Corvette “Timeline Tales” Nov. 16, 1956: One magnesium-bodied XP-64 (Corvette SS) would be built for the 1957 12 Hours of Sebring race

The 1957 Corvette SS Racer’s exotic body turned out to be the hot ticket to failure!

Image: GM Archives

Dateline: 11.16.17 (VIDEO BELOW!) – This was such a heady time! Corvettes were starting to do well in racing and the Fuelie was about to go into production. Chevy general manager Ed Cole gave Duntov the green light to move forward with the XP-64/Corvette SS racer. The XP-64 was a purpose-built, tube-frame racer that was to be the template for Duntov’s 1957 Le Mans assault team of Corvette SS racecars.

Image: K. Scott Teeters – The Corvette SS Racer is owned by the Indy 500 Museum. This photo was taken at Bill Tower’s 2016 “60 Years of Corvette Racing” seminar at the 2016 12 Hours of Sebring event.

“Lightweight” was sports car exotica in those days and the only thing lighter than fiberglass or aluminum was magnesium, so the XP-64 was to have an exotic magnesium body.  But due to supplier difficulties, only enough sheet magnesium could be obtained to make one Corvette SS in time for the 1957 Sebring race event.

The entire program was so rushed that many things never were properly developed, including the body material. Poor John Fitch learned from his hot seat (literally) that the magnesium body was an excellent conductor of heat and was nearly roasted driving the car.

A few years later, as fiberglass body construction improved, builders learned how to make thin skin, reinforced bodies that were “light enough” and easy to repair. But for a brief (and HOT) time, a racing Corvette wore a every exotic suit of cloths. – Scott

PS – Check out our story from 11-2-11, “Hemmings Motor News old sister publication takes a look back at the first special-built Corvette race car, the SS Corvette”, HERE!

PSS – Here’s an interview with Bill Tower at his car museum…