Long-lost Cunningham Corvette Race Car Displayed
Restoration planned for last of Le Mans racers; by Dale Jewett
Chevrolet Corvette enthusiasts on Thursday got an up-close look at a car that raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 52 years ago but hasn't been seen for more than 20 years.
On the eve of the Corvettes at Carlisle show in Carlisle, Pa., event promoter Lance Miller opened one of his climate-controlled garages to reveal the 1960 Corvette that many are certain is the car that wore No. 1 and ran in the 1960 race at Le Mans. More than 50 people invited by Miller to the unveiling swarmed the car to get a closer look and take pictures.
The car looks nothing like it did when it was raced. It has been sitting in a warehouse in Florida for more than 30 years. The car, which was painted white and wore the No. 1 for the race, is now painted a maroon color, wears plenty of dust and is missing much of hits hardware. There is an engine under the hood, but it is not the race engine. The engine is also missing an induction system and valve covers.
There is an engine under the hood of the No. 1 Cunningham Corvette, but it is not the race engine. Photo by Dale Jewett.
At the unveiling, Miller recounted the story of the car's discovery. It includes Briggs Cunningham historian Larry Berman, who knew the car's vehicle identification number because it was given to him by Lance Miller's late father, Chip. Berman published the VIN after Chip Miller's death.
Chip Miller got the VIN from Corvette restorer Kevin Mackay, owner of Corvette Repair Inc. in Valley Stream, N.Y. He had obtained a list of VINs from the organizers of the Le Mans race.
Chip Miller asked Berman not to publish the VIN to race car No. 1 until after he died, which happened in 2004.
There has been no leads on the car until June, when Berman was contacted by Rick Carr of Tampa, Fla. Carr was cleaning out two large warehouses filled by his father, whom he called "the original American picker." Carr found a Corvette in the warehouse with a VIN that matched the number posted by Berman on his Web site.
Berman contacted Lance Miller, a noted Corvette enthusiast who owns the restored No. 3 Cunningham Corvette race car. That car was restored by Mackay. Miller and Mackay inspected the car. Mackay says he has found five items on the car that remove any doubt that it is the No. 1 Cunningham Corvette.
Corvettes at Carlisle Promoter Lance Miller owns the restored No. 3 Cunningham Corvette that Raced at Le Mans in 1960. Photo by Dale Jewett.
That car did not finish the race. It began to rain two hours after the race started and the No. 1 Cunningham Corvette skidded off the track and crashed, catching fire. It could not complete the race.
Mackay will restore the No. 1 Cunningham Corvette to its race condition, a job he says will take two to three years. Many parts will have to be fabricated by hand, he said at the unveiling. The experience gained from restoring Miller's car will help, Mackay said.
The single hole at the base of the windshield was one of several clues used to identify the No. 1 Cunningham Corvette. Photo by Dale Jewett.
Lance Miller says he bought the car from Carr, but has since sold it. The car's owner has asked to remain unnamed for now, Miller said. But the owner will finance the car's restoration.
Mackay says the car will be a museum piece when it is finished. "I get great pleasure bringing history back to life," he said.
The car will be displayed this weekend in its warehouse-stored condition at Corvettes at Carlisle.
I sure love those "older" cars. I love to see them all shining and restored on our highways now. It gives you a good feeling, and a good thought-- "NOW THAT"S A CAR!!"And "they sure don't make them like THAT anymore, (and, in America")! I had a 59 Chevy (Bel Air), with straight shift on the column. I am so mad at myself to this very day, for letting it go, Heyyyyyyyy, I was 20. At that age, you think the future"s got better things in store for you; maybe "some" things, but to be honest, it isn't in cars. I'll just keep on watching those beauties on the highways, and in car shows, and get that far away gentle feeling of "yesteryear. "
The only Corvette I owned was a 1960; 283, single 4bbl, 3 speed. It was white with silver coves and a worn red interior.
Drove it a couple of years - it never failed to start, and never laid down. Wish I still had it........
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