Ex-Scuderia Filipinetti 1968 L-88 Corvette. Photo: Jim Williams
Ex-Scuderia Filipinetti 1968 L-88 Corvette
As the only sports car model to be in continuous production for more than 50 years, the Chevrolet Corvette holds a very special place in world, as well as American, automotive history. Like the story of so many classic sports cars, a significant portion of the Corvette’s history can be traced to its competition and development, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Design work on the first Corvette began in 1952 with just 300 of the early 6-cylinder models being constructed by the end of 1953. By mid-December 1953, one of Chevrolet’s most talented development engineers and a former Le Mans racer himself, Zora Arkus-Duntov, wrote a memo to one of his superiors promoting the need for Chevrolet to appeal to the burgeoning hot rod crowd. In this memo he stated, “If it is desirable or not to associate the Corvette [with] speed, I am not qualified to say but I do know that in 1954 sports car enthusiasts will get hold of the Corvette and whether we like it or not, will race it… Since we cannot prevent people from racing Corvettes, maybe it is better to help them to do a good job at it.” Amazingly, General Motors was not keen to promote the Corvette as a high performance car. In fact, the next four decades would be heralded by an internal clandestine battle over the Corvette at GM. On the one side sat a corporate board that wanted absolutely no “official” involvement in racing and on the other, was a handful of die-hard enthusiasts within the company, like Duntov, who risked their own positions at GM in order to develop and prove the Corvette’s worth in competition.
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