather large check) anything from a placid and luxurious boulevard cruiser to a fire-breathing road racer. Uniquely during this period it also was possible to specify anything in between these extremes. There were few equipment restrictions or mandatory options, permitting even incongruous combinations like fuel injection and Powerglide.
The 1959 Corvette offered here was obviously specifically tailored to the fastidious desires of its first owner, Mr. Donald S. Basim of Stamford, CT. It is comprehensively equipped with comfort and convenience options yet is powered by the most potent combination on Corvette's impressive options list, the 290 horsepower solid lifter camshaft Rochester fuel injected engine, 4-speed manual transmission, Positraction rear axle and high performance metallic brakes. Delivered with heater, Wonderbar signal-seeking radio, parking brake alarm, courtesy lights, windshield washer, sun visors, whitewall tires and power windows, it is a serendipitous combination of performance and luxury in the tradition of the finest European "gran turismos" of the day.
Meticulously restored with a full body-off restoration in recent years, its overall condition today is excellent. The odometer shows under 300 miles, consistent with the Corvette's condition and sparing use since restoration. Attractively finished in Snowcrest White with Inca Silver coves and a black interior (that was first available in 1959), it comes with a highly comprehensive and important package of documentation including repair bills and paperwork tracing its chain of ownership back through its first owner and the original selling dealer, Don Allen Midtown Chevrolet in New York City.
Fabulous original documentation that accompanies this lot includes a Bill of Sale ($5,198.20), window sticker, car invoice, salesman's business card and deposit receipt, Corvette owner's card, Chevrolet Owner Protection Policy (service booklet), 1959 Operations Manual and Wonder Bar Radio Operating Instructions. The service receipts suggest that as early as 1960 the car had moved with the family to Florida and according to the paperwork, in 1972 upon the death of Mr. Basim it passed to his wife Mrs. Alice L. Basim. A year later she gifted the car to the nephew of her late husband, Garth Jensen of Simsbury, CT. Once again there are original copies of the transfers and vehicle registration certificates, insurance cards, service receipts and so forth. Garth Jensen owned the car for some 16 years before selling it in 1989 to a dealer, Corvettes Unlimited in NH, and in January 1990 they sold the vehicle to Special Interest Car Parts in Rhode Island. During the 1990s the car was fully restored and was acquired by the current owner in 2000. He, like the previous owners, has carefully kept a copy of all recent work. Following his purchase a major shakedown and service was undertaken costing over $3,500 and prior to the auction another checkover will have been performed.
Corvette is known as "America's Sports Car" but this generously equipped 290hp fuel injected Corvette might be better described as "America's Gran Turismo". It has comfort, conveniences, power and handling that make it a delight to drive. It matched or bettered most contemporary European GTs in performance and even today it offers unsurpassed value.