1959 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray AUTOart - 51001 (diecast)
The 1955 24 Heures du Mans may well be the best known edition of the race. And not because of the race per se, but because of the huge accident where around 83 people died. That accident sent shock waves everywhere, and professional racing changed around the world. For instance, in 1957, the Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) banned the manufacture of factory-produced race cars in the US. After that, Detroit’s “Big Three” closed down their racing programs. But GM’s director of styling Bill Mitchel didn’t agree with AMA’s decree. So in secrecy, without upper management approval, he discreetly started to work on the XP-87 project. The idea was that this new car could be the basis for a new Corvette. With that, he gathered a few designers and showed them photos of cars like Alfa’s Disco Volante.
The XP-87, penned by Peter Brock, started out as a coupe. With the design chosen, Bill Mitchel started the prototype’s manufacture. From his own pocket he bought the 1957 Corvette SS mule chassis and started to work on the body. But he then decided to build a prototype Corvette that could be a race car, so the concept shifted toward a roadster. The idea was to race and sponsor it privately, without any link to GM. Since everything was done in secrecy, the car was only completed in April of 1959. On its first race that year it scored a 4th place and an SCCA national championship in 1960. The car was then retired as a race car, and it became Mitchel’s weekend drive.
Built over a Corvette SS tube frame chassis, the Stingray had a 233.7 cm wheelbase. It was also very light, weighing just 998 kg. That was about 450 kg (!) less than a production Corvette of its era. The feather weight came from a thin fiberglass skin with aluminum (initially) and balsa-wood (later) reinforcements in high-stress areas. In terms of power plant, during its racing career it had a 4637 cm³ (283 ci) V8. With fuel injection it produced 315 hp. But when it retired from racing Mitchel added a passenger seat and upgraded the engine to a 5359 cm³ (327 ci) V8 that delivered 375 hp. The impressive styling of the Stingray led directly to the design of the 1963 Corvette C2 Sting Ray.
Being honest, this model was not on my wish list. Well, I thought it was cool, but not something I would buy. I bought another model (high on my wish list) from a Greek seller, but when I opened the box, I got this Stingray instead. I got in contact with the seller to return it but he never answered my messages. eBay’s Customer Support stepped in and I got a total refund, and still the seller hasn’t got back to me 🙄. So I basically got it for free, and for that price I could find space for it in the W-143 Garage. It’s a typical AUTOart offering, or an other words, a beauty of a model. In fact, for the Corvette fan it’s possibly a must buy.
It’s also a reminder that AUTOart will truly be missed. With models of this caliber, it’s a shame that they’re out of the 1:43 business 😔.