Red, white, and blue. Separately, they're nice enough hues, popular as crayons and great for coloring everything from T-shirts to 747s. Taken together, however, these three transcend mere color and--minor political disagreements aside--evoke pride in the United States and the freedom America enjoys. It's altogether appropriate, then, when these special colors adorn three incredible examples of another American icon--the Corvette. And make no mistake about it, the owner of this '53, '54 and '55 is understandably proud of his patriotically colored trio.

That's right, one man owns all three of these beauties, a fact that may make some green with envy. It doesn't stop there, however. Leonard Nagel's collection includes a Vette from each model year up to 1967, with the '57-65 models all being Fuelies. He's also got a '78 Silver Anniversary car, an '88 35th Anniversary car, a '90 ZR-1 with less than 100 miles showing...you get the idea. Even among this superb collection, however, these three perfectly restored, Bloomington Gold and Duntov winning examples of Corvette's first three model years deserve a closer look.

Buena Park, California, resident Nagel took his first foray into the car collecting hobby in 1980, purchasing a '57 T-bird (gasp!). He quickly got pointed in the right direction by picking up a driver-quality '66 Vette, which he "really liked." A '63 coupe that "needed some work" came next, followed by a '58. "I started fooling around with the cars," Nagel recalls, "and realized that this is a good hobby I can do with the boys." In fact, his son Joel now owns the '63, which sports a B&M blower and canyon carver suspension; Jonathon (aka "Hoss") owns the '58, complete with a hot pink paint job and a blown big-block.

It was during that time in the early and mid '80s, however, when the elder Nagel's interest in the Corvette hobby snowballed. After deciding that he would assemble a '53-67 collection, Nagel began shopping around--and proved that he's a savvy shopper at that, finding exactly what he was looking for in the span of two short years. Nagel followed up on a lead to find '53 number 33 in Paramount, California, where it was sitting in a garage with the transmission removed but otherwise intact. The '55 came next, also found in California. It was driveable, Nagel recalls, but "not nice." The '54 came last, found in Long Beach, California, where it was in dire need of restoration but still ran.

When it came to the transforming his rare finds from worn-out relics to stunning restorations, Nagel's base of operations was his business, Leonard's Carpet Service. A good portion of the work was sent off to experts, namely the engines; on the other hand, Nagel and his crew disassembled the three straight-axles, installed the new interiors, and took care of the paint and bodywork. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that Leonard and crew did the research necessary to put the vintage Vettes properly back together, paying attention to the minute details that make the difference between a car that's merely nice and one that epitomizes its kind.

"Restoring an early '53," Nagel told us, "Is a lot different than restoring a later '53." Leonard and crew stayed the course, however, making sure the '53 had the proper brake springs, early-production glossy dash finish, "opposed" hubcap spinners, and taller bows in the convertible top. The '55--which happens to be No. 55 in the production run--also had its anomalies, among them riveted-on metal labels rather than the stickers used on later '55s. By comparison, the '54 was relatively easy to deal with, though still no picnic, we're sure!

As for how Nagel ended up with his red, white, and blue triad...well, it was part luck, and part choice. All '53s were Polo White, of course, so that was a no-brainer. The luck came in when the Leonard's crew stripped off the red coat of paint the V-8 Vette was wearing, only to find that the ol' No. 55 had originally been Pennant Blue. It was indeed a unique find--this hue was discontinued early in the production run, and only 45 left the factory in blue. That left the '54. It was white when Nagel acquired it, and he says that there was "some indication" that the car had been red. With no factory records to refer to, it came down to making a decision. "It was the last one," Nagel recalls, "and I thought, 'It's gotta be red.'" And with a coat of Sportsman Red paint, the flag-colored trifecta was complete.

The three had actually been done for some time before Nagel decided to put them to the test, taking the three roadsters to Bloomington in 2001. All three took home the Gold, and Nagel decided to take a shot at the NCRS' top honors. This meant paying attention to the small differences in judging standards between the two, of course, but Nagel was on the ball. All three solid-axles earned regional and national Top Flight awards before their passing Performance Verifications to earn the coveted Duntov award, recognizing the creme de la creme of the Corvette crop. They'll also be on the road this summer, appearing at the Solid Axle Corvette Club's National Convention in Flint, Michigan, and at the NCRS Nationals in Hershey, Pennsylvania. You might even see then in Nashville this June. Wherever they go, this bunch is sure to draw a crowd. Three fantastic cars, three fantastic colors. What else can we say but, "Hooray!"

Photo location courtesy of Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, California