We’ve already talked about some of the high end Corvettes being offered at the January 2014 auctions including a 1967 L88 coupe, the George Barris Asteroid Corvette, and The Rebel L88 racer. Potentially the most significant Corvette up for grabs next month is The Real McCoy 1956 racer. If it wasn’t for this C1, the aforementioned ‘vettes may not have even existed.
The Real McCoy began life as Engineering Project Tracking Number 6901 and was assembled under the watchful eye of Zora Arkus Duntov. Under the hood was a hopped up 307 CI engine wearing dual Carter 4-barrel carbs and the Duntov cam.
That combo was good for 255 horsepower and subsequently carried Duntov to a new Flying Mile speed record at Daytona. Later, in March 1956, John Fitch and Walt Hansgen piloted the car to a class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring. This win confirmed that Corvette could be successful in road racing around the globe.
So why is this car so important in Corvette history?
After Ford released the Thunderbird, the Corvette appeared to be in trouble. Sales were down to just 700 units in 1955. With this in mind Duntov penned a letter to GM management, warning that eliminating Corvette would yield market share to Ford. He also pushed for an acceleration in Corvette development with the goal of turning it into a world class sports car.
It had been noted that Corvette was entering 1956 “without credentials”. With that in mind, Duntov sought out to set the 1956 Daytona speed record we mentioned above. When the plan was hatched, the car had already been fitted with that 307 and Duntov cam, Fast forward to 1956 Speed Weeks and Duntov achieved his goal by averaging 150.583mph which was 23mph faster than the top speed recorded in 1955. The new record speed created a huge media buzz perfectly timed for the 1956 GM Motorama at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
Based on the success at Daytona, GM set off with a factory team for the 12 hours of Sebring. Duntov had concerns about the vehicle’s safety and was promptly reassigned within GM after raising those concerns to management. Racing driver John Fitch subsequently took over the program.
Fitch had 5 weeks to prepare the car for Sebring. The Corvette team sent 4 cars to Smokey Yunick’s garage for race preparations. Three were stock production cars and the fourth was what we now know as The Real McCoy still with its 307 cubic inch power plant. Parallel to this, Fitch was already at Sebring running test lap after test lap. During testing weaker parts broke, were redesigned for heavy duty use, and promptly put back into action. The quarterback in Detroit coordinating all that work? His name was Zora Arkus Duntov.
Car number 1 would go on to win Class B and finish 9th overall. Without that win and subsequent marketing blitz, the Corvette brand could have been gone forever.
In the 5 week flurry leading up to Sebring, several track-ready parts were developed including the magnesium Halibrand wheels, heavy duty brakes and their cooling scoops, heavy duty springs, shocks and sway bars, a shorter steering column, quick-ratio steering and a larger fuel tank. Later, most of those new items were made available in the factory Corvette parts bin.
So where’d that name – The Real McCoy – come from?
Chevrolet was quick to pontificate upon the Corvette’s racing success, saying that Corvette was “a tough, road-gripping torpedo on wheels” and “the most remarkable car made in America today.” The headline for the print media assault was simply “The Real McCoy.” Corvette was no longer an underpowered, poor handling 2 seater. For the first time it was now capable of competing with and beating the best sports cars from around the world. Nearly 60 years later, not much has changed.
The Real McCoy will be crossing Mecum’s red carpet in Kissimmee, Florida on Saturday January 25th at roughly 2:30pm eastern time.
Source: Mecum Auctions