After finishing another successful racing season, Doug Fehan and the Corvette Racing team thundered into the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia for a pit stop. Situated a stone’s throw from the Philadelphia International Airport, the Simeone contains more than 60 sports and racing cars. Remarkably, all but a handful can be gassed up, topped off with oil, and running in about 45 minutes. These are not static display pieces, but rather fully functional war horses. Just knowing that makes looking at each car feel more “real.”
The Corvette Racing team arrived in one of its fully decorated big rigs with the C6.R “show car,” plus several unique Corvette display pieces. The event was a two-part “Legends of Corvette Racing” presentation. Friday night featured an open bar, buffet hors d’oeuvres, and a one-and-a-half-hour presentation by team manager Fehan.
Museum PR director Harry Hurst opened the evening by introducing Fehan, who was flanked on the dais by a pair of Corvette race cars. On one side was the George Wintersteen No. 002 ’63 Grand Sport, and on the other was the C6.R show car. Hurst said, “Ladies and gentlemen, before we bring up our special guest of honor, I would like to introduce you to the C6.R and Grand Sport Corvettes.” And on cue, both cars were fired up. Throttles were blipped, and the sounds of uncapped racing engines filled the room.
While a bellowing pair of Corvette race cars might seem like a tough act to follow, Fehan was unfazed. For the next 90 minutes, he explained the monumental efforts that go into every race of the season. Four videos were shown, featuring the various aspects of taking a racing team to Le Mans. Fehan explained the unique challenges of endurance racing and the critical importance of preparing for almost any possibility. One could not help but be impressed.
The last half-hour found Fehan taking questions from the audience. After the predictable barrage of queries about the C7, someone asked why Chevrolet doesn’t offer a “club racer” base Corvette with all the hot Z06 and ZR1 parts installed. Fehan acknowledged that while such a car would be deeply desirable to a small number of buyers, it would cost around $250,000 and sell in quantities too small to be profitable. Meanwhile, the base C6, at around $50,000, is so advanced that one could build a comparable track out of it for considerably less.
Another audience member asked if there was a possibility of Corvette becoming its own brand. Fehan explained that while such a move had been discussed, the amount of work surrounding the new C7, the final year of the C6.R, and the development of the C7.R kept it in the realm of the theoretical.
Asked about the future of the LS7, Fehan responded, “It’s doubtful. But the new engine will be stronger and lighter. And the 427 badges will still be available.”
He went on to share a insider’s perspective on that oft-asked car-enthusiast question, “Why don’t they just install a [blank]?” He talked about the challenges of not only building a lightweight sports car, but filling it with all the features and amenities we expect today, while simultaneously meeting federal crash and CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. He has a point: When one takes into account all the factors involved in building a production Corvette, the car is all the more impressive.