Corvette Timeline Tales: March 24, 1956 – Chevrolet Scores First Major Road Racing Win with a Team of Heavily-modified Corvettes – VIDEOS
Image: GM Archives
Unlike today’s out in the open Corvette Racing Team, in 1956 John Fitch’s factory-supported racing team was strictly a covert-op!
Dateline: 3.24.18 – Photos: GM Archives & Mecum Auctions – In the early days and well into the early 1980s GM and Chevrolet had an odd attitude about Corvette racing. There never was a lack of enthusiasm from Corvette engineers and designers, but the company just wouldn’t make “racing” official, in the same way Ford and Chrysler did for their racing programs, that got them tons of publicity and street cred.
But make no doubt about it, in 1956 there was indeed a factory Corvette racing effort, and it paid off! Four Corvettes were specially prepared for the 12 Hours of Sebring race on March 24, 1956, under the official banner of Dick Doane’s Raceway Enterprises. These were no ordinary production Corvettes. WW-II fighter pilot and racing champion, John Fitch was the team manager and had the full support and assistance of Ed Cole and Zora Arkus-Duntov.
After a successful performance at Daytona Beach in February 1956 where three of Duntov’s specially-prepared Corvettes set speed records on the Daytona beach sand, the three cars were sent back to Michigan to be prepared for the Sebring assault and one more car was added to the team. Continue reading
The 1964 AWD CERV II – Duntov’s planned Ford GT40-Killer and Le Mans Champion.Dateline: 11.23.17 – For decades the topic of a mid-engine Corvette was simply “pie in the sky.” It was a fanciful piece of Corvette lore going back to the early days when Zora Arkus-Duntov was driving the Corvette brand. Every so many years, the topic would resurface, so when I heard it again for the umpteenth time, just after the C7 arrived, I said, “Oh, sure…” But, it’s going to happen, finally! The mid-engine C8 Corvette will make its grand debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a 2019 model.
In the interest of explaining how we got to where we are with the whole, long, mid-engine Corvette story, lets buckle into the Corvette Report Time Machine, set the dials (yes, we still use “dials” here at Corvette Report) and go back to 1963/1964 when that wiley, silver-haired Russian fox, Zora Arkus-Duntov tried once again, to build a “Corvette” to race at Le Mans. Indulge me while I bench race a little here, Continue reading
Dateline: 11.21.17 – We’re not sure how often this has happened, but “not often” is a safe bet. This was the inaugural season of IMSA’s GT Championship racing series. The cars were Grand Tour-style racecars that ran in the GTU and GTO classes. “GTU” class was for cars with engines under 2.5-liters and “GTO” class was for cars with engines over 2.5-liters. At the end of the 200-mile race, Don Yenko and Dave Heinz came in 1st overall and 1st in the GTO class, followed by SEVEN other Corvettes!
It was a banner season for Corvettes and Chevrolet in IMSA GTO racing in 1971 with Chevrolet winning the Constructor’s Championship for the year with 51 points and Shelby way back in 2nd place with 13 points.
Here’s how the cars crossed the finish line:
1st in GTO class and 1st overall is the Toye English #57 1969 Corvette L-88 driven by Dave Heinz and Don Yenko. Continue reading
Dateline: 8.12.17 / Photos: WikiCommons, Illustrations by K. Scott Teeters – When I was a wee lad and would see the term, “For Off Road Use Only” I used to think, “Well who drives these cars in the dirt and grass?” What I didn’t understand was that the term is code for “RACING”! Beginning in 1957, Chevrolet’s new general manager, Ed Cole, made the command decision that he would let “customers” carry the Corvette racing mantle by offering Chevrolet-engineered parts, specifically designed for racing, available through the Chevrolet Parts Department.
For decades, Zora Arkus-Duntov has been credited for the implementation of the Corvette “Racer Kits” through the RPO (Regular Production Option) system. Zora was the face of the unofficial Corvette racing effort, but while researching C1 Corvette chassis design, I came across some interesting information in Karl Ludvigsen’s 2014 book, “CORVETTE: America’s Star Spangled Sports Car”. While Duntov was definitely the front man, Ed Cole also charged three-time Indy 500 winner and engineer, Mauri Rose with the development of the Corvette’s RPO parts program. So, the Corvette “Off Road” RPO effort guided by Le Mans racer and class winner, Duntov, AND Mauri Rose, the second man to win the Indy 500 three times (1941, 1947, and 1948)! Pretty cool, huh?
