Legends: When Fangio and Sterling Moss Drove the ’57 Corvette SS
Video recalls tale of legends meeting Zora Arkus-Duntov and smashing the Sebring lap record with prototype Corvette SS.
Seldom do so many legends meet, but one spring day in 1957, four incredible motorsports found a common thread in Sebring, Florida. Gathered for the grueling 12 Hours of Sebring were Sterling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Zora Arkus-Duntov, and one more legend: The Mule.
The Mule was an experimental ‘57 Corvette SS and after Zora showed the two legends Moss and Fangio around, they took the fuel-injected SS around Sebring’s 5.2-mile course. Fangio took the first spin and knocked nearly 2.5 seconds off the existing lap record. Moss took a turn next and came back grinning.
It was clear that Chevrolet had built a car that could bludgeon the nimble Europeans around the old bomber base in Florida’s swamps. The Mule’s fuel-injected 283 made north of 300 horsepower, an incredible number matched perhaps only by the race-winning Maserati, driven by Fangio.
Fangio wasn’t in Sebring to race the Corvette, but he happily took it for a spin during pre-race testing. The old Sebring layout included room to stretch out the 283 in fourth gear. That allowed the fiberglass rocket to hit immense top speeds.
Other racers weren’t nearly as intimidated by the pace. The 12 Hours of Sebring is a challenging race today and it was far more treacherous 60 years ago. The beat-up racing surface chewed up cars, while tight turns following long straights ate up brakes. Well sorted cars from Jaguar, Maserati, and Ferrari were more likely to last, but none could match Corvette’s single lap pace.
Unfortunately, the Corvette SS that entered the race failed to last, as expected. The new power-assisted brakes caused issues for Corvette driver John Fitch, who had set the pole time.
However, one of the Corvettes did take home a class win. Dick Thompson and Gaston Andrey finished 12th and first in the GT5.0 class for cars with up to 5.0-liter engines. Of course, the only other car in the class was another non-SS Corvette and it finished 15th.
Even if the Corvette SS fell short in ‘57 race, the test drives showed Corvette as a world-class car. And it brought three legendary car guys together with one special machine.