1956 Corvette SR-2

The Soul of the Corvette and the Soul of GM

John Pearley Huffman Jun 5, 2003 0 Comment(s)

Father to the SR-2 were the Corvettes that showed up for the 12 Hours of Sebring at the legendary Florida airport track a month later. "As for the U.S. entries," Motor Trend wrote in a report on the March event in its June '56 issue, "the average sports car racing Joe simply wasn't to be found among the entries; they were strictly the cream of the U.S. crop. But there on the list, virtually rubbing elbows with the world's top-ranking sports car brass, was a team of 1956 Chevrolet Corvettes, looking as awkwardly out of place as a girl in her first high heels."

Those awkward Corvettes at Sebring were the first to wear the SR name. It seems that back in January 1956, Cole and Chevy discovered that the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) which sanctioned the Sebring race required that any and all modifications made to a production car to make it ready for racing be available to the general public and that at least 25 examples of the breed needed to be built. So a new model was created: the "SR." Some say the initials meant "Special Racing" and others contend it meant "Sebring Racer," but the argument is wholly academic because the car's name was just the initials. The SR models were supposed to come with a 37-gallon fuel tank feeding an engine equipped with the legendary "Duntov" cam, Halibrand Sport disc brakes, an Auburn clutch, quick-change wheels, and that racing innovation, seatbelts. The Halibrand brakes didn't make it onto the race cars, but one of the four entered cars did have an engine engorged to a massive 307 cubic inches and fitted with a prototype of the Rochester mechanical fuel-injection system and a ZF close-ratio four-speed transmission. The three regular 265ci displacement cars ran in Class C, while the big-engine machine competed in Class B.

The SRs didn't win at Sebring, but they did earn respect. As Motor Trend's Al Kidd reported, the "Corvette team was entered by Raceway Enterprises of Dundee, Illinois. This dissuaded almost no one from calling it a Chevrolet 'works entry' but it technically avoided the blunt connotation... There was virtually no handling problem with the Corvettes. Heavy-duty springs and shocks (two on each rear wheel) brought about handling that all of the team drivers liked. There was a problem with brakes. At least four different types were tried out (including sport discs) but the final solution came with the use of Cerametalix facings on a slightly wider than stock shoe, along with finned cast-iron drums. The solution, while expensive, gave them outstanding braking power during practice, and excellent staying power in the race."

While two of the four Corvettes dropped out early (including the Class B car), one of the Class C cars finished 15th (with John Fitch as one of the codrivers) and another finished next to last. Hey, it was a start and Motor Trend concluded, "It looks like the Corvette may develop into our number-one challenger in international sports car racing." It did.

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