The Racer Kits weren’t a “secret” but unless customers were tuned into racing, most weren’t aware of this special program. In truth, since improvements in suspension and brakes were for racing, customers rarely used them for their street Corvettes. And typically racers used the expensive dual quad or Fuel Injection performance engines. The Racer Kit RPO option program enabled Corvette racers to be seriously competitive in SCCA racing such that by the end of the 1950s, Corvettes were a force to be reckoned with.
Engineer Maurice Olley designed the chassis and suspension of the first Corvette in 1952 and was considered to be the best suspension and chassis engineer in Detroit. It is essential to remember that the Corvette was NOT designed to be a racecar. Continue reading
Dateline: 7.6.17 (VIDEOS AT THE BOTTOM!) (This story was first published in the January 2016 issue of Vette Vues Magazine).
To understand the importance and uniqueness of George Haddad’s 1969 ZL-1 Corvette, we have to get into the “Vette Vues Time Machine” and go back to late 1968. The December 1968 issue of Hot Rod Magazine hit the newsstands like a thunder clap, with an obviously all-aluminum big-block 427 Corvette engine wearing bright yellow tube headers. It looked like Chevrolet finally had an ace trump card. The 427 ZL-1 was the ultimate “pie-in-the-sky” Corvette setup – big-block horsepower and torque – with the weight of an iron small-block! Duntov was a happy man because his dream of an all-aluminum engine for the Corvette went all the way back to the 1957 Q-Corvette concept that not only called for a fuel-injected all-aluminum small-block engine, but a trans-axle! (Sounds like a C5, doesn’t it?)
Duntov and his team tried casting SBC engines in aluminum, but there was a serious “strength of materials” issue that was never successfully worked out. The SBC was simply not strong enough when made in aluminum. A small batch of all-aluminum 377 engines were developed for the Grand Sport project that were powerful and light, but just wouldn’t hold together in competition. The prospect of an engine lighter than a regular SBC was deliciously tantalizing. So when the replacement for the 348/409/427 W-series (truck) engine, (the Mark IV) was being designed, an aluminum version was an obvious next step because the Mark IV was inherently a more stout structure.
The story of the production ZL-1 Corvettes is a long and complex one that we won’t try unraveling here, except to say that a batch of seven cars were built in early September 1969. The cars that “rolled off the St. Louis assembly line” were full-out RPO-L88 cars. The RPO-ZL-1 aluminum block was an option that was only available on an L88 engine. In other words, the ZL-1 was identical to the L88, except it had an aluminum block – making it 100-pounds lighter than the L88 Corvette, something that only racers would even notice. Continue reading
Race-prepared, stock 1990 ZR-1 Shatters a 50 Year 24-Hour Speed Record
Dateline: 5.22.17 (This story first appeared in the May 2017 issue of “Vette Vues”) – Racing Corvettes used to have a long history of durability issues. There are many reasons why Corvette racecars had durability issues, but one of the biggest is easy horsepower. It’s always been relatively easy to get a lot of power out of a small-block or big-block Chevrolet engine. If a builder is more oriented towards drag racing, the temptation for an extra 50-horsepower is just too tempting for many builders. That’s fine for drag racing where a car is stressed to the max for a matter a seconds. But in endurance racing, you have to finish to win.
From the perspective of the mid-1980s, the new C4 Corvette was light years ahead of the previous two-generation Corvettes. In the mid-1980s Corvettes were so fierce in SCCA Showroom Stock racing that after two years they were kicked out for being too fast! So, the factory-built Corvette racecars duked it out in their own series, The Corvette Challenge. Breakage with the C4 cars wasn’t much of an issue thanks to the much-improved structure and suspension, plus the cars weren’t powered by massive, torque-monster big-blocks. Continue reading
by Jamie Klein as republished from MotorSport.com
Corvette Racing has confirmed its driver line-ups for next June’s Le Mans 24 Hours
Dateline 11.22.16: Ricky Taylor joins the American team for the 2016 edition of the French endurance classic. Taylor makes his return to Le Mans after a year’s absence alongside Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, effectively replacing Ford-bound Ryan Briscoe. Continue reading
by Corvette Racing (source) as republished from racer.com
More Corvette Racing Talent
Dateline 11.18.15: Already one of endurance sports car racing’s most prominent teams, Corvette Racing is adding even more championship-winning talent to its roster for the first two rounds of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Marcel Fassler and Mike Rockenfeller will complete the team’s lineup for the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the pair of Chevrolet Corvette C7.R racecars. Continue reading
by Sean Szymkowsi as republished from GMAuthority
Pro Line Racing’s Eric Dillard walked away from a crash during a private practice session, according to DragZine.
