THE EARLIEST KNOWN CORVETTE RACE CAR, VIN E53F001211. This Daytona Beach “NASCAR Unit” was created by Chevrolet Engineering for NASCAR stock car racing, and was probably a dual branding effort between Chevrolet’s Ed Cole and NASCAR’s Bill France. This effort was part of Ed Cole’s push to save the Corvette from extinction (700 sales in 1955) and Chevrolet’s first effort in creating a brand image of speed and performance lasting through seven generations of Corvettes.
This Daytona Beach NASCAR 1953 Corvette Convertible, VIN # E53F001211, is one of two, a 1953 and a 1955, that were built/rebuilt by Chevrolet Engineering to be equipped with dual four high output 1956 engines, 3 speed close ratio transmissions, heavy duty rear end assemblies, plastic tonneau covers, small racing windshields and relocated gauges per Mauri Rose. Work was done by Chevrolet Experimental Shop and Garage, subject title: “REBUILDING OF NASCAR CORVETTES FOR STOCK CAR RACING”, dated November 3, 1955. This project was under the direction of Ed Cole and the conversion was under the supervision of 3-time Indy 500 Winner, Mauri Rose.
Delivered to Smokey Yunick, Daytona Beach, Florida in early February 1956 in time for promotional NASCAR photos with Bill France Jr. and Joe Hawkins and the subsequent February 12 -26, 1956 Annual Winter Daytona Beach Classics which included the 7th Annual International Safety and Speed Trials and Stock Car Races (race number 27).
Prior to rebuild by Chevrolet Engineering, this 1953 VIN #211 was raced by NASCAR’s legendary Thomas Brothers (Herb & Don), Junior Johnson, Jimmy Massey, Ralph Liguori, and Gwyn Staley at the Bowman Gray Stadium, Martinsville Speedway and Raleigh Speedway in 1955 (race number 62).
After the February 1956 Daytona Beach races, this car returned to the grit and grime of the legendary North Carolina NASCAR race tracks, primarily Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem, where it was driven by Pee Wee Jones, Bobby Myers, Gwyn Staley, Junior Johnson and Jimmy Massey with race numbers 3 & 27.
In 1958, Mr. Leslie Gray Tuttle purchased #211 from NASCAR and received the GM – MSO and became the first titled owner of #211, and over fifty years later, Mr. Tuttle provided conclusive evidence that helped identify #211 as the original NASCAR Daytona Beach and Carolina Racer.
Documented with the Chevrolet Engineering department build orders and vintage photos from private collections, Chevrolet and the NASCAR archives! This is the earliest known Corvette to run NASCAR’s sanctioned events…and the earliest known Corvette to ever race thus “A Pioneer of Speed”…and a fascinating chapter of Corvette and NASCAR history!
Click here for a history timeline and almost two dozen vintage photos.
Show Awards and Invitationals: Class Award at the 36th Annual Concours d’Elegance of America in July 2014. Bloomington Gold Great Hall Special Display in June 2014. First Place Class Award and the Bill Rudd Honorary Trophy at the 36th Annual Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in June 2014. 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 9th, 2014. “Competition Corvette” display at the Corvette Nationals Show in November 2012.
Interesting Links: Read about the Chevrolet Engineering Cars that helped save the Corvette. More information is wanted about the Chevrolet/NASCAR SCODA Corvettes that raced in 1955 and 1956 at Daytona Beach and NASCAR tracks in the Carolinas. Chevrolet’s answer to the Ford Thunderbird at the 1956 Daytona Speed Week in this 15-minute documentary on YouTube. Historic Timeline.
Credits: Noland Adams, Dave Bartush, David Burroughs, Chevrolet Archives, The Daytona Beach NASCAR Archives, Bill Gould/Auto Ancestry, Historic Speedway Group, John Hutchins, Tim Jones, Richard Miller, Chocolate Myers, Dick Whittington, Laverne Zachary
Special Thank-you… must be given to Loren Lundberg, for without his help the true identity of VIN #211 may have been lost forever and Gray Tuttle of Clinton, NC, who bought VIN
#211 from NASCAR in 1958 and was extremely helpful in identifying the “bones” and offering conclusive evidence that this was his old Corvette race car.
Key Players: Bill France, Paul Whiteman, Mauri Rose, Smokey Yunick, Hubert Westmoreland, Alvin Hawkins, Joe Hawkins, Chevrolet, NASCAR
Key Drivers: Pee Wee Jones, Junior Johnson, Ralph Liguori, Jimmy Massey, Bobby Myers, Gleyn Staley, Don Thomas, Herb Thomas
Comments of questions, email: [email protected]