On August 29, 2014, the National Corvette Museum inducted GM engineer John Heinricy, author/writer Jerry Burton, and the late racing driver Dave MacDonald into the Hall of Fame. This event is designed to recognize people who have made a significant impact in the Corvette world. The Hall began in 1998 and today it has inducted 57 people, including the 2014 members. It’s an impressive group and it would be impossible to cover all three inductees in this limited space. We decided to give you some background on John Heinricy and how he has impacted Corvette development.
When John retired from GM in 2008 he felt like he was leaving his dream job. As he likes to say: “Where else could you find a career that lets you play with cars all day?” John began working for GM in 1970 at the Milford Proving Grounds as an engineer in training. His first assignment was working in the research and development department on building aluminum Can-Am and Trans-Am engines. After a 2-year training assignment he was promoted to experimental test engineer and did durability testing. Next, he worked on a variety of projects that included front- and rear-wheel drive vehicles. During that assignment he drove the hottest Corvettes, Camaros, and Chevelles. In early 1983, he began testing the new C4 Corvette at the Milford and Phoenix testing facilities. Later in the year he was promoted to Development Manager for Corvette under Dave McLellan. His interest in racing began in 1984 when his group converted a test Corvette into a production spec 85 race car for an upcoming Mid-Ohio 24-hour race (which it won). The Corvette was owned by the Guldstrand/Morrison racing team. Heinricy asked owner Dick Guldstrand how he could learn to race, Guldstrand suggested that he attend an SCCA driving school to get his competition license. That is exactly what he did and began driving Morrison-prepared Showroom Stock Corvettes. John won numerous races and championships when he drove for the Morrison team.
After receiving his Master’s degree in business, he became a GM executive and was promoted to Product Manager, reporting to Dave McLellan. On the weekends he continued to build an impressive racing resume. This included setting a 24-hour speed record in a ZR-1 and winning two drivers championships in the Escort and Firehawk series driving Camaros. In 1992, Dave McLellan retired and John began working for Corvette’s new Chief Engineer Dave Hill. Hill promoted John to Assistant Chief Engineer for Corvette. During this time, Heinricy worked on improving the C4, while Hill concentrated on developing the C5. His duties included getting the 405hp ZR-1, ’95 Indy Pace Car, the ’96 Collector’s Edition, and the Grand Sport ready for production. After these projects were completed Hill asked Heinricy to be the launch manager for the C5 at the Bowling Green Plant. He worked on releasing the fixed roof coupe and the Z06 (which remains his favorite track Corvette) at Bowling Green. In 1997, he was promoted to Chief Engineer for the Camaro/Firebird. This is a position that he held until 2000 when that brand’s production stopped.
During this same time he worked with Chevrolet Racing and Pratt & Miller to develop the C5-R Corvette GT racer. During 1998, he extensively tested the prototype at various racetracks around the U.S. He became one of the factory drivers for Daytona and Sebring in 1999. He remembers: “every time I drove that car it was special to me. This C5-R racing experience is how I got the idea to form the High Performance Vehicle Operations group in 2001. I wanted to utilize race engineering to transfer knowledge to our production cars.” John’s first project in his new job was developing the Cadillac CTS-V street car and the SCCA World Challenge racing car. He also helped develop a certified test driver program that consisted of three levels of expertise. His goal was to ensure that development engineers had the correct skill set to push vehicle dynamics quickly and safely. John’s organization needed qualified drivers, because they were testing cars at the demanding 12.3-mile Nurburgring test track in Germany. Only Level 3 certified drivers are allowed to test at the Ring. When John retired from GM in 2008 his group was absorbed into other car units, but his driver training and certification program for test drivers is still being followed today.
After he retired from GM he formed his own company called Heinrocket Inc. and these days he consults with aftermarket manufacturers like Hennessey Performance. John was hired to be the development driver for the wicked-fast 1,230hp, 2,300-pound Venom GT street car. The Venom recently went from 0 to 270 mph and back to 0 on a 3.5-mile runway (he was not driving). He also races every chance he gets and serves as an instructor at various track day events around the country, including the NCM Motorsports Park. John is a well-deserving member of the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame.