One of the First Chevrolet Corvette LeMans Racers Comes to the Peterson Museum

By -

Cunningham Corvette #2 High Front

Cunningham Corvette #2 didn’t win, but it played a key role in the first Chevrolet LeMans program.

The Chevrolet Corvette has an incredible history in the world of endurance racing, including a handful of wins at LeMans over the years. That racing success started shortly after the first Corvette was introduced in the 1950s, but it wouldn’t be until 1960 when Chevy’s sports car would win the 24-hour race. Teaming up with successful American racer Briggs Cunningham, Chevrolet sent three examples of the 1960 Corvette to LeMans and while two failed to finish, the third was the first to claim victory in Europe’s greatest road race.

The #2 car shown here played a key role in the development of the Cunningham LeMans team in 1960 before being sold from one collector to another through the 1990s, when Bruce Meyer added it to his collection. This 1960 Corvette is one of 10 race cars in the Peterson Automotive Museum’s newest display, titled “Winning Numbers: The First, The Fastest, The Famous,” giving attendees a chance to meet one of the cars that led to decades of Corvette racing success.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Badge

“Affectionately called ‘the car guy’s car guy,’ Bruce Meyer epitomizes true automotive passion,” said Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges. “The charisma with which Bruce shares his passion is what sets him apart. ‘Winning Numbers’ reflects his discerning tastes as a collector and motorsports enthusiast, and we’re proud to share his fervor for the hobby with the community.”

Cunningham Corvette #2 Front

Cunningham Corvettes

In the 1950s, Briggs Cunningham tried taking on the top sports cars from Europe in a customized Cadillac and a handful of his own custom-built race cars with Chrysler Hemi power before landing in a Jaguar. In the Jag, Cunningham found the success that had eluded him earlier on in his career and that success in Jaguar race cars caught the attention of General Motors engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Side

Duntov played a key role in the development and launch of the early Corvette and he pushed hard to get GM to back a LeMans run in 1956, but those efforts fell through. However, come 1959, he had convinced GM executives and Cunningham to give the Corvette a shot at LeMans.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Nose

Cunningham purchased three loaded Corvettes from Don Allen Chevrolet in Pennsylvania for just under $12,000, adding options like fuel injection, performance brake linings, quick-ratio steering, a four-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip rear differential.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Engine

The cars were then modified for racing, adding race-ready fuel system components including a 37-gallon tank, seats from a Douglas C-47 Skytrain military plane, stiffer springs than came from the factory and a handful of safety items including unique fasteners, aero bits and an access port for the fuel cell through the rear window.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Seats

Cunningham Corvette #2 was first tested in a race at Sebring, where it did well until the engine failed 41 laps in, followed by another hard test session at the old Bridgehampton circuit in New York. After these few tests, Cunningham and his teammates were confident that the Corvette was ready for LeMans, so they headed to France for the 1960 running of the 24 Hours of LeMans.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Tachometer

Corvettes at LeMans

The 1960 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race saw three Corvettes from Briggs Cunningham in the field, with the #1 car driven by Briggs Cunningham and Jim Kimberly, the #2 car driven by Dick Thompson and Fred Windridge and the #3 car was driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Steering Wheel

While the Corvette race cars were fast at LeMans, the #1 car was taken out of the race in a rollover accident and the #2 car was forced far back in the running due to a minor crash.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Rear

While the #2 Cunningham car was able to get back into the race after some simple repairs, it would eventually blow an engine late in the race. Fortunately, the #3 Corvette overcame overheating issues to win the class, finishing eighth overall.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Hood

That wasn’t good enough for Cunningham, who quickly parted ways with the Corvette program, selling off the assets including car #2.

Cunningham Corvette #2 High Hood

This Corvette would change hands several times in the 30 years following the LeMans run, being painted and modified for street use until one of the owners had the car restored to its racing look. In the 1990s, Bruce Meyer bought the car and while he continues to race it at classic race car events, it is currently on display at the Peterson Automotive Museum in California.

Cunningham Corvette #2 Switches

Cunningham Corvette #2 Front Corner

Cunningham Corvette #2 Autograph

Cunningham Corvette #2 Rear Corner

Cunningham Corvette #2 Fuel Filler

Join the Chevrolet Forums now!

"Before I was old enough to walk, my dad was taking me to various types of racing events, from local drag racing to the Daytona 500," says Patrick Rall, a lifetime automotive expert, diehard Dodge fan, and respected auto journalist for over 10 years. "He owned a repair shop and had a variety of performance cars when I was young, but by the time I was 16, he was ready to build me my first drag car – a 1983 Dodge Mirada that ran low 12s. I spent 10 years traveling around the country, racing with my dad by my side. While we live in different areas of the country, my dad still drag races at 80 years old in the car that he built when I was 16 while I race other vehicles, including my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and my 1972 Dodge Demon 340.

"Although I went to college for accounting, my time in my dad’s shop growing up allowed me the knowledge to spend time working as a mechanic before getting my accounting degree, at which point I worked in the office of a dealership group. While I was working in the accounting world, I continued racing and taking pictures of cars at the track. Over time, I began showing off those pictures online and that led to my writing.

"Ten years ago, I left the accounting world to become a full-time automotive writer and I am living proof that if you love what you do, you will never “work” a day in your life," adds Rall, who has clocked in time as an auto mechanic, longtime drag racer and now automotive journalist who contributes to nearly a dozen popular auto websites dedicated to fellow enthusiasts.

"I love covering the automotive industry and everything involved with the job. I was fortunate to turn my love of the automotive world into a hobby that led to an exciting career, with my past of working as a mechanic and as an accountant in the automotive world provides me with a unique perspective of the industry.

"My experience drag racing for more than 20 years coupled with a newfound interest in road racing over the past decade allows me to push performance cars to their limit, while my role as a horse stable manager gives me vast experience towing and hauling with all of the newest trucks on the market today.

"Being based on Detroit," says Rall, "I never miss the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Roadkill Nights, along with spending plenty of time raising hell on Detroit's Woodward Avenue with the best muscle car crowd in the world.

Comments ()