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Racing Corvettes, the Early years

A typical SCCA starting field after 1956 had a plethora of Corvettes. This start, from November 3, 1957 at Palm Springs, has Jerry Austing (#58) on the pole, Lek von Kaesborg in his 300SL and Mel Allen (#14) in the front row. If you look carefully, you’ll see yours truly somewhere in the middle in my XK120. Photo: Lester Nehamkin

In 1953, the very first Corvettes hit Chevrolet Dealers’ show rooms. Hailed by some as the long-awaited American sports car, for the most part they were derided by “purists.” I can see why. During that time, my father was working as a salesman for a Chevy dealer and he was assigned a Corvette demonstrator. Having recently left the Army, I had used my mustering-out pay for a down payment on a used 1952 XK120.

When my dad let me drive the Corvette, I was sorely disappointed. The “shlushomatic” transmission was a far cry from the magnificent Jaguar 4-speed, and the 6-cylinder overhead-valve Chevrolet engine wasn’t in the same class as the overhead-cam Jaguar unit. I won’t even try to compare the suspensions. Needless to say, the handling and performance left a lot to be desired by an enthusiast.

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