The team at Corvette Mike of Southern California is proud to offer, by “PRIVATE TREATY” and for the first time ever to the general public, the iconic 1956 Corvette SR-2 Sebring Racer: the very first General Motors purpose built Corvette Racer. The car will be displayed at Scottsdale Sport & Classic Autocars from Jan. 12-14, and can be seen from 12 pm – 5 pm. Be sure to RSVP by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the cocktail reception on Jan. 14 from 6-9 pm.
During the formative years of the Chevrolet Corvette a very special “purpose built” race car was designed and built with the intention of taking on the titans of racing, Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche and Maserati, at long distance events such as Le Mans. The car was named the SR-2, otherwise known as the Sebring Racer or Special Racer. There were only three built, and this is number 1.
Some would say there is nothing quite like the love a man has for his son; such is the story we have here. The man was Harley Earl, father of Jerome “Jerry” C. Earl and father of the Corvette. No one was more devoted to the Corvette than Harley Earl, who envisioned and championed the creation of the first true American Sports Car in 1953. Jerry was racing a Ferrari in 1956 when his father told him to sell it, as he, with the help of General Motors, would build him a special racing Corvette. This is the backdrop for what is the first General Motors designed and sponsored Corvette Racer, the SR-2.
In truth, this special race-inspired SR-2 had two fathers: the father of the Corvette, Harley Earl, and the father of Corvette Performance, Zora Arkus-Duntov. There were three SR-2s built, the second for Bill Mitchell, then Assistant to Harley Earl, and Harlow “Red” Curtice, President of GM, who had a show car version built.
In the Spring of 1956, Harley Earl and Zora Duntov built Jerry Earl a road racing “purpose built” custom Corvette Racer to compete with the likes of Ferrari, Jaguar and Porsche at the highest levels of motor racing.
Jerry Earl’s SR-2 started out life as a production 1956 Corvette #2522 from the St. Louis Plant and went straight to the GM Styling Studio in Warren, Michigan, for race modifications and cosmetic additions under workshop order 90090.
Work began in early May of 1956, modifying the body and adding Sebring Racing (SR) brakes and suspension. Special windscreens were fabricated for each driver and passenger, and a low fin adapted down the middle of the trunk. The front was lengthened and special side coves in stainless steel were installed, as well as unique parking lamps with screens for cool air to enter the screened backing plates of the front brakes.
More than 17 engineers worked around the clock, and by June 13 of that year, the painted new body had its trim installed, complete with SCCA race number 144 attached to the doors.
On June 23-24, 1956, the car was entered in the June Sprints at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Jerry Earl drove the car in practice and, not being familiar with its handling, spun it out, fortunately with no damage. Dr. Dick Thompson took over the controls and completed the six hour race in a respectable position. He noted that the car needed a weight reduction program and more horsepower.
Jerry Earl continued to race it in the Central Region SCCA throughout 1956 and 1957. Over the winter, the new special 331 cubic inch fuel injection engine was installed, along with an all new 1957 four speed transmission. The larger fin was also installed at this time with a special gas tank filler cap. The weight was reduced by removing the stock interior, including changing door panels to light fiberglass concave panels. Lightweight seats from a Porsche were added. The weight reduction program brought the weight down by 300 pounds, the configuration of the SR-2 as it stands today.
Complete additional history of this car includes Jim Jeffords, National B/P SCCA Champion in 1958 and 1959, purchasing the car on Jan. 28, 1958. The original bill of sale is still with the car, as well as Jerry Earl and Jeffords’ original titles and notarized transfers.
The Corvette SR-2 Racer evokes an emotional response from everyone that sees it. At the time of its introduction it represented the highest level of automotive racing design and performance. The SR-2 was the combined spirit of two great men in Corvette history and the culmination of many great things happening at GM in the early to mid-1950s. With a storied past, a prominent SCCA record and the highest quality concour restoration, it combines immeasurable historical significance with unbeatable styling and performance from the Golden Age of Racing. If you are a diehard Chevrolet enthusiast who’s been waiting for the ultimate show piece, here’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
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