Uli Berberich-Martini is a successful German businessman who happens to be passionate about racing vintage cars. As in America, vintage racing in Europe is a gentleman's sport. Instead of competing for prize money, drivers race expensive vintage cars for the sheer enjoyment of putting the old warriors through their paces. Uli does not campaign one of the typical German entries from Porsche or BMW. Instead, he races a Corvette. In fact, he owns two vintage Corvette racers-a '63 Grand Sport replica and a '65 Corvette GT coupe.
The '65 shown here started life as a black-on-red 300hp coupe with a Powerglide automatic transmission. Giovanni Ciccone, a partner with Leingarten-based tuner Woehr & Ciccone, purchased it in 1986 with an eye toward restoring it for street use. Halfway through the restoration, a customer, Achim Kolb, bought the car from Giovanni and contracted Woehr & Ciccone to convert the Corvette into a vintage racer.
Ernst Woehr, the firm's other partner, is a big fan of Dick Guldstrand. Before building the car, he asked Achim if he could model the racer after Guldstrand's '67 Le Mans entry. Achim agreed. Ernst also named the completed Corvette "Luis," after his aunt. "We Germans name all of our race cars after ladies," Ernst told Team VETTE, "and Aunt Luis was a special lady to me." Special indeed: Herbert Schuerg drove Luis to victory in the "Over 4 liters" category of the FIA's Vintage GT Championship in 1991 and 1992.
After several years of hard racing, the car was purchased by Uli in 1997. Uli is a big fan of the late actor Steve McQueen and loves American musclecars. He felt the Corvette was a perfect vintage-race-car choice, because it's rare in Europe, extremely loud, and very fast. Uli took the car back to Woehr & Ciccone for a complete restoration. When the company became Callaway Competition in 1994, the restoration was continued under the new corporate banner.
Luis was completely stripped to the bare frame and everything was carefully rebuilt to as-new condition. The 331ci small-block was freshened up, and today it produces a little over 500 hp. New Guldstrand Motorsports suspension and brake components were installed, along with a C5 radiator and an electric cooling fan. New instruments and paint completed the restoration.
Callaway Competition followed the very strict FIA rulebook when restoring the old racer. Teams must use original or reproduction suspension and driveline components and vintage treaded tires. Despite these limitations, Uli and former German F1 driver Jochen Maas outpaced many Cobra Daytona coupes, Jaguars, and Ferrari GT cars to finish Third overall at Britain's Goodwood Festival of Speed. Uli recently competed at the FIA Old Timers Grand Prix at the famous Nurburgring, where he grabbed another Third-Place finish. Incredibly, the car was clocked at 175 mph on the main straight . . . in the rain. Not bad for a 40-year-old design!
Uli told Team VETTE that the GT racer can be tossed around without harm and controlled with the throttle in tight corners. It has tremendous torque that enables it to pull most cars out of the corners, and even boasts superior top-speed capabilities. We hope he keeps racing Luis for a long time, beating the best vintage cars Europe has to offer.