Today is Throwback Thursday where we like to feature vintage photos of Corvettes. When we heard about the passing of racing icon Sterling Moss earlier this week, I immediately recalled this photo of Moss with Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov at the 1957 12 Hours of Sebring.
According to a profile of the ’57 Sebring race in SportscarDigest.com, Chevy had four cars entered for Sebring that included two production cars and two modified cars. The modified cars included the magnesium-bodied 1956 Corvette SS (XP-64) that weighed 1,000 lbs less than the production Corvettes and its 283 ci V8 equipped with aluminum heads produced 315 horsepower. Chevy also had on hand their SS practice car that was constructed in fiberglass instead of magnesium alloy, and its rather “shabby” appearance compared to the race version earned it the nickname “mule”.
Following a practice session, Duntov gave his blessing to Maserati drivers Stirling Moss and Juan Fangio to make a few laps in the SS practice mule. (Apparently, Chevy pursued Fangio hard as a driver for Sebring, but he thought the Corvette SS was too new and untested and so he declined.) Fangio drove the SS Mule first and broke the Sebring course record on his third lap by almost three seconds. Stirling wasn’t quite as fast but still managed to best the 1956 course record of 3:29.7 with a 3:28. Corvette driver John Finch was able to get with a couple seconds of the course record but did not break it.
When word got out that an American Corvette had crushed the course record, the racing press descended on the Chevrolet Pit Boxes. Zora had told everyone to keep quiet about it, but the word was out on the unofficial times and the Europeans were now on notice that Zora and Chevrolet were there to win.
Although the Corvette SS was fast, the new racecar experienced several mechanical problems that forced its retirement after just 23 laps of the 12-hour race. It was shortly afterward that America’s automotive manufactures would agree to a ban on factory-sponsored racing and the Corvette SS project was ended.
For those interested, we suggest reading the full account of the Corvette SS at Sebring at www.sportscardigest.com.
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