The accident occurred at Virginia Motorsports Park in General Racing’s latest “El General” C7 Corvette dragster. Earlier in the day, Dillard managed to wrestle out a 3.56-second pass at 224 mph in the C7 Corvette dragster. According to the report, that time makes for one of the fastest times ever posted by a door slammer. Continue reading
01 – Corvette announces Dale Earnhardt/Dale Earnhardt Jr to co-drive the Number 3 GM Goodwrench Corvette C5-R at Daytona
by Scott Teeters as written for Vette Vues
“The Intimidator” and “The Intimidator Jr.” selected to drive for the Corvette Racing Team
Dateline October 2015: Dale Earnhardt was 49-years-old and arguably at the top of his game when it was announced that “The Intimidator” and his son, Dale Jr. would co-drive the Number 3 C5-R Corvette at the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race on February 3 and 4, 2001. Continue reading
Words and Art by Scott Teeters as originally written for Vette Vues.
The $2.85 Million Dollar L88 Corvette Racecar!
Dateline: 10.15.15: This a Corvette racecar story with a happy ending and a big, “Cha-KING!” Racecars are a lot like racehorses, most live hard lives and tend to get used up and discarded. Some cars are saved and later surface as “survivor” cars (the horses go to stud farms). What happens to most is that after the cars no longer competitive; they’re sold off, often for not much money. The next owner applies a new livery and makes modifications that take it farther away from the original configuration. A few accidents or a fire later, and the cars are scrap. Continue reading
by Scott Teeters as originally published in Vette Vues
A tribute to John Greenwood’s groundbreaking C3 Corvette racecars
Dateline: 10.15.15: In the entertainment industry, there are a handful of one-name legends that include; “Elvis,” “Cher,” “Ringo,” “Liberace” and a few others. In the Corvette community we have; “Duntov,” “Shinoda,” “Callaway,” “Yenko” and a few more. The name, “Greenwood” is definitely in that short list. Just say, “Greenwood suspension,” or “Greenwood body-kit,” or “Greenwood racecar” and a huge bundle of understanding comes to mind. Continue reading
On July 7, 2015, the Corvette community lost another legend; John Greenwood passed.
Words and Art by K. Scott Teeters as written for Vette Magazine, republished from SuperChevy.com
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 223
On July 7, 2015, the Corvette community lost another legend; John Greenwood passed. He was 70 years old. John was a member of a very small club of legendary Corvette figures that only needed one name, such that when you said that one name, it spoke volumes. Just a few others are: Shinoda, Lingenfelter, Callaway, Yenko, Guldstrand, and of course, Duntov. Engage any serious Corvette person in some bench racing, drop the name Greenwood and instantaneously all manner of mental images come to mind: suspension packages, C4 body kits, BFGoodrich Stars and Stripes, 427 ZL1 racers, and the most outrageous Corvette racers ever, the C3 widebody “Batmobile” Greenwood IMSA cars. Continue reading
A Tribute to John Greenwood’s Groundbreaking C3 Corvette Race Cars
Poster design by Scott Teeters, main photo by Bill Oursler
To celebrate John Greenwood’s racing and street Corvette achievements, Jan Hyde of Registry of Corvette Race Cars has organized a special “John Greenwood Tribute Event” for November 12-to-15, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway.
In the entertainment industry, there are a handful of one-name legends that include; “Elvis,” “Cher,” “Ringo,” “Liberace” and a few others. In the Corvette community we have; “Duntov,” “Shinoda,” “Callaway,” “Yenko” and a few more. The name, “Greenwood” is definitely in that short list. Just say, “Greenwood suspension,” or “Greenwood body-kit,” or “Greenwood racecar” and a huge bundle of understanding comes to mind. Continue reading
The Illustrated Corvette Designer Series No. 211
by Scott Teeters as written for Vette Magazine and republished from SuperChevy.com
John And Burt Take The “Racer Kit” Off-Planet
The L88 “racer kit” package was huge success for the Corvette and brought racing glory through the late ’60s and into the ’70s. Winning L88s included the “Owens Corning,” “Rebel,” and the Greenwoods’ “BFGoodrich Stars & Stripes” cars. After the Greenwoods’ sponsorship expired, John and Burt Greenwood took their Corvettes to a new level. Making power was easy but tires were so wide that the L88 factory flares weren’t big enough. Enter the final “racer kit,” the widebody. Continue reading