The Corvettes of Amelia Island Concours 2012
One can find it challenging to define an automotive “golden age”. For someone growing up in before WWII, it might have been the roaring twenties and the rise of custom bodied cars. That sun settled with the depression and the start of WWII. After which gave rise to the nimble sports car which in turn gave birth to the “golden age” of the American muscle car.
In the fifties, the big 3 were focused on profit and marketing strategies. Big was in as suburbia ventured out on the exponentially increasing highway system. Even as the bean counters sought sturdy profits in comfortable sedans, there was an undercurrent coming from the youngsters.
GM introduced the Corvette in 1953 to focus on the youth market. It may not have been obnoxiously powered, but the Corvette used fiberglass to lighten the load of the 150 hp Blue Flame 235 cubic inch straight 6.
Beyond the gaze of management, there were guys tinkering with bold ideas and even bigger horsepower. Zora Arkus-Duntov led a team of engineers to create the ultra light 1957 XP-64 SS concept. The 1850 pound Corvette was powered by a 307 horsepower, fuel injected V-8. Using the Mercedes 300SL as a template, the featherweight Magnesium bodied Corvette was created with the 24 hours of LeMans in mind.
The XP-64’s first test was to be the 12 hours of Sebring. Juan Manuel Fangio, the winner of the 57 Sebring, came on board to test the XP-64. In his virgin runs the Corvette was 4 seconds faster then the competition. But the program fell victim to the American auto making industry uniting to ban the factory racecars. Can't you just see Racer X running down the road in this ride?
A dimly lit corner in the storied annuals of the Corvette are the three 1959 chassises that were rebodied by the Italian Carrozzeria Scaglietti. Three Texas racers, Gary Laughlin, Jim Hall and Carroll Shelby banded together in a bid to marry an inexpensive American drivetrain with Italian lightweight construction engineered and designed by Scaplietti. The word is that Enzo heard about the relationship and immediately leaned on Scaglietti to cease and desist. The end result was 1 complete car and 2 with questionable interiors. DEW Motor cars of Sterliing Virginia recently finished tidying up the above car for its appearance at Amelia.
One of the great things about attending a concours like Amelia Island, is that you get to see cars from the dreams of your childhood.
The 61 Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark was one of the cars at the Amelia Island 2012 Concours that did it for me. The XP-755 was designed under the direction of Bill Mitchell in 1961. Larry Shinoda penned the lines of the mako shark inspired concept car. The 63 Stingray is a direct descendant of the dramatic Corvette. I had seen the XP in photos, but here it was in the flesh. What a treat!
64 Corvette XP-819 is another gem prototype designed by Larry Shinoda. An aluminum Chevy motor was hung way out at the end of the chassis. During high speed testing the rear engined Vette made fast friends with a wall. The bits and pieces were eventually discovered in the shop of Smokey Yunic. The XP-819 was restored back to this beautiful automobile. You can the lines of the XP-819 incorporated in the C3 Stingray design.
The 2001 Corvette C5-R was built by Pratt & Miller with wins at some of the world’s reknowned endurance championsships including the 24 hours of Le Mans, 24 hours of Daytona and the 12 hours of Sebring.
The C5-R Corvette took on the Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins and all other rivals to come away with what some may refer to as another Golden Age for GM and its racing endeavors.