1968 Corvette No. 4 Race Car
Do you remember that time a Corvette pretended it was a Ferrari at Le Mans? A long time ago, before my time, the 1972 race saw a Corvette disguised in Italian clothing. The story goes back to the muscle car wars when Goodyear supported Bob Johnson and Dave Heinz in the Race Engineering and Development (RED) team L88 Corvette. The winning record of the RED Corvette was built using a strange mix of parts, and with only eight weeks to Le Mans a new car was prepared., breathing new life into the Corvette.
The 1968 Corvette No. 4 Race Car was based on a wrecked 1968 Corvette convertible purchased for $600. A factory-built race car, the car packed upgraded suspension, brakes, and clutch as well as installed an aluminum head 7.0-liter V8 that bragged about developing 430 ponies. The team went on to add a new frame, FIA-spec flared fenders and new GM-spec drivetrain components, breathing new life into the Corvette.
Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team (NART) was basically an extension of Ferrari’s racing program that reached across the Atlantic. They accepted the Corvette into their midst, following a red paint job and official NART livery decals. Getting into Le Mans was not easy, but after a 100-mph crash, it was quite a challenge to rebuild the car – barely.
Barely in the race, Johnson and Heinz still needed a few more miracles to stay competitive. The 24 Hours at Le Mans is grueling for any car, and this one was injured from the beginning. The wounded front ensured the Corvette could never run at full speed. The pre-race accident had also injured the fuel filler neck, wasting precious time with longer refill times in the pits.
Aside from being the ugliest Ferrari entry to limp around the track, No. 4 proved to be a good competitor; it finished the fifteenth overall. It was later rebuilt and modified to comply with other racing series, but in 1995 it retired. Corvette Repair, Inc. put it through a complete restoration process. A period-correct V8 was installed, with 660 hp on tap. The NART Corvette is one of the most interesting oddities out there, one worth collecting.