In the 1950s, Jerry Earl, the racecar driving son of Corvette designer Harley Earl, was racing Ferraris in road racing series around the United States. His father eventually convinced him to sell his Ferrari after promising General Motors would build him a Corvette-based racecar capable of handing it to Ferrari, Jaguar and other highly acclaimed manufacturers, and had the 1956 Corvette SR2 show up at his doorstep some months later.
The SR2 was preceded by the four ‘SR’ Corvettes, which raced at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1956. Three of the SR Corvettes were modified for Class C competition, and had 265 cubic inch V8 engines, while the fourth Class B car had a 307 cubic inch engine built by Smokey Yunick. Two of the cars failed early in the race, however one was driven to first place class victory, inspiring further development of the SR program.
Following the race at Sebring, Chevy set to work on Earl’s SR2. The car started out as a production-spec 1956 C2 Corvette, but was shipped to the GM Styling Studio in Warren, Michigan where they modified the body, added different brake and suspension components, installed special windscreens and lengthened the front end. The styling was meant to reflect that of the successful Jaguar D-Type, a point that becomes obvious when viewing the single driver’s side buttress fin.
Six weeks after GM and a team of engineers began to modify the SR2, it was ready for SCCA competition. Earl drove the car in practice for the June Sprints at Road America, but he spun out. Dick Thompson took over driving duties for the six hour race, after which he told Chevrolet the car needed less weight and more power.
To fix the weight problem, GM replaced the heavy vinyl seats with lightweight Porsche Spyder seats, while other non-essential interior luxuries were also removed, such as the leather-trimmed door panels. They also added more power via a 331 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection and installed a larger rear fin and gas tank filler cap.
Earl’s SR2 raced well into the 60s before being replaced with more competitive offerings. Two more were also built for GM designer Bill Mitchell and GM president Harlow Curtice, however none have the racing pedigree of Earl’s.
Earl’s SR2 will be on display at Scottsdale Sports and Classic Cars from January 12-14, according to Corvetted, and is a must-see for any Corvette or historic racing enthusiast. The car will be shown between 12 pm and 5 pm for interested buyers willing to pay the $6.85 million asking price. We’re becoming increasingly tempted to hop on a plane from Michigan to Arizona the more we look at photos of it, so if you’ll excuse us..