1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR2

Harley Earl was the head of Styling for General Motors Corporation and was instrumental in the Corvette's inception, helping put it into production in 1953 and birthing America's sports car. Another key individual in the project was Zora Arkus-Duntov, a Belgian-born American engineer, who was nicknamed 'Father of the Corvette.' Mr. Duntov was also a successful racing, earning class victories at the 1954 and 1955 24 Heures du Mans.

Harley's son, Jerome C. Earl, was born into a world of competition and racing. He was an avid racer whose victories were often won behind the wheel of a Ferrari. General Motors management took notice and considering his upbringing, he should be piloting a Corvette. The Corvettes of the early 1950s, although sports cars, were not competitive. Power was provided from a 235 cubic-inch six-cylinder 'Blue Flame Special' engine offering 150 horsepower and paired with a 2-speed automatic gearbox.

Harley convinced his son to sell the Ferrari and in exchange, he would build him a special racing Corvette. In 1956, a Corvette was pulled off the line at the St. Louis facility, and shipped to the GM Styling Studio in Warren, Michigan. It was given shop order number 90090 and 17 engineers were assigned to its transformation into a competitive machine ready for the 1956 racing season. The Corvette was ready by mid-June and was registered with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Near the end of June, the car was entered in the June Sprints at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

During a practice session, while Jerry was still getting used to the car, he pushed it a little too hard and ended up spinning off the course, thankfully without damage.

Dr. Dick Thompson drove the car during the six-hour race, with the car showing tremendous potential on its inaugural outing. It was determined that in order for it to compete among the elite, it would need to lose weight and gain more horsepower.

For the remainder of the season, Jerry Earl drove the car in the Central Region SCCA races.

Over the winter, the SR2 was given a 332 cubic-inch, fuel-injected engine mated to a new 1957 four-speed transmission. The body was given several design changes, including the rear fin. Originally, it had a 'low fin' design, with its height being the same as the rear deck. Later versions had it much high. Other original features included fog lights instead of turn signals, aerodynamically shaped cones in the location of the headlights, a longer nose, and side-mounted air scoops near the end of the coves. Later designs had the fog lights replaced by special parking lamps which allowed air to move through screens and to the front brakes to aid in cooling. The stock interior and all non-essential items were removed, and lightweight seats sourced from a Porsche Spyder were installed. Along with a few new fiberglass components, around 300 pounds were shed.

A second SR-2 was built under the direction of Henry 'Smokey' Yunick to a Bill Mitchell design. Yunick worked on the mechanical aspects of the car, improving the braking and engine, and removed around 700 pounds. The original 283 CID engine was stroked and bored to a 336 cubic-inch displacement and a new Rochester fuel injection system was added. Air circulation was improved with more brake ducting and air ducts. For long-distance races, a 48-gallon fuel tank was installed.

At the 1957 Daytona Speedweek, the Yunick Corvette SR-2 was driven by Buck Baker to speeds of 152.886 mph. It was raced at Daytona, Sebring, and Nassau and was scheduled to race at LeMans until Chevrolet put out of racing in 1957.

by Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2019

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1956 Vehicle Profiles

1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR2 vehicle information

Designer: Bill Mitchell

Chassis Num: 2

This 1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR2 Beach Racer was specifically built for racing. It was designed by Bill Mitchell and maintained by Smokey Yunick. The car was the test bed for Rochester Fuel Injection system. It was driven on the beach at Daytona by B....[continue reading]

1956 Chevrolet Corvette SR2 vehicle information

Designer: Bill Mitchell

Harley Earl was the head of Styling for General Motors Corporation, the 'Father' of the Corvette and envisioned and championed its creation in 1953. Harley's son, Jerome, was racing a Ferrari in 1956 and was told by the top brass of General Motors it....[continue reading]

Chassis #: 2 

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Performance and Specification Comparison

Model Year Production

1961Ford (1,338,790)Chevrolet (1,318,014)Volkswagen (807,488)1,318,014
1960Chevrolet (1,653,168)Ford (1,439,370)Toyota (1,068,321)1,653,168
1959Chevrolet (1,462,140)Ford (1,450,953)Volkswagen (575,407)1,462,140
1958Chevrolet (1,142,460)Ford (987,945)Volkswagen (451,526)1,142,460
1957Ford (1,676,449)Chevrolet (1,505,910)Plymouth (726,009)1,505,910
1956Chevrolet (1,567,117)Ford (1,408,478)Buick (572,024)1,567,117
1955Chevrolet (1,704,667)Ford (1,451,157)Buick (738,814)1,704,667
1954Ford (1,165,942)Chevrolet (1,143,561)Plymouth (463,148)1,143,561
1953Chevrolet (1,346,475)Ford (1,247,542)Plymouth (650,451)1,346,475
1952Chevrolet (818,142)Ford (671,733)Plymouth (396,000)818,142
1951Chevrolet (1,229,986)Ford (1,013,381)Plymouth (611,000)1,229,986

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