The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este features the best of the best, in one of the world’s most beautiful settings. Among the world’s rarest cars that were on display at Lake Como in Italy over the past holiday weekend was this 1959 Scaglietti Corvette.
The Scaglietti Corvette came about when a Texas oilman and gentleman racer named Gary Laughlin decided it was time for America to produce a car that would have the distinction, performance, and style of a Ferrari along with the power and reliability of a Chevrolet.
Laughlin used his influence as a Chevrolet dealer and his friendships with automotive journalist Peter Coltrin and racers Jim Hall and Carroll Shelby to come up with what has become known as the Scaglietti Corvette. Their goal was to build a genuine high-performance GT with enough leg and headroom to meet American expectations.
On one of his many trips to Europe, Laughlin met with famous designer Sergio Scaglietti. His company, Carrozzeria Scaglietti, was founded by Sergio in 1951 across the road from Ferrari in Maranello outside Modena, Italy. Scaglietti earned Enzo Ferrari’s trust and respect through his bodywork and design skills, and by the mid-1950s he had become the Carrozzeria of choice for Ferrari’s racing efforts.
Scaglietti, who was busy at the time producing Ferrari’s Tour de France and purpose-built racing cars, nevertheless agreed to produce a limited run of bodies for the Corvette chassis.
Thanks to Chevrolet General Manager Ed Cole, three 1959 Corvette chassis were secretly shipped overseas to Italy – one as a four-speed fuelie and two others outfitted with twin four barrels and automatics.
While giving Scaglietti design latitude, Laughlin demanded a proper Corvette grille, as well as American touches to the interior with Stewart Warner gauges, T-handle parking brake, Corvette shift knob. At the same time, the car also featured classic Italian touches like a crackle-finish dash, deeply bolstered leather seats, and exquisite door hardware – not to mention the sleek body that was very reminiscent of the Ferrari Berlinetta.
The first car – the one you see here – was finally completed after 18 months of work, but it wound up being the only one to be finished and shipped back to the U.S.
Back then, American companies were being pressured to eliminate high-performance and racing programs, so GM management told Cole to drop the project as they didn’t want to deal with the repercussions of a GM-backed Italian-bodied Corvette. The other two chassis were sent back to Houston partially completed, where Hall accepted one and the other one was sold after Shelby didn’t want it.
While the Scaglietti Corvette wound up not having the fit and finish Laughlin was after, it did manage to slice 400 pounds of weight off a regular Corvette.