About 150 Corvettes from 1953 to 1996 will attend the National Corvette Restorers Society’s national convention July 12-18 at the Overland Park Convention Center. Between 15 and 20 will be historically significant race cars, including class winners from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona.
John Neas, 74, a Corvette collector from Tulsa, is bringing four racers that are noteworthy for their place in the annals of Corvette road racing. One is the 1956 Sebring Corvette that he bought in 1994. Ed Cole, general manager of Chevrolet, turned to sports car racing in an effort to improve sagging sales by promoting the Corvette’s performance capabilities. This car, the ninth built, was purchased by Chevrolet engineering on Feb. 1, 1956, and modified for the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida. It received a larger fuel tank, heavy duty springs, Halibrand magnesium wheels, Bendix finned brake drums with cerametallic linings, special intakes scoops for the rear brakes, a plexiglass windscreen and a cover over the passenger seat.
Neas said he thinks that this is the only 1956 factory production car to participate in the race. The other participating Corvettes had 1955 frames with prototype or production bodies.
After Sebring, Chevrolet used the car as a test vehicle. It was raced in 1956 at Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wis., and at Cumberland, Md. The car also set a record in the Haven Hill Climb near Detroit.
Neas owns one of six 1956 Corvette SR-1s built to satisfy Sebring’s race requirements as a production car. Only two are known to exist today. Neas’s car is painted Aztec Copper. It was equipped with 11 special racing options such as heavy duty suspension, cerametallic brakes, Duntov camshaft, Halibrand magnesium wheels and Firestone Super Sport 170 tires. This car won 25 consecutive drag races in 1957 and was driven to a speed record of 126.93 miles per hour at El Mirage Dry Lake in California by Bruce Geisler.
Neas also plans to bring the first 1957 Corvette equipped with RPO684 (racing brakes and suspension). It was the national runner-up in B Production category of the Sports Car Club of America.
Neas’s fourth racer is a metallic blue 1956 SR-2 with a finned headrest. It was originally owned by Bob McLean, head of experimental styling and responsible for the first Corvette, the 1959 Stingray and several special show cars. With GM Styling Shop Order 90179, it was configured with an extended nose, louvered hood, special dash with Stewart Warner rally gauges, special headlight rims, SR-2 seats and 1958-style taillights.
The convention judging field, inside the Overland Park Convention Center, will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 15-17.