It sounds like the perfect combination, doesn’t it? The gorgeous, elegant lines of an Italian road-going masterpiece and the power of a no-frills American V8. If you’re thinking it seems like something only dreams are made of, you’d be delightfully wrong. That’s where the trio of 1959 Scaglietti Corvettes come in to sweep us off our feet.
A little history on the 1959 Scaglietti Corvette is in order, no doubt. It was a project aimed at combining the reliability of an American V8 engine and the aura that surrounded an Italian sportscar, sans the high-cost mechanical repairs. A few of the founding fathers of this project may sound familiar to you.
There was Gary Laughlin, an oil tycoon who had his hands in a few Chevrolet dealerships at the time. Then there was Jim Hall. Yes, that Jim Hall, who would go on to design and race the Chaparral race cars. Finally, the third of masterminds behind this piece was none other than Carrol Shelby himself, and we’re sure we don’t need to inform you why his name sounds familiar (he did some stuff with Mustangs, or something…)
The three of them put their heads together and decided they wanted to move forward on an Italian-American mashup, and they were put in contact with Sergio Scaglietti, who at the time was Enzo Ferrari’s go-to guy for crafting bodies for both his racing and street machines.
Ferrari had Scaglietti quite busy with their day job of making Italian supermachines, making the Scaglietti Corvette a side-project equivalent to a modern day skunkworks assignment.
After much persuasion, Laughlin convinced Chevrolet Division manager, Ed Cole, to ship three Corvette frames across the Atlantic for work to begin. After 18 months, the first Scaglietti ‘Vette had been completed.
Unfortunately, the curtain came down pretty quickly on this project, due to General Motors’ zero toleration for motor racing competition. And this sounded like treason to the General. When GM was made aware of Ed Cole’s part in this, he was ordered to tell Laughlin to shut the project down immediately. The two other Corvette frames were shipped back to the U.S., but surprisingly, were still completed.
Just like almost any classic Italian car, each of the three 1959 Scaglietti Corvettes differ from one another. Car number one, which was completed in Italy, wears the chrome-tooth grille of that era’s Corvette. It is the only car built with a fuel-injected Corvette engine and a four-speed manual transmission, while the other two chassis sent to Italy had dual-carb V8s and automatic transmissions.
The other two Corvettes, one red and one blue, wear a decidedly more Italian face, so the next time you visit your local Cars & Coffee, if you see a muscular blue or red Ferrari GT mashup, you now have the inside scoop on what exactly you’re staring at.
A shame only three of these gorgeous cars made it, but that’s not to say two of the three masterminds didn’t go on to contribute even greater to the overall automotive landscape.