Corvette has enjoyed worldwide status as a performance car to be reckoned with in modern times. Its exploits on tracks around the globe have reached legendary status and many of the world’s most talented drivers have enjoyed seat time behind the wheel of a Corvette in competition. The Petersen Museum is now celebrating over sixty years of Corvette racing in a new exhibit, which is now open to the public and will be on display through August 25, 2024.
The “Corvettes in Competition: Racing America’s Sports Car” exhibit will be available for viewing in the Charles Nearburg Family Gallery on the Petersen Automotive Museum’s second floor. The exhibit celebrates Corvette’s victories with some of the most iconic ‘Vettes to enter a competition. Visitors of the exhibit will be treated to many contemporary competition Corvettes, such as the C6.R and C7.R Corvettes that helped Corvette Racing win class victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring.
Also included in the display is a smattering of competition Corvettes that served as milestones on Corvette’s rise to worldwide track domination. The story starts with one of the C1 Corvettes that were on loan to NASCAR in 1955. This car, an updated 1953 Corvette, had a V-8 swapped in place of the original six-cylinder engine before heading out into competition.
Another highlight of the exhibit is one of the five Corvette Grand Sports in existence. Number 004, a coupe, was one of the more successful cars produced by Zora Arkus Duntov before the project was shut down. With only five cars in existence, opportunities to view one of these lightweight beauties are a rare occurrence. Thanks to the efforts of Petersen’s staff, you can now view one of these ultra-rare Corvettes in its “as-raced” trim.
Fans of the C3 era of Corvettes (1968-1982) will enjoy viewing John Greenwood’s “Spirit of Le Mans” widebody Corvette. This C3 was built prior to the 1976 season to race in the IMSA series and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In the mid-80s, the new C4 Corvette was proving unbeatable in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) sanctioned races. Corvette was effectively banned from competition in response to its winning streak, so a make-specific series was created just for C4 Corvettes. Each car was identical, save for different liveries, which meant the winning factor resided behind the wheel. Many great drivers sought to prove their mettle in this series and a large number went on to use skills they’d learned in a variety of other racing venues. This generation served as Chevrolet’s first official, factory-backed racing effort since parts were slipped out the back door by Zora’s team.
The C4-era Corvettes continued to compete on the world stage as evidenced by this re-bodied 1995 Corvette Callaway LM. With its body now completely fabricated from carbon fiber, this Callaway-built Corvette took on the world at the 1995 Le Mans race. It quickly captured the pole position for the race, but due to circumstances, did not finish the race. It accompanied two other Callaway LM cars the following year when it won the GT2 pole and finished third in its class and 11th overall.
As the C5 Corvettes were working their way onto the highways of America, Chevrolet was busy building the next generation of Corvettes to compete on the world’s stage. The C5.R is the result of a blank-slate effort to build the ultimate Corvette in its day.
The results are undeniable, as GM developed the C5.R into one of the top GT race cars in the world, clinching four straight team championships and three drivers’ championships from 2001-2004. This particular car came in second in class, and fourth overall in the 24 Hours of Daytona at the hands of Andy Pilgrim, Kelly Collins, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2001.
No matter what generation of Corvettes are dear to your heart, this latest display of some of Corvette’s racing exploits is sure to have something for everyone. The exhibit keenly lays out some of the more pivotal moments in Corvette Racing’s history and serves as an excellent compilation of milestones on its path to greatness. Any Corvette enthusiast would do well to pay a visit in homage to this collection of rare, racing thoroughbreds and you’ll be rewarded with your own memories that took over sixty years to create and will last a lifetime.