Fabulous Restorations located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, has built a solid reputation for completing stunning restorations. George Haddad and Fabulous recently completed a 1966 Penske L88 prototype tribute Corvette. It pays homage to Roger Penske’s first race as a team owner at the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona. Prior to his career transition to businessman, Penske was an accomplished racing driver from 1958 to 1964. During that time he raced Corvette Grand Sports, winning the 1963 feature race at Nassau driving Grand Sport No. 004. Two years later he secured a breathtaking Nassau victory driving Grand Sport No. 005, defeating a 390 cu-in Shelby Cobra driven by the late Ken Miles. It was after this victory that he retired from racing.
Zora Arkus-Duntov and the L88 427
After his retirement, he purchased George McKean Chevrolet near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and renamed it Roger Penske Chevrolet. This was the beginning of his successful business career. A short time later, Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov asked Penske to form a race team and enter a 1966 Corvette into the Daytona 24-Hour race to test the L88 Chevy big-block prototype engine that was slated to become a production option for the 1967 Corvette. Penske quickly formed a race team, signed Sunoco Oil Company as their team sponsor, and hired George Wintersteen, Dick Guldstrand, and Ben Moore to drive the car.
Arkus-Duntov assigned Gib Hufstader, a design release engineer for chassis and racing brake packages, to watch over the 1966 Corvette at Daytona, and arranged for Penske to purchase it through his dealership. Arkus-Duntov used a factory service kit to avoid the corporate racing ban and installed the new aluminum-headed L88 427 cu-in engine and a unique airbox hood that draws air from the base of the windshield. Penske arranged for his driver Dick Guldstrand to pick up the Corvette at the St. Louis plant on January 14, 1966. The car was delivered to Wintersteen’s shop in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, where the team began its race preparation. This was completed by Bill “Murph” Mayberry, Bill Scott, George Wintersteen, and Dick Guldstrand. In addition to racing buckets and other safety equipment, the team added fender flares similar to the Grand Sport to mount larger tires for improved traction. When work was completed, the car was shipped to Daytona.
The 1966 L88 Corvette at Daytona
At Daytona, the Corvette went through scrutineering and the fender flares were rejected and had to be removed. The team added small aluminum lips at the top of each fender to cover the tires and those changes were approved. The Corvette looked awkward with all of the holes drilled into the bodywork, but there was no time to repair it. The team’s best qualifying lap was 2:10:60 that was good for a 21st-overall starting position and first in GT. The Corvette maintained a steady pace during the early part of the race and slowly moved up in the standings. Pit stops took place every two hours and attrition began to take its toll. In spite of a heavy crash at 3 a.m. that destroyed the car’s nose, the car continued after the team made hasty repairs. These included securing flashlights to the fenders, wiring the body to the frame, and borrowing a radiator from a spectator’s Corvette. They finished first in GT and 12th overall. After Daytona, the car received a new nose and the factory Rally Red paint was covered with Sunoco Blue. When the repairs were completed, the team competed at the Sebring 12-hour race. They finished ninth overall and first in GT and their performance cemented a 16-year partnership with Sunoco. After that race, Penske sold the Corvette to race a Lola. The Penske Corvette only raced twice, once in red at Daytona and once in Sunoco Blue at Sebring.
2020 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
George Haddad was motivated to build this red-livery 1966 Penske tribute after he became friends with Gib Hufstader. They met at Daytona when Hufstader was attending the reveal of Fabulous Restorations Owens Corning tribute L88 Corvette he had driven at Sebring in 1969. Hufstader was a passionate amateur racing driver and would frequently take vacations from GM to attend races and help Corvette race teams. When he told Haddad that his favorite was supporting Penske’s team at the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona, the decision was made to build the Penske Tribute ’66. The completed car was unveiled at the Daytona HSR Historic Race Weekend with original team members Gib Hufstader, George Wintersteen, and Bill Preston, and was displayed at the 2020 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance where it was parked next to the original Penske L88 owned by Corvette Repair.
Watch! SplitRay 1966 Corvette
Check out this 2017 walk-around video of the “SplitRay” 1966 Corvette built for Dennis Johnson by The Auto Shoppe.
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