|Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona
Friday, January 20, 2006
|1968 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Roadster Race Car|
The Tony DeLorenzo/Jerry Thompson “SunRay DX” and “Owens Corning Fiberglas” Car – A Multiple Year Championship Winner
585bhp at 6,600rpm 427 cu. in. big block Chevrolet racing engine, Muncie M-22 “Rockcrusher” transmission, front and rear independent suspension, coil springs to the front, transverse leaf to the rear with Koni adjustable shock absorbers, Minilite aluminum racing wheels with 5.00/11.50-15 front and 5.80/12.00-15 rear Goodyear Blue Streak racing tires. Wheelbase: 98"
Reprinted from a 1970 Owens Corning Fiberglas media release.
AMERICA’S STAR-SPANGLED SPORTS CAR
For nearly four decades the Chevrolet Corvette was the only sports car designed and built in North America. Capable of taking on and beating the world’s best production sports and GT cars on the professional international circuit, Corvettes roared on the Mulsanne straight at LeMans, flew on the high banks at Daytona and blazed their lights around the Sebring airport. On amateur SCCA circuits Corvettes won 14 “A Production” and 15 “B Production” divisional titles in the 1962 to 1976 period. SCCA Nationals saw Corvettes capturing no less than 25 Run-Off Championships in A, B & C Production in the same time frame.
Yes, “Johnny-come-latelies” Dodge Viper (1992) and Ford’s new GT are sports cars too, but the former will never come close to Corvette’s race statistics and the latter is a Retro GT street machine that will likely never be raced. (And don’t bring up AC Cobras – that’s an English sports car into which some chicken farmer installed a Ford engine.) Frankly, even as new cars, in the December, 2005 Road & Track “Clash of the Titans” Road Test, the 2006 Z-06 Corvette excelled as it beat the 2006 Viper SRT in every speed, handling and braking category test as well as costing $ 16,000 less while getting better fuel mileage! Yes, it was no contest in 1957 because there was no American competition and it’s still no contest in 2006 because the new Z-06 smokes the competition!
Having said this, it is still useful to recall that the first iteration of the Corvette – the 1953/1954 version – the one with the Blue Flame Six and PowerGlide two-speed automatic, was nothing to write home about, and that it really didn’t become a sports car until Chevrolet’s new V8 engine and manual transmission was fitted in the mid 1950s.
A Russian born ex-race driver and engineer with a funny accent hired by GM’s Ed Cole gets most of the credit for the almost unbelievable transformation that took place from 1953 to 1957. The ’53 Corvette leaked water and couldn’t pull the skin off rice pudding, but the 1957 version won its class at Sebring as well as the Sports Car Club of America B Production National Championship. “Corvette -The Real McCoy” trumpeted the full page ads in the national media and that really said it best.
The classic solid axle Corvette gave way to the beautiful Sting Ray coupes and convertibles with independent suspension in 1963 and four-wheel disc brakes became standard in 1965. In 1968 it emerged as the dramatic Stingray with a “Coke bottle” shape inspired by the ’67 Mako Shark Show Car. Some magazine road tests panned the new C-3 Corvette citing a lack of quality control and finding rattles and other issues in the first model year, but the general buying public voted with their checkbooks and purchased some 67,327 Corvettes in the 1968-1969 model years.
The racers cared little about door rattles – you couldn’t hear them over the music from the sidepipes hooked up to a Big Block L-88 or ZL-1 engine anyway and the Stingrays keep racking up national championships and international class wins on the race tracks of the world.
IMPORTANT CORVETTE BIG BLOCK BRUISERS – “THE FAST AND THE FEW”
Even though dozens of “plastic fantastics” were raced by weekend amateur drivers in all of the SCCA North American regions, only a few achieved fame and international status through their racing in FIA/ACCUS sanctioned events during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In Europe that meant primarily the “big one” – LeMans, while North American circuits included Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. These important and now very collectable Corvettes were immaculately prepared and usually enjoyed the backing of major national sponsors.
Only about half a dozen Corvettes can legitimately claim membership in this exclusive club. John Greenwood’s “Stars & Stripes” L-88 cars of the 1968-1973 period backed by BFG and often racing on that company’s new radial tires certainly qualify for this short list. Tampa, Florida’s Dave Heinz’s two Corvettes, liveried as “Rebel Flag” cars in an obvious and competitive response to the BFG effort and driven by Heinz and Bob Johnson, often beat the Greenwood team due to better race strategy and superior reliability.
But the very best racing results were scored by the three Tony DeLorenzo/Jerry Thompson Corvette team cars which contested the SCCA Divisional and National circuit as well as all of the important USA based FIA distance races. One of these, 002/68, their 1968 Owens/Corning Fiberglas L-88 engined car is the very same that we are privileged to present here for sale. (The first was a 1967 SunRay DX sponsored 1967 Corvette and the third # 003/69, was DeLorenzo’s 1969 OCF car).
A PAIR OF ACES
So much more than an inert pile of performance parts, “historic” racing cars are made memorable by the heroic efforts of determined individuals, designers and constructors with the most important facet being a racing driver or driver team that is able to extract the maximum from the car. The lead drivers of this 1968 OCF Corvette were Tony DeLorenzo and Jerry Thompson.
Tony DeLorenzo, the son of General Motors executive John DeLorenzo always wanted to be a professional race driver. In 1969, at the age of 26, with a string of racing successes behind him, DeLorenzo (who holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Notre Dame, as well as an M.A. in Public Relations from Boston University) took that step by forming Troy Promotions Inc. T-P-I’s and DeLorenzo’s racing efforts had been sponsored by Owens Corning since the summer of 1968 and the formation of this firm meant that he could field a proper racing and public relations effort on behalf of his sponsor.
Jerry Thompson is not only an exceptional driver but also an excellent engineer. He won SCCA National and Divisional titles driving Corvairs and Corvettes in the late 1960s. Thompson is an engineering graduate of Iowa State and worked as an automotive development engineer. In 1967, after co-driving with DeLorenzo at Daytona and Sebring, a mutual respect was fostered and the duo formed a team that was to produce the best Corvette racing performance record of that period.
The partnership was the ideal blueprint for success – both drivers had a proven record of wins – Thompson providing the technical pragmatism of the engineer while DeLorenzo’s business and PR background made it easy to sign and retain a major sponsor, in this case the giant Owens Corning Corporation. Even the latter was a nice fit, what better way to promote the use of fiberglass reinforced plastics in the auto and truck industry – a huge growth industry in the early 1970s – than by demonstrating its strength and versatility through international motor racing. Like any good sponsor the Owens Corning Fiberglas Corporation made the most of the association with the DeLorenzo/Thompson team, even publishing a regular newsletter and issuing frequent press releases about the team’s plans and achievements.
DISCOVERY/RESTORATION AND OWNERSHIP HISTORY OF OCF/T.P.I.-002/68 CAR
After buying and restoring one of the other Owens/Corning Fiberglas team Corvettes, a 1969 L-88 car that was displayed at the 1987 Monterey Historics, the finder of such a car began to wonder about the fate of the 1968 OCF car. After many dead ends, the quest for the “Corvette in the haystack” became an obsession – a common state of mind for an automobile enthusiast. He consulted with restorer Kevin McKay who suggested hiring Corvette sleuth and historian David Reisner who had a reputation for finding historic racing cars. After some time, one of Reisner’s scouts overhead a racer at Road Atlanta touting his Corvette as an ex-Jerry Hansen and Owens/Corning car and that Hansen’s 1972 SCCA number was still stamped on the roll-over bar. Since Troy Promotions Inc. (T.P.I.) had sold their 1968 car to legendary SCCA champion Hansen at the end of 1971 the Corvette sleuths knew that they had found the missing OCF Corvette. The current owner asked Tony DeLorenzo to accompany him to see the car in order to make a positive identification. Following his examination, DeLorenzo found and authenticated the original SunRay DX and later OCF clues. After much haggling a deal was struck and our Corvette fan had his second OCF car!
Tony and the new owner celebrated that evening to mark the purchase of their final Owens/Corning Corvette, after which DeLorenzo offered a notarized letter of authenticity which accompanies the sale of this car. The next day a U-Haul truck and trailer was rented and 002-68 was on the way to Nevada.
Although this original 1968 Owens/Corning car was acquired in 1990 by the present owner, the thrill of the chase had lapsed and the full restoration did not begin until 10 years later, in the year 2000. The catalyst was the 2002 Corvette feature marque status at the Monterey Historic Races and since the 1969 OCF car had attended the last version of this venue in 1987, it made good sense. An absolutely flawless total and correct restoration back to the original OCF specifications ensued after which the Corvette was displayed with the Grand Sports and other significant cars at Monterey.
OWNERSHIP CHAIN OF OCF/T.P.I. 002-68
Note: The VIN was a special number assigned by Tony DeLorenzo to his team cars; the OCF denoting Owens/Corning Fiberglas, the T.P/I/ being his company, Troy Productions Inc and the 002-68 meaning team car #2 and its year of build-up: 1968.
THE ENERGIZER BUNNY OF CORVETTES
If the collector car value of an historic Corvette racing car is established by racing results in major venues, this T.P.I./002-68 is surely a gold plated investment.
As a Corvette historian wrote in an article published during Corvette’s 50th anniversary in 2003:
“The 1968 T.P.I. Corvette first sponsored by SunRay DX and then by Owens/Corning Fiberglas holds the title as perhaps the most victorious Corvette in history. Campaigned by a variety of drivers – Tony DeLorenzo, Jerry Thompson, John Mahler and Jerry Hansen – this car was nearly unstoppable in FIA GT and SCCA National racing with a winning streak that lasted from 1968 through 1973. Some of the accomplishments include the 1969 and 1972 SCCA National Championships, 1968 and 1970 National runner-up and the 1969 and 1970 class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona, the latter by Thompson/Mahler who finished 6th overall behind two Porsche 917’s and three Ferrari Prototypes!”
Fully and accurately restored, this is one of the best and most collectable Corvettes that RM Auctions has ever presented at auction. We invite all interested parties to seek the assistance of an RM specialist for a perusal of the extensive historical, restoration, racing and provenance files which accompany this offering.
Whether it is to become the focal point of a car collection, campaigned in selected historic races, held for future appreciation, or perhaps all three, this icon of American racing is highly recommended as a purchase consideration.