Today is the 50th anniversary of the running of the fabled 1957 Corvette SS at the 12 hours of Sebring. The Corvette SS nameplate has been hot of late due to leaks that the name will be revived for the vehicle nicknamed the Corvette Blue Devil for the last two years or so.
The original Corvette SS was born from a design by Arkus-Duntov, who used the tubular space frame of the Mercedes 300SL as his template. In the meantime, Harley Earl’s design studio, again using the D-Type Jag for inspiration, began with the body. The original fiberglass prototype was dubbed the XP-64. The letters stood for Experimental Pursuit, which the aircraft-loving Earl borrowed from planes that were in the early testing stages. A second car, however, featured a considerably lighter magnesium body that housed a 283 cubic-inch fuel-injected V8 that made 307 horsepower at 6,400 r.p.m.
The finished product left spectators wide-eyed and slack-jawed when it first appeared at the 12 Hours of Sebring. The SS was perfectly finished to the point that it looked far too delicate to perform as an all-out competition car. Its wide grille contained a full row of ‘teeth’, just like a regular production ’57 Corvette, and there was also flashy stainless-steel trim along the sides and across the tail.
The fiberglass test version qualified on the pole, while the lighter-by-400 pounds magnesium car was prepared for the actual race. The reason for this was that Earl was worried about damaging the paint job on the “real” SS.
From the beginning, it was clear there were problems. The metal body retained too much engine heat, which sent cockpit temperatures soaring, and the brakes began to fail. The final straw turned out to be the incorrectly installed rear-suspension bushings, which also failed, causing the back wheels to bang into the inner fenders.
[ AutoBlog ]