There is a saying within Corvettedom that “racing improves the brand”, but it also has a way of making particular cars more valuable as well. I mean, who wouldn’t have loved to purchase one of the super-rare ’63 lightweight Grand Sports when they were merely “old race cars”? Someone did.
So, many are asking themselves what the next big thing might be as it pertains to race cars that have worn out their usefulness so far as being competitive? Some are betting that the C4 generation’s Corvette Challenge race cars will pick up the mantle of value. And there’s plenty of reasons to make this segment of competing Corvettes desirable.
A Brief Background
For those who might only be familiar with C5 and later iterations of Corvettes, make note that Chevrolet DID produce cars before these generations and for their time, they were very competitive. So much so that the sanctioning bodies prohibited them from competing since vaunted marques such as Porsche and Lotus couldn’t keep up with them. They were so dominant that they won every race they entered and the only competition they had was among themselves. So, in 1988, the SCCA banned them from running in the Showroom Stock class altogether.
That led entrepreneurial types such as John Powell, a successful Corvette racer, operator of one of Canada’s leading competition driving schools and creator of the Player’s Cup, a Canadian series for Camaros and Firebirds, to conjure up a new class that would feature only Corvettes and get the slower traffic out of the way.
Since it would only be Corvettes, it was called the “Corvette Challenge” and teams would compete for a previously-unheard of purse of one-million dollars! Of course, that brought out some of the best drivers and the fiercest competition to racetracks all across North America. Enjoy this video from 1988’s competition. Plus, there’s a great golden nugget at the end for you C4 ZR1 folks!
The series received backing from GM and others such as Goodyear, Exxon and Mid America Designs, now known as Mid America Motorworks. Chevrolet created a very limited series of uniquely-configured Corvettes to participate in the series, thus ensuring each car was to spec.
The cars were then sent to Protofab in Wixom Michigan by Powell Motorsports to be prepped for racing. This included a full roll cage, onboard fire extinguisher system, racing seats, Bilstein shock absorbers and special wheels along with other details to meet the demands of highly competitive racing. The initial buy-in for a Corvette Challenge car was $33,043 with an additional $15,000 going to Powell Motorsports to cover the cost of Protofab’s preparation work and a one-year entry fee for the series.
I’ve learned so much this year, it’s incredible! – Andy Pilgrim
Having the cars so evenly equipped put acquiring podium spots on the shoulders of the drivers and team rather than to having more power than the other guy. This honed the drivers’ skills as well as the cars capabilities. As you can imagine, competition was intense and the fans loved every minute of it. The series ran through 1988 and 1989, and then, once the competition felt they had caught up to the performance of Corvettes, the SCCA brought Corvette into its new World Challenge series for 1990. The 1990 cars were sold through Chevrolet dealerships and all modifications for racing were the responsibility of the owning team.
This 1989 Corvette Challenge car recently showed up on Ebay and currently has two more days of bidding before it is rendered to its new owner – if the reserve price is satisfied. Currently, it sits with 22 bids, topping off at $24,300 and a reserve that is higher than that.
This particular car was verified as the car driven by Randy Ruhlman and according to the ad, raced in all twelve races that year without suffering any damage or crashes. It is in as-raced condition and has just a tick over 6,000 miles on the odometer! Of course, as with any race car, those miles accrued one lap (or ¼-mile) at a time.
The car was purchased as-raced following the ’89 season and spent most of its time in the National Corvette Museum. It was also owned by Mike Yager, founder of one of the series’ major sponsors, Mid America Designs. It now resides in Connecticut in search of a new owner. Will you be the next chapter in this historic Corvette’s story?