Chevrolet Corvette SS #1 – AUTOart

Corvette SS
1957 Chevrolet Corvette SS 
Pilots: J. Fitch, P. Taruffi
Team: Lindsay Hopkins
Race: DNF (S 5.0 class) at the Sebring 12 Hours 1957
AUTOart - 51051 (diecast)

Published 06/18/18

Zora Arkus-Duntov created the Corvette SS to race at the 1957 Le Mans race. He had three goals in mind: he wanted a fast, light and reliable car. Inspired by the Mercedes 300 SL, his team created a tubular steel space frame with an ultralight magnesium alloy body. It also had coil-over-shock front suspension, a de Dion rear axle and inboard-mounted aluminum drum brakes.

A lost opportunity for a gorgeous north-American car to race at La Sarthe.

The engine was the famous and reliable “small block V8”. It was a 4638 cm³ V8 with mechanical fuel injection that produced 307 hp, allowing 293 km/h of top speed. Without fluids the car only weighed 839 kg, so it was light and had a good engine, therefore it only also needed to be reliable. And to test that, the 12 Hours of Sebring, in March of 1957, was the perfect opportunity. Two cars were ready for the race, the actual race car and a test bed with glass fiber body called the “Mule”.

Corvette SS
From this angle it does resemble a LOT the 300 SLR.

The GM chief engineer at the time, Ed Cole, certainly believed in the SS. To the point that he even managed to get Juan M. Fangio (!!) to drive it in the Sebring race. But time was too short for the engineering team to get the race car 100% ready for Sebring. With that, Fangio was released from the contract. But the team managed to get the car to Sebring, and all “sorted” parts were transferred from the Mule to the second race chassis in time for the race, to be piloted by factory pilots Taruffi and Fitch. The car unfortunately had to retire after just 23 laps with suspension and mechanical problems. However, Fangio did take the car for a spin during practices. Even though it was the first time he drove the car, he bested his previous year’s record and set one of the fastest laps of the day!

Corvette SS
The Corvette SS is a fine example of what AUTOart is capable of in 1:43.

The car had true potential and bosses at GM liked it, but there was the 1955 Le Mans tragedy. The world still remembered the death of 83 people. Or better, the Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) specifically remembered. So in 1957 they banned the manufacture of factory-produced race cars in the US. With that GM pulled the plug on the project, and we saw one less gorgeous car at La Sarthe. Fortunately though, AUTOart makes the car in scale, and once again I have one (had it in 1:18 years ago). A friggintastic model of a fantabulous car, this is one of those models that EVERY race car collector should have. One word to sum it up: s-m-a-s-h-i-n-g!

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