Legendary Corvettes: ‘Vettes Made Famous on Track and Screen by Randy Leffingwell, photography by Dave Wendt
Published 2010 by Motorbooks
176 pp., hardcover
Purchased new from a close out sale
The Corvette is now in its 8th generation, and 2020 saw the debut of the first mid-engined iteration of America’s sports car. It’s been quite a journey from the first 300 cars, all in Polo White, each sporting a 150-hp Blue Flame inline 6 and a Powerglide.
Published 10 years ago, Randy Leffingwell’s Legendary Covettes: ‘Vettes Made Famous on Track and Screen selects 18 cars of significance from what was then almost 60 years of Corvette history. From the oldest known Corvette (1953 car #003) through the first 2009 ZR1 coupe, Leffingwell showcases an interesting mix of Vette stars.
Each chapter features a single, specific car. But these cars are representative of a larger story in Corvette history. Corvette #003 represents the beginning. The oldest known ‘Vette, its story illustrates the early struggles to create a viable American sports car and details this car’s history as a test mule prior to being sold into civilian service. A Tasco Turquoise car represents the cars on Route 66, an effort by Chevrolet to get Corvette expanded market exposure. There’s Duntov’s CERV and CERV II, rolling laboratories to improve the breed. There’s C5-R-003, one of the very successful cars to come from a dedicated race car building program, which was a winner at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans.
Take the chapter on coupe #31611, the final Corvette built at the St. Louis plant. Noted Corvette historians and restorers David Burroughs, John Amgwert and Mike Hanson were given permission to follow the car down the line, recording the construction. The object was to document the way St. Louis built cars, information that would benefit C3 restorers in the future. Beyond the building of the car and activity recording the process, Leffingwell includes anecdotes about the activity of the workers as they made signs, added their signatures to the car, and turned in their tools before the plant shut its doors for good. And what happened to the beige over beige coupe? A call to the selling dealer ended up ensuring the car’s ‘showroom’ preservation, complete with plastic covering the seats.
The pages are filled with names key to Corvette lore… Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell, Ed Cole, Zora Arkus-Duntov, Briggs Cunningham, John Fitch, Dave McLellan, John Greenwood, Reeves Callaway, Ron Fellows and more… builders, engineers, racers and executives who contributed to the Corvette.
Dave Wendt’s photography is, in a word, spectacular. The images are well staged and the cars dramatically lit. Unlike most books where the cars are set outdoors in daylight, there’s a lot of night photography, or the settings are a dark studio, with bright lighting on the cars. To me, the darkness around the cars really enhance the colour, shine and lines of these Corvettes. I think it’s really a special way to showcase these significant machines. No surprise Wendt gets a credit on the front cover.
I have other books that chronicle the history of the Corvette, and they’re great. They do justice to the American icon. But I find this book to be an very interesting look at the history of America’s sports car. These 18 cars touch on the racing history, the collectibility, the mystique that surrounds the Vette. Further, it’s just such an attractive package, one that’s enjoyable to leaf through. If you’re into Corvette, this is a book to have.
Pros: lots of great inside information; fantastic photography
Cons: that only 18 cars were able to be featured
Where to get it: Amazon, retail booksellers