1959 Factory Fuelie Corvette Race Car, Period raced, Concours RestorationOne of the more interesting projects to involve Corvette in 1959 was Carroll Shelby's attempt to create the first Italian-American hybrid. He had Sergio Scaglietti, creator of the Ferrari Testa Rossa, clothe three 1959 Corvette chassis in beautiful, flowing, streamlined, lightweight coupe coachwork, a concept which found favor at Chevrolet but was summarily rejected by the competition-averse managers on the 14th floor of the GM Building.
Corvette soldiered on in competition with its fiberglass convertible bodies like the 1959 Corvette offered here. It was built from the outset to go racing. Only courtesy lights, deluxe heater and windshield washer ameliorate its uncompromising approach to performance. It is powered by the most potent combination on Corvette's impressive options list, the 290 horsepower solid lifter camshaft Rochester fuel injected engine, 4-speed manual transmission, Positraction rear axle and combination heavy duty brakes and suspension with together added $1,143 to it base price of $3,875.
The buyer was Gene Cormany, the Vice President of Engineering for the Zollner Corp. in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, a prime supplier of pistons for the American automobile and trucking industry. [Company owner Fred Zollner was one of the founders of the National Basketball Association and longtime owner of the Zollner Pistons team, later moved to Detroit where they became the Detroit Pistons.] Cormany had attended an SCCA driving school at Lockbourne Air Force Base in 1958 and raced a Corvette later that season, reportedly without much gratification which led to the acquisition of this single minded Corvette race car. He raced regularly throughout the Midwest in 1959 and 1960, scoring twelve top-three finishes including four wins out of 22 events.
Cormany made a practice of buying a new Corvette every year or two and eventually sold this one to Roland Gorman. The next owner, Dale Pearman, acquired it in the 80's and began a restoration. In the process he met Mike Ernst, an early NCRS member and Corvette expert. In 1988 Ernst had purchased from Chuck Brahms the engine and fuel injection unit from the first Scaglietti-bodied Corvette. The Carroll Shelby-prepared engine had been taken out of Brahms' Scaglietti before he raced it at the Monterey Historics in 1988. Interestingly, the numbers on the first Scaglietti Corvette chassis and Gene Cormany's '59 Corvette are very close, less than a week apart in the production sequence from mid-December 1958. In January 1989 Pearman acquired the engine and fuel injection unit to use during the restoration.
The current owner of the Corvette acquired it from Pearman in 2004 still with its restoration in process and sent it to Ron's Auto Restoration in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, a shop recognized for its expertise with Corvette restorations and particularly the early straight axle cars. There the restoration was completed over a three-year period from 2004 through May 2007 with the outstanding results seen here. Finished in its original color scheme of black with red interior (now leather), it has a braced full width bolt in rollbar, steel wheels with Goodyear Super Cushion tires and wears the race number 9 in a white roundel as shown in a contemporary on-track photo leading a Porsche and two Arnolt-Bristols. The driver and passenger sit behind a full-width cutdown windscreen which utilizes the original windshield mountings. A fully restored stock windshield and windshield wipers come with the car and it easily converts to street driving configuration with the windshield swap taking only five minutes. There is no soft top.
Corvettes that have been racecars since new rarely survive in anything close to the kind of condition that permits a restoration like this, and almost never with surviving original documentation. A beautiful car, it was state of the art in American V-8 sports cars in 1959 and it is still a welcome and competitive participant in historic racing series. Freshly restored to the highest standards, it will be a welcome addition to any collection, with an intimate connection to one of the best known of all Corvette projects in its 290hp Fuel Injected engine from the first of the Shelby Scaglietti Corvettes.