1956 Chevrolet Corvette - C6.R's Great-Great-Great-Grandfather

Corvette Racing History Starts With "SR"-Equipped '56s Like This One

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Functional rear scoops directed air to cool off the 11-inch drums and cerametallic linings behind the "kidney bean" Halibrand wheels.

This particular '56 wears its SR equipment as proudly as it does the coat of Aztec Copper acrylic lacquer that was sprayed on during its restoration. When current owner John Neas found it, it was in need of more than just a freshening. Fortunately, almost the "SR" parts and pieces were still with the car. "The most difficult part was-when I bought the car, I knew that it had significance," says John from his Tulsa, Oklahoma, home. "Getting all the information and documentation on it was really just luck. Once you start working with people who know you have it, they'll say, 'Oh, I think I've got that documentation.'" John says that the late Mike Hunt-who'd found and bought this car back in the mid-'70s-had the original Chevrolet work papers that showed the production part numbers assigned to cars for their respective options, which he had received from noted Corvette restoration authority Nolan Adams. "Then there was Ken Amrick-he had a friend by the name of Bill Hutchison who had the finalized GM documents from March of '56 that told what parts came off when the SR parts went on," John adds, mentioning the documents that were likely given to the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (F.I.A) to homologate the SR-options-equipped '56 Corvette for production-class racing. John says it pointed out every production part for every possible configuration of Corvette produced in March of '56.

Through GM files, Art Armstrong documented a Chevrolet Engineering Department Build Order that showed these were St. Louis production cars. He relayed this through Loren Lundberg. Ken Kayser, in his great book on development of the Chevrolet Rochester Fuel Injection, supplied even more information and production blueprints on the 1956 SR Options. Dwayne Grotewold, the Chevrolet dealer who sold this car (No. 2834) new and then twice as a used car, supplied the original cancelled check plus other information from when he purchased the car from Doane Chevrolet. The second owner of No. 2834, Bruce Geisler, then delivered the original invoice from when he bought the car used from Grotewold Chevrolet. This spelled out every option and its suffix. Bruce Geisler has held approximately 100 records at Bonneville, and credits '56 SR No. 2834 as his first top-end racecar.

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Chevrolet's Styling crew gave the Corvette a needed facelift for 1956, a year when almost five times more Vettes were built and sold than in 1955.

Result of the all the historical research: Proof that this particular '56 Vette was one of the first six built at St. Louis with the SR options, and it's also one of only 111 '56s built with RPO 469 (the dual-quad 265) and RPO 449 (the special high-lift "Duntov" camshaft). Further research turned up its racing record, especially in the hands of second owner Bruce Geisler. He set a top-speed record of 126.93 mph with it at El Mirage dry lake in California in 1957, while winning over 25 drag races in a row on legendary California tracks like Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, as well as at strips in San Gabriel, Pomona and Colton.

Once word got out that this one-of-the-first-six, SR-optioned '56 Vettes was for sale, John says the news spread quickly among Vette restorers and collectors. "When I bought this car, people like Rich Mason, Chip Miller and Irvin Kroiz on knew it was for sale," he recalls. "When they talked to [previous owner] Frank Buck, he said, 'This body's on that frame, and that body's on this frame,'" he says. "It was hard for somebody to get the 'vision,' without grabbing hold of it. In retrospect, I'll say I am glad they passed, as this has been a fun project."

This car now has its original body and chassis on it, as opposed to when it appeared at the Rolex Monterey Historic Races in 1987, one of the Corvettes chosen to honor featured marquee Chevrolet. Frank Buck had swapped this '56's body onto the chassis of another SR-equipped '56, the No. 7 Sebring team car, which Zora drove around the track during the '87 Monterey Historics weekend. By the way, John now owns the No. 7 Sebring car, as well as this '56, plus a couple of historic RPO 684 C1s.

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