The man who helped the C4 “King of the Hill” Corvette ZR-1 earn its reputation for endurance and speed has passed away.
Race car driver/owner Tommy Morrison was among an eight-member team that not only broke the 24-hour world speed record set 50 years earlier by Ab Jenkins’ Mormon Meteor, a single-seat race car powered by an aircraft engine, but they also established 11 other records, including a 5,000-mile mark, at an average of 175 miles per hour.
The record-setting effort also included an L98 Corvette, with Morrison as lead driver, that set five FIA Category A, Group II, Class 10 records, including six hours at 170.887 mph.
What did the endurance record in the ZR-1 mean to Morrison? He told long-time Corvette writer Hib Halverson, “To me this was a very sacred thing we set out to do, break a record that’s 50 years old. It was very difficult to achieve, but we’re avid Corvette people. I’ve owned Corvettes since 1962, and there’s nothing I wanted to do more than break this record.”
Morrison’s success is even memorialized with the only American sports car in the Smithsonian’s collection – one of the production ZR-1s he raced at Daytona and Sebring in the early ‘90s. In fact, Morrison served three terms on the board of the Smithsonian Institution, American History Museum, and was a charter member of the Peach Bowl.
His success in the ZR-1 came as no surprise to his fans, who had watched him win more than 24 SCCA and IMSA endurance races between 1984 and 1989 in Mobil 1 Corvettes and Camaros. In August 1984, he broke up Porsche/Nissan’s grip on top-tier showroom stock road racing in the U.S. with his first big Corvette win at Mid-Ohio in his 1985 prototype.
Morrison also helped make later generations of Corvette better as he worked closely with GM engineers on Corvette brake, suspension, and powertrain systems for future products. Morrison, who also was a successful team owner and manager, eventually was recognized for his significant contributions to the Corvette legend with his selection to the Corvette Hall of Fame in 2017.
The effects of a stroke and a motorcycle accident in 2005 had slowed Morrison in his later years, and he passed away at age 78 on April 2 at Wynfield Health and Rehabilitation in Albany, Ga. No services will be held because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his family asks that memorial contributions be made in his name to the National Corvette Museum.
You can watch Tommy Morrison’s Corvette Hall of Fame induction video here: