1960 Chevrolet Corvette C1 "JRG Special" Competition Coupe
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Two names was behind this American racecar, the owners..Bernie Chodosh & Tom Falconer.
Bernie Chodosh is the well-respected historic racer from Edgware, Middlesex, who has been racing pre-1965 Corvettes for almost twenty years. In classic British club-racer style, his will to race has always been stronger than his budget, but each of his Corvettes has been better than the last and has incorporated lessons learned the hard way, and he has become an expert in making early Corvettes handle.
Starting with a 1965 Sting Ray coupe, he moved on to a convertible with a cut-down screen, West Coast style, before building two 1958 Corvette racers - the ones with the famous flames. Borrowing from the quarter-mile drag strip, these were finished in dramatic flame paint jobs and have become favourites with spectators at British and continental circuits. Bernie tries to keep a team of three cars active because his sons Adam and Simeon like to race with him, and they share drives at endurance events. The Gold 1960 Corvette is the culmination of his ambition to have the ultimate Corvette C1 track car.
Tom Falconer is the well-known Corvette historian and writer, author of seven books on the Corvette and a columnist for magazines both here and in the USA., and lives near Brands Hatch in Kent. Once an intense rival of Bernie Chodosh in the late 1980s when they were both competing to sell Corvettes in a shrinking market place, they became friends as soon as Bernie quit the motor trade to earn a living in other fields, but Tom continued with his business Claremont Corvette, and celebrates thirty years of selling, servicing and restoring Corvettes this year. Tom and Bernie have cooperated on many projects since then. As the author of Bay View Books ‘Original Corvette 1953-1962’ and Judging Chairman of the UK Chapter of the National Corvette Restorers Society, Tom’s approach to the 1960 Corvette was “The way it was, not the way we wish it was”.
The JRG Special 1960 Corvette was raced in the early sixties at East Coast circuits in the hands of a racer called Sarno from Long Island, New York. It was just another 1960 Corvette with the option 419 hardtop and no folding roof, the bumpers and hubcaps removed - a typical ‘B-Production’ Sports Car club of America weekend warrior of the era, probably driven to the circuits not trailered and not sufficiently modified to make the winner’s circle. After a few seasons, the launch of the very affordable 1963 Corvette Sting Ray with its all-independent suspension and superior brakes and handling pushed the old live-axle Vettes like this even further down the field in SCCA races, and this car was retired from the track to pursue a career in drag racing. The JRG is a sister to the four white Corvettes that arrived at Le Mans on 1960, and made such an impressive showing in a race which, luckily for them, was the one of the wettest on record, when the Fitch-Grossman car entered by Briggs Cunningham finished eight overall, a placing not matched by a Corvette for another 45 years.
When bought by Bernie Chodosh in 1989, it was little more than a wreck with the rear arches cut to accommodate giant drag-racing slicks, and only a roll-bar to remind of its racing career, its valuable hardtop long since sold, and it lay in a back yard in Long Island. In September 2005 Tom bought an original hardtop that had once belonged to Charles Saatchi, who’s 1959 he used to service. In a brief discussion about the hardtop with Bernie, the restoration project was planned, Tom sketched an impression of the finished car in felt-tip and crayon, and they arranged to ship the remains of the JRG racer from New York to Kent.
Completed in just over 12 months, the 1960 is as correct as it can be, while still being safe to race. The chassis has been gusseted as recommended in GM’s own performance leaflets, probably penned by chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov himself, while the suspension is strictly stock, but again with period gusseting and aggressive castor settings. Brakes are period heavy-duty drums, drilled for cooling. The wheels are original steels, correctly painted Roman Red, not the expensive Halibrand type used by on the Cunningham cars at Le Mans. Heart of the car is a the 4.7 litre 283 cubic inch cast iron small block, actually a 3756519 casting from mid-1959, prepared and tuned to deliver just short of 400bhp at 7000 rpm. In the pursuit of originality, even the exhaust manifolds are correct period cast iron instead of the usual modern tubular headers. Drive is a through an almost contemporary alloy cased GM 4-speed to the cart-sprung live rear axle.
The car was displayed at Goodwood for the first time on March 3rd, where it collected its FIA papers; the inspector said that he was impressed by the period detail and meticulous preparation. The JRG Special will be seen a various events throughout the year.
The distinguished historic driver John Young of Henley on Thames has agreed to co-drive for Endurance events.