1988 Corvette Challenge Racer
1988 Corvette Challenge Racer
By the fourth generation, Corvette had a long-established reputation for being race-ready right out of the box with the right factory equipment. In fact Corvette’s edge in SCCA Showroom Stock racing was so overwhelming that in 1988 it was given its own series to mollify the competition it had shut out for years. The decision produced such superb racers as this well-documented example from the Ed Foss Collection.
Chevrolet wasted little time putting the all-new 1984 Corvette to the test in SCCA Showroom Stock racing. Prominent Corvette racers John Greenwood, Dave Heinz, and Rod Millen got the juggernaut rolling when they entered a 1984 Z51 Corvette with B.F. Goodrich sponsorship in the premier Showroom Stock event, the Longest Day at Nelson Ledges, Ohio, running away from the pack until new car gremlins struck and the team was forced to retire after nine hours. That proved to be the only time Corvette did not win in Showroom Stock until the off-season following the 1987 season, when Porsche howled so loudly in protest that the SCCA banished Corvette from the series. To compensate Chevrolet for that ruling, the SCCA established the Corvette Challenge series, posting a million-dollar purse with backing from Goodyear, Exxon, and Mid America Designs. Chevrolet built 56 street-legal racing Corvettes, equipping them with 7-speed manual transmissions and Z51 Performance suspensions. They were then sent to Protofab in Wixom, Michigan, and fitted with competition equipment that included a racing seat, safety harness and roll cage, a fire extinguisher system, performance brake pads and special cooling ducting. Special Corvette Challenge emblems, low-restriction exhaust and Dymag wheels with shaved Goodyear Gatorback tires completed the modifications. Engines built at the Flint engine plant were matched for consistent power output and sealed before installation. The Corvette Challenge series ran in support of CART and Trans Am races, and were broadcast on the new SpeedVision cable racing network. Racing fans loved the side-by-side action that placed driver skill ahead of technical gamesmanship and reignited the “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” mantra of old.
Built by Protofab Engineering, which later became Pratt & Miller Engineering, this is one of 56 Corvettes specially modified to race in the SCCA-sanctioned Challenge series. It ran under the sponsorship of American Custom Industries, a Sylvania, Ohio-based Corvette aftermarket accessories manufacturer; performance tuners CM Racing of Arlington Heights, Illinois, and Corvette specialists Malcolm Konner Chevrolet of New Jersey. Entered by Miller Racing, it was driven in nine of the 10 races in 1988 by Robin Dallenbach, who finished all but one with a best finish of 12th at Portland International Raceway. At 8,348 miles, the car remains in as-raced condition, incorporating the 350/245 HP Tuned Port Injection V-8 with a Doug Nash 4+3 manual transmission, regulation roll cage with window safety net, driver’s racing seat, glass roof panel and lightweight Dymag alloy wheels with Goodyear Eagle tires. Still finished in its original Dark Blue Metallic paint with the full racing livery intact, this genuine Corvette Challenge racer is documented with a copy of the MSO and ownership transfers.