A chronicle of Corvette’s success in motorsports could fill several books, but the nameplate’s first contact with the world of racing is often forgotten. It all began in 1956, when Zora Arkus-Duntov set a 150-mph speed record at Sebring driving a Corvette roadster. The experiment would soon spawn the Corvette SR-2, a modified C1 Vette that featured a lengthened front end a massive, Jaguar D-Type-like wing on its trunk. Legend has it the SR-2 was born when Jerry Earl, the son of GM Styling chief Harley Earl, announced that he wanted a Ferrari. Harley immediately commission a racing Corvette that would become the SR-2, GM’s first purpose-built track car.

Nearly 58 years old in 2015, the SR-2 returns to the spotlight after years of lurking in the shadows. Having been through a complete and thorough restoration, the SR-2 is as magnificent as it has ever been and it is looking for a new racing enthusiast to take it back to Sebring, or any other American track for that matter. The SR-2 may have been overshadowed by the Ferraris and Jaguars of the late 1950s, but it earned its place in Chevrolet’s hall of fame as the first Corvette-badged factory race car. Read all about it below.

Click past the jump to read more about the 1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2.

  • 1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2
  • Year:
    1956
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    4-speed
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    331
  • Displacement:
    5.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    153 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    6885000
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 High Resolution Exterior
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1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 High Resolution Exterior
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1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 High Resolution Exterior
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The fact that this Vette is a purpose-built racer is evident as soon as you lay eyes upon it. The front end has been almost completely redesigned, being lengthened and receiving a reworked nose. The familiar grille of the first-gen Corvette was moved farther ahead of the headlamps for improved aerodynamics, while the latter were hidden under pointy caps. The chrome fenders were removed to cut down weight, while the standard turn signals were replaced by round cooling vents. The lengthened hood received several louvers toward the windscreen to let more air into the engine bay.

The sides remained untouched except for the added ducts on the lower side of the doors and the Halibrand racing wheels with center locks. Lastly, the exhaust pipes have been moved in front of the rear wheels. The rear of the SR-2 didn’t change much either, but only if you ignore the massive wing mounted behind the driver seat. The aerodynamic element is very similar to the one made famous by the Jaguar D-Type and features a headrest and a fuel cap. Other than that, the rear end lost its chrome bumpers and received a larger trunk handle.

Needless to say, the very first purpose-built Corvette race car sure looks gorgeous, with the longer hood giving it that appealing stance racers had before mounting the engine behind the rear seats become popular.

Interior

1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 Interior
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1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 Interior
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1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 High Resolution Interior
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Although the SR-2 was stripped and prepared for the race track, the interior still resembles that of the standard production car. The dashboard retains most of its features, including the gauges behind the steering wheel. The central area, on the other hand, received an aluminum plate and had its gauges are slide more toward the driver side. GM also ditched the drilled steering wheel for a three-spoke, wood-rimmed unit.

The door panels were striped, the gear shifter replaced with a smaller one, while the standard seats were removed to make way for sportier ones fitted with racing harnesses. Previously protected by a full windscreen, the driver and the front passenger each had a small screen in front of them.

Drivetrain

1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 Drivetrain
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Since Chevy’s largest engine for the first-gen Corvette was a 4.6-liter, small-block V-8 in 1956, the company commissioned Smokey Yunick to come up with a solution for the SR-2. The former NASCAR mechanic stroked and bored the original mill out to 5.5 liters and squeezed 331 horsepower from it. In this configuration, which included a four-speed manual transmission, and heavy-duty brakes and suspension, the car achieved a 152.8-mph top speed at the Daytona Speedweek in 1957.

This engine helped the Corvette SR-2 score four outright wins and five class victories in 35 events throughout its four-year career on the track.

Prices

1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 Emblems and Logo Exterior
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Since Chevrolet never intended to sell the SR-2 to private racers, there’s no word on original pricing. However, if you’re in the market for a unique race car, the SR-2 is being auctioned by Corvette Mike of Southern California during the Scottsdale Auction Week in mid-January 2015. There’s no official word on pricing, but I expect it to fetch in excess of $6 million given its uniqueness and tip-top shape.

Competition

Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

The Corvette SR-2 raced again many iconic cars throughout its career, including the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. Although the Vette’s bigger engine prevented it from racing in the same class as the Testa Rossa, the two encountered each other at the track many times. The most notable event was the 1958 Sebring 12 Hours, which the SR-2 failed to finish due to a broken rear axle. The race was won by Phil Hills’ 250 Testa Rossa, one of five Testa Rossas that had entered the event.

Unlike the SR-2, the 250 Testa Rossa was powever by 3.0-liter, V-12 engine that cranked out 300 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of twist through a four-speed manual transmission. Closely related to the rest of the Ferrari 250 line, including the 250 GTO, the Testa Rossa and its multiple variants went on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958, 1960, and 1961.

Jaguar D-Type

The D-Type is yet another giant the Corvette SR-2 raced against in the late 1950s. The two clashed at Sebring as well where none of the three D-Types that showed up on the grid managed to finish. However, the D-Type was living its final years, having already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in 1955, 1956, and 1957. The D-Type used a naturally aspirated, 3.4-liter, inline-six engine that cranked out 250 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque, and mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. The British racer was capable of sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and had a top speed of 162 mph.

Jaguar built 71 D-Types, keeping 18 for its factory race teams and selling the remaining 53 to privateers. The front-engined roadster has a prodigious career, winning 160 events out of 609. Additionally, the D-Type obtained 64 class wins.

Conclusion

1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 High Resolution Exterior
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The Corvette has a long and storied history on the race track, with each generation spawning several track beasts. From the Cunningham C1 Vettes of the early 1960s to the ALMS-winning C6.R, Chevy’s iconic nameplate has a successful 50-year motorsport career to brag about. With the C7.R likely to bring more trophies home, this career should continue with plenty of success.

The SR-2, however, is rarely remembered and honored for its achievements, which is rather sad considering it’s GM’s first ever Corvette track car. Now that it has surfaced fully restored, the SR-2 is finally getting the love it deserves. Hopefully, it will also end up with an owner that will hoon it at the track rather than keep it locked in a garage.

  • Leave it
    • High maintenance car
    • Do you have a few million dollars lying around?

Source: DupontRegistry

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