The headline is not a typo or a joke — a price for anything that includes seven digits is a serious matter and especially so for a car that hasn’t been started since 1967. Our friends at roadtrippers.com noticed this ad on eBay and understandably wondered if the ad and the car were legitimate. Certainly it’s not every day that you see a price that high on eBay, but it’s not even close to the highest eBay sale on record—that belongs to a Frank Mulders designed, 405-foot yacht that sold for $168,000,000 in 2006.
According to the ebay ad, the car is one of three Corvettes ordered on a Chevrolet work order and specially prepared by Chevrolet engineering for racing competition. It is advertised as the only known unrestored 56/57 Corvette factory racecar that retains the original drivetrain, including the prototype fuel injection unit, the engine from Chevrolet engineering, original interior, special engineering steering column, pre-production big brakes, Sun tach with GM part number, roll bar and more.
The ad goes on to say that the car, along with two sister cars, was sent to the Nassau Speed Weeks in December of 1956 and competed in the Governor’s Trophy Race. The following February, it ran in the first ever NASCAR sports car race at New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Shortly thereafter in 1957, General Motors was a party to the Automobile Manufacturer’s Association agreement banning all racing activities and ordered all GM racing programs terminated, and the cars and equipment sold. Our car was sold to a friend of legendary GM designer Harley Earl who used it sparingly and put it in storage in 1958, where it sat until the present owner bought it in 2004.
We did some digging around to shed some light on this car and the meticulous information maintained in the database of the Registry of Corvette Race Cars (RCRC) confirms that this car is a real 1957 Corvette that was specially ordered and modified by Chevrolet engineering for competition as described above. We also spoke with a couple of Corvette collectors/experts who verbally confirmed the fact that this car is, in the words of the RCRC, “a very well documented engineering Corvette.”
But, before you grab your checkbook and start filling in zeros, there is a bit of a cloud hovering over the car. None of the experts that we spoke with have had a chance to inspect the car in detail and none could vouch for the claimed racing provenance. Engineering Corvette racecars are very special cars that are replete with non-standard, specially made parts. It would take a team of Corvette forensic historians to inspect every part of the car to verify its racing authenticity.
There were three Corvettes prepared by Chevrolet engineering for the Nassau races and each bore the same color scheme—white body with blue stripes and coves, and red wheels. Car number 15 was driven by Dick Thompson, car 36 driven by Jim Jeffords and car 72 driven by Fred Windridge. The ad makes reference to the Governor’s Trophy Race on Dec. 7, 1956, a race in which only car numbers 15 and 36 competed. All three cars ran in the Nassau Trophy Race two days later. In an email response to my question, the owner indicated that he believes his car to be the number 15 car, but we were unable to find any independent verification of this belief.
In the eBay ad, the owner cites a YouTube video of the Nassau races. At about the 3:33 mark, the video shows the side of the number 15 car with fiberglass damage to the right rear quarter panel behind the wheel well. While not debilitating, the damage looks severe enough that the car would not have been raced unless it was fixed. If there was some indication of a repair to this area of the sale car, it would go a long way to verifying that it is the number 15 car. But, from what we can determine, this inspection has not been made.
The eBay sale runs until June 22, 2014 and the owner has now rejected five offers. We, of course, will keep an eye on the sale and, if anything dramatic happens, we’ll let you know.
Should you decide to make an offer, good luck and caveat emptor.