The Corvette Hall of Fame. All images courtesy the National Corvette Museum.
The Corvette Hall of Fame, located at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, exists to recognize those who have played a vital role in the evolution of Chevrolet’s singular Corvette. The first class of inductees, recognized in 1998, numbered six. For 2019, the ranks swell to 71, as three more are recognized for their contributions to the iconic GM model. This year’s inductees are Dollie Cole, Briggs Cunningham, and Tom Peters.
Probably no person was a bigger cheerleader of former GM President and Chevrolet Chief Engineer Ed Cole’s creations than his widow, Dollie. Ed and Dollie wed in 1964, after Cole—typically credited as the father of the small-block Chevrolet V-8—had worked with Zora Arkus-Duntov to revitalize the Corvette and before the public-relations calamity that followed the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed. Even after Ed’s death in a 1977 plane crash, Dollie was his most vocal proponent, and 23 years later she was Chair of the National Corvette Museum. As Chair, the outspoken Dollie helped revitalize the museum, which had fallen on hard times.
Briggs Cunningham. Photo (c) Pete Lyons.
America’s favorite Nutmegger, yachtsman, and auto racer Briggs Cunningham likely needs no introduction here. With an infatuation for high-performance machinery that dated back to the 1930s, Cunningham’s great desire was to continue the work that his friend, Miles Collier, started at Le Mans in 1939—namely, reintroducing American racers to the rest of the world.
For his efforts, Cunningham initially settled on the new OHV V-8 from Cadillac (another Ed Cole credit, incidentally), which eventually grew into his eponymous line of sports cars. Ultimately, he set on “America’s Sports Car” to take another shot at Le Mans, in 1960. Cunningham brought three Corvettes to France, co-driving one with Bill Kimberly and recruiting Dick Thompson, Fred Windridge, John Fitch, and Bob Grossman to pilot the others. Fitch and Grossman captured eighth place overall with theirs.
Corvette has always been associated with the most hallowed names in GM styling. It was Harley Earl’s concept, Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda get credit for the ironic C2 and C3 generations. In the 1980s, Chuck Jordan was Vice President for Styling at General Motors, and a young graduate of the Art Center College of Design caught his eye. That graduate was Tom Peters.
Once within GM, Peters came to the attention of the Corvette design staff, and he was invited to contribute to the ZR-1 project and the Corvette Indy Car concept vehicle. That lead to his being asked to come up with an advance proposal for the C5 Corvette, and ultimately to his being named Design Director for the C6 Corvette and later the C7 Stingray, finally serving as the Director of Design for Performance Car Exteriors for Corvette and Camaro.
The induction ceremony will be a part of the National Corvette Museum’s 25th-anniversary celebration, taking place from August 28 to 31. Further biographical details, photos, and even some videos are available on the museum website.