Although it doesn’t look like it, this is a winning prototype sports car that competed in the IMSA series in 1986 as the Chevrolet Corvette. With no bodywork, it’s now basically a mid-engine go-kart with a turbocharged racing engine said to be capable of 1,000 horsepower.
The GTP (Grand Touring Prototype) class was contested by the GTP Corvettes from 1984 to 1989 and one of the cars later competed in the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans. Both V6 and V8 turbocharged versions of the cars were produced. The chassis you see here won one of the model’s two race wins.
Fast Facts – The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette GTP
- The GTP Corvettes were silhouette racers that bore at least a passing resemblance to the then-new C4 Corvette when they began racing in 1984. The chassis was developed by Lola Cars International, the same people who developed the Ford GT40 chassis that won at Le Mans in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.
- The car was designed to compete against Jaguar, Porsche, Nissan and Mazda in the GTP (Grand Touring Prototype) class of the IMSA Camel GT series. Lola had previously designed series chassis for Mazda and so they applied their previous experience to the new Corvette platform.
- Both turbocharged V6 and naturally aspirated V8 versions were built, only the V6 would take victories, with two wins in the 1986 seasons. The chassis you see here has the first of those victories with Team Hendrick Motorsports at Road Atlanta won.
- After a difficult few years, marked by regular technical failures, the 1988 season saw the GTP Corvettes really shine. Many of the issues had been worked out, and unfortunately it was at this point that General Motors decided to cut funding for the program. A final GTP Corvette was fitted with a 10.2-liter, quad-cam, big-block Chevrolet V8 and was sent to race at Le Mans in 1990.
The IMSA GT Championship
The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) GT Championship was a sports car racing series founded in 1969 by John Bishop, a former executive of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and his wife Peggy. The championship was initially focused on FIA Groups 2, 3 and 4 categories before evolving into a Grand Touring (GT) and Prototype series in the 1970s and 1980s.
The IMSA series rose to prominence in the 1980s and, thanks in part to the introduction of the GTP class, became one of the premier sports car racing series in North America.
The GTP (Grand Touring Prototype) class was introduced in 1981. These cars were purpose-built racing machines with closed cockpits, bespoke chassis, powerful engines and aerodynamic bodies specifically designed to compete in world-class endurance events.
The GTP class quickly became the premier class of IMSA, attracting major manufacturers such as Porsche, Nissan, Toyota, Jaguar, Mazda, Ford and Chevrolet. In the early 1980s, Porsche’s 935 model dominated the championship, with various privateer teams running the car. In 1983, Porsche presented the 956, followed in 1984 by the 962.
The 1980s marked the golden era of the IMSA GT Championship, with thrilling racing, a hard-fought field and widespread media coverage. However, the series began to struggle in the 1990s due to a combination of economic factors, rule changes and increasing competition from other racing series.
Above video: This footage shows the chassis you see in this article with its body as it won the 1986 IMSA GTP race at Road Atlanta.
In 1998 the championship was renamed the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), which eventually merged with the Grand-Am Road Racing series in 2014 to form the current IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The Chevrolet Corvette GTP racing car
In 1984, Chevrolet partnered with Lola Cars, a British racing car manufacturer known for its expertise in designing and building winning prototypes.
The collaboration resulted in the development of the Corvette GTP, designed to compete in the GTP class of the prestigious IMSA GT Championship. Built on a Lola T710 chassis, the car features a lightweight, aerodynamic carbon fiber body and a distinctive C4 Corvette-style nose. Although you had to squint to see any real resemblance to the C4 road car.
Both naturally aspirated V8 and V6 versions of the car were developed. The V6 was a 3.4 liter unit built by Ryan Falconer, it was essentially a wrecked version of the 4.3 liter Chevrolet V6 with a number of performance changes not least of which was the addition of forced induction that to a V6 with 1,000 hp in maximum mood for qualifying.
Power was sent to the rear wheels via a Hewland 5-speed manual transmission. In racing, the engines are said to be capable of 750-800 hp, still a remarkable amount in a car as light as this.
The Corvette GTP cars were used primarily by two teams, Hendrick Motorsports and Peerless Racing. They competed from 1984 to 1988, with the 1989 model taking part in a few races. Early on, the cars were plagued by technical reliability issues, with far more DNFs than General Motors would have deemed acceptable.
However, the V6 version of the car did score two wins in 1986 against Porsche and the best prototype racers in the world, but in 1988, when the cars started to look both fast and reliable, the program was dropped by GM.
The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette GTP car shown here
The car you see here is clearly missing its original C4 Corvette influenced body. The good news is that all the parts needed to actually get it running are still there, and so it’s really just a mid-engine go-kart now, with an engine that’s capable of 1,000 horsepower – if you don’t mind cranking it all the way up and risking it banging in a big way.
This is the car driven to victory in 1986 by the two man team Sarel van der Merwe and Doc Bundy. It was formerly owned by Gordon Barrett who worked on these cars during his IMSA racing days and is now for sale.
The good news is that it comes with a lot of original body parts and a number of boxes of mechanical parts, as well as a couple of spare windscreens.
If you are interested in reading more about this unusual machine you can visit the listing here on Mecum, it is due to roll down the auction block in mid-May and will come with vintage Hendrick Motorsports clothing, GM Goodwrench Corvette postcards and vintage IMSA crew passes and framed photographs signed by Rick Hendrick and Sarel van der Merwe.
Images courtesy of Mecum
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