Jim Minneker has traveled a long and winding corporate road within GM since joining the company in 1970 as an engineer. Growing up in Michigan he always tinkered with engines. As a student at Michigan State University he joined a student drag racing team as a hobby and quickly found out he had a talent for winning trophies.
In 1970 He joined Pontiac as an engineer and continued to take on added responsibilities. His positive influence on Corvette engineering began in 1986 when he was promoted to Corvette Powertrain Systems Manager for the Corvette group. For the next 10 years his projects included developing the fourth generation LT1, LT4 and LT5 engines and the fifth generation LS-1 and LS-6 small-blocks. In the late-80’s while working with Corvette, he attended a professional driving school and obtained his competition license. His racing career included driving road racing Corvettes for Baker Racing, Morrison Engineering & Development, Doug Rippie Racing and Mallett Motorsports. He successfully competed in the SCCA World Challenge, the IMSA Supercar series, IMSA GT and the Grand Am series. In March of 1990 he was one eight drivers who set the 24-Hour Speed Endurance World Record driving a showroom stock ZR-1 Corvette. The team averaged 175.885 mph and broke a 50 year old record.
In the early nineties, Jim became active in the 1994 opening of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He developed displays that were related to Corvette powertrain and engineering achievements, which highlighted the hi-tech nature of Corvette. His passion for the museum was recognized by the NCM when he was elected to became the museums Chairman of the Board. His leadership and vision in that one year position help set the course for a successful and expanding Corvette museum.
Starting in 1996 Jim competed in multiple One Lap of America events that crisscrossed the United States. In 1997, he drove a Mallett Motorsports modified 1997 C5 Corvette 7,000 miles in five days to finish 2nd overall in that year’s event. His C5 Z-51 Corvette coupe was fitted with a prototype 2001 LS-6 engine. It was a great way to validate the durability of this new engine that would be available for the 2001 Corvette. Jim became the engineering group manager for GM’s High Performance Vehicle Operations where many breakthrough products were developed for Saturn, Cadillac CTS-V and other GM products. Jim also set several speed records driving modified four-cylinder EcoTech powered GM products on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Jim left the High Performance Vehicle Operations to develop a variety of truck engines and continues to be deeply involved in GM’s engine development programs.
In spite of a busy work schedule at GM, Jim is still able to spend time with his family, attend ice hockey games and support the National Corvette Museum. Jim Minneker is a worthy inductee into the 2017 National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame.
Photography by Walt Thurn