Collectors Corner: Golden Anniversary
December 30, 2002 | 10:47 A.M. EST
Although the Corvette does not come up in the racing news at RacingOne on a regular basis, America’s best-loved sports car has indeed played a major role in the racing community.
The Corvette made its racing debut at Daytona’s Speedweeks in 1956, when four factory-backed Vettes set out to exceed the 150 mph on the sandy beach. The power of their 265 cubic inch V-8 engines helped them surpass their mark by five mph, and from that day on, the Corvette has played a major role in not only racing, but also the American sports car market.
Corvette went on to score its first major win, a Sports Class B-class victory in the Sebring 12 Hours with John Fitch and Walt Hansgen driving later that season.
Forty-five years later at Daytona International Speedway the legendary Corvette was paired up with a legendary driver in Dale Earnhardt.
The seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Earnhardt and son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., teamed with Corvette driver Andy Pilgrim & Kelly Collins in the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Corvette C5-R (“R” for racing) in the 2001 ‘Rolex 24 at Daytona.’ The event marked not only the father-son duo's first time competing in the GTS-class Corvette C5-R race car, but also their first time competing as teammates.
Earnhardt and his team went on to finish second in the GTS class and fourth overall, in the yellow C5-R, in what turned out to be one of his final finishes in a race car before losing his life in the Daytona 500.
This year Pilgrim, has been selected to be the Corvette Racing 50th Anniversary Program Representative, in which he will be active with various groups to help celebrate the milestone.
Dale Earnhardt Incorporated is also recognizing the Corvette this season as they will host along with Chevrolet and the National Corvette Museum, "The Dale Earnhardt - Corvette American Legends Tour" at DEI, in Mooresville, North Carolina April 21- 22, 2003.
One Hundred lucky Corvette owners will have the opportunity to gather at the home of DEI and participate in a private tour of DEI Headquarters where Earnhardt's personal Corvette and race car collections are on display. Also the Corvette owners will have the opportunity to drive their Corvettes into the DEI showroom for a keepsake photo. Then on April 22nd, the group will caravan to Bowling Green (Home of the Corvette) and conclude the road trip at the Museum as it kicks off its 6th Annual C5 Birthday Bash, April 24-26, 2003.
Last season in the Indy Racing League, the Corvette and Chevrolet Impala models set the pace at IRL events on a rotating basis, with a special 50th Anniversary Edition 2003 Corvette being named as the Official Pace Car (for the fifth time) of the 86th Indianapolis 500.
The three 2003 Corvettes provided to the Speedway for the 2002 Indy 500 Pace Car duties were the only models in existence at that time, until the first 50th Anniversary Corvette came off the assembly line on June 28, 2002.
The Corvette also made its mark in the National Hot Rod Association. Although the Corvette body has been prominently been replaced by the Camaro in Funny Car, they did have their “moments of fame” on the quarter-mile.
Jerry Toliver earned his first career win at the 1999 Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway driving a Corvette C5 Funny Car.
Earlier that season Toliver and his famous WWF Stone Cold Steve Austin C5 were given the title of "World's Fastest Corvette" with a run of 4.939 sec. at 310.02 mph. Jim Epler currently holds the title of "World's Quickest Corvette" when he ran a 4.933 in his Eckler's/ EasyCare C5 Funny Car. Eckler's is one of the world's largest aftermarket suppliers of Corvette parts and accessories.
The Corvette is still present in the many different ranks of the NHRA including the Sportsman and Pro-Modified classes.
When it comes to die-cast collectibles, Racing Champions and Ertl produced various 50th-Anniversary Corvette die-cast replicas and die-cast and plastic model kits under an exclusive trademark license from Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors.
Product lines include 1:18 scale American Muscle die-cast replicas, American Muscle Body Shop 1:18 scale die-cast kits and 1:25 scale AMT plastic model kits, some which are available now in the Fan Shop!
Finally, once a year Corvettes from all over the world invade my hometown of St. Charles, Illinois for the "Granddaddy of all Corvette shows”, the Bloomington Gold. This is an event the Corvette enthusiasts will not want to miss!
This year the event will be held June 26-29 at the Pheasant Run Resort. For more information, visit www.bloomingtongold.com or call (815) 568-1960.
RacingOne Fan Shop Story ItemsFor Corvette enthusiasts and racing fans the RacingOne Fan Shop is currently offering some
unique Corvette products.