Chip was the right owner for this Corvette. Most Corvette people know Chip and his partner, Bill Miller, for their Corvettes At Carlisle show held every August. But Chip is also a serious Corvette collector and especially likes the '60 model. He vintage-races a '59.
"I graduated from high school in 1960," Chip says. "It was during college that I really discovered Corvettes of the '58-'60 vintage. I just liked them. They were brand new Corvettes of my youth. In 1962, when I graduated from college, I bought a '60 Corvette. It was my first Corvette."
In 1987, Chip was at the Monterey Historic Races when Mike Pillsbury unveiled the No. 2 Dick Thompson '60 Briggs Cunningham Le Mans race Corvette.
"When it came into the Doubletree parking lot on the trailer, I just about fainted when I saw it," Chip says. "I mean, it was so cool. It had the Halibrand wheels, the quick fill, the notch in the back window. I'd never in my life seen a cooler car. And I love Grand Sports. I love a lot of Corvettes, but I have to say for me, having graduated in 1960, that car held a particular mystique."
Not surprisingly, Chip had the enthusiasm to invest the large sum of money needed to restore his car correctly. He also put in thousands of hours researching, locating parts, documentation, and making sure everything was right on the car.
Chip's best source for information was the aforementioned '60 model that Pillsbury (now deceased) restored for the '87 Monterey Historic Automobile Races. Twice sold, it's now owned by Bruce Meyer.
Pillsbury got lucky when he gave a seminar on the '60 Le Mans entry in Boston. Alfred Momo, who was the head of Cunningham's race team, still lived in Long Island. He was in the audience. Moved by Mike's talk, he approached Pillsbury and asked if he would like some original pieces for the old racer. Apparently, Cunningham made extras of everything, like the exotic racing seats. Covered in velour, they were based on aircraft jump seats of World War II vintage. Pillsbury also lucked out with the fabricated dashplate for the gauges, hood louvers, and Halibrand "kidney" style wheels.
Meyer graciously allowed the seats to be pulled from the Thompson racer so they could be accurately re-created for Chip's car. Essentially, the cars are alike, built to the same specifications. The hood pins were especially time-consuming and expensive to reproduce. Including the cost of designing, machining, and plating, Chip explained, "By the time I was done with those two little hood hold-downs, we were talking an investment of $4,000. I had to have a Ferrari guy in Northern California design them, machine them, and assemble them. They are unique to the Cunningham Corvettes only."
What you see is an authentic re-creation of the original Cunningham Corvette racecar. No detail was omitted and no expense spared. As the exhaustive restoration proceeded, it almost seemed like fate was on Chip's side. Even before he bought the '60, he found a set of five Halibrand wheels advertised in the NCRS Driveline. "They were bare wheels-no spinners, hubs, or anything," he says. They were just bare wheels, but they were absolutely 100 percent original Cunningham wheels."
But Chip called too late. The wheels were sold. He got the new owner's name and ended up buying the wheels from him. Amazingly enough, they are precisely the wheels Cunningham used, painted blue to seal the pores in the magnesium. Chip believes some of these very wheels were used on his car at Le Mans.
For now, the '60 model is "eye candy." However, 2010 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Cunningham effort at Le Mans. Although Bob Grossman passed away a couple of years ago, Fitch is still active. The year 2010 is not so far off, and Chip Miller plans to take the '60 model and John Fitch to Le Mans.
"God willing, both he and I will drive that car on the course. That's a goal, and I have a lot of goals. Think about it. I'll have another set of wheels. I'll have newer tires that will be able to go around the corners. It's very well built."
We look forward to seeing you in 2010. Au revoir!