Mexican Road Racer

Tribute to First Corvette

John Gunnell - May 09, 2014 09:16 AM


The modern roll cage varies from the ’54 format.

John Gunnell

The upgraded Stovebolt six is cool.

John Gunnell

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      In 1954, a Chicago speed shop was responsible for fielding the first Corvette to race in an international competition. Now, a pair of Wisconsin enthusiasts has built a tribute car that honors that milestone history.
      Bill Peter and John Schentz of Mequon built their replica ’54 ‘Vette for the modern Mexican Road Race revival, which runs between Ensenada and San Felipe. The car is a regular entry in the vintage racing events at Road America (
      The car is a replica of the ‘Vette that hot rodder Bill von Esser and Ernest Pultz took to Mexico for one of the original Carerra Panamericana races in mid- November 1954. The Corvette was among 149 cars that were trying to win the 1,908-mile contest.
      Von Esser’s car broke down on the first leg of the race with mechanical trouble. According to Von Esser’s son, the car developed valve train problems that were repaired a few days after the breakdown with parts pirated from a Chevy school bus the men found in Mexico. He says the car was driven home.
      In 2008, Peter and Schentz drove a ’54 Oldsmobile in the modern race’s Historic Class. They decided to build a Corvette for the 2010 venue. The six-cylinder engine was beefed up with heavy-duty GMC army truck connecting rods. Halfway through the 2010 race, the ‘Vette was in first place when it smashed into a guardrail.
      Peter bought a modern chassis. The reproduction 1954 Corvette body came from Lone Star in Texas. The car is ready for attention again.