Corvettes at the Petersen Museum: the 60-year anniversary, some singular cars, and the men who raced them

The Petersen Automotive Museum hosted a gala to celebrate the Corvette’s 60th anniversary, and Kirk Bennion, exterior design manager, presented the new C7 ‘Vette, making its West Coast debut. Beforehand, a panel of important figures in Corvette racing history told battle stories and signed autographs. And the museum opened an exhibit of significant examples.

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Chevrolet’s Kirk Bennion, exterior design manager for the 2014 Corvette: “We wanted to play up the premium finishes and details.”

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Doug Fehan, program manager for Corvette racing, makes a point about the car’s success in road racing. Joe Freitas, left, remembered seeing Phil Hill excel in a Ferrari at March Air Force Base. Road racing “got in my blood real early,” he said. “Those early Corvettes were a hell of a lot of fun going sideways.”

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Zora Arkus-Duntov, the engineer credited by racing panel members with keeping the Corvette alive, understood the trend toward mid-engine single-seaters and led the creation of the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle. First in an intermittent series, it’s known as CERV I. Bosses at General Motors didn’t want the company involved in racing, so the concept went nowhere fast. Stock-block Ford V-8 engines later ended up in Lotus cars, a combination that captured the glory at Indy.

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Paul Reinhart, an early driver, remembered kissing trophy girl Jayne Mansfield after a victory. Bill Krause, right, got his start in Offy-powered midgets.

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