The Greder Corvette, s/n 410300, holds a unique place in Le Mans history, not only as one of the most successful, and well-traveled, Corvette race cars in the world, but also as the survivor of one of Chevrolet’s “back door” racing programs, managed and implemented by Zora Arkus-Duntov. The central figure is Henri Greder.
Greder nearly won the 1963 Tour de France in a factory-entered 427 Ford Galaxie. This earned him a Ford of France ride in a 4.7-liter GT40 at Le Mans in 1966 and 1967. In preparation for the 1968 24 Heures du Mans, GM’s European promotions director (and up-and-coming chairman) Bob Lutz and Greder approached Swiss racing patron Georges Filipinetti with the idea of entering a two-car Corvette team at Le Mans.
Filipinetti accepted, and two L88 Corvette coupes shortly arrived from Detroit, fully race-prepared for the 24 Hours under Zora Arkus-Duntov’s supervision—this car, for Greder and Umberto Maglioli, and the other for Sylvain Garant and Jean-Michel Giorgi. Zora, knowing the demands of 24 hours at speed at Le Mans, fitted very tall 2.56 rear end gears to take full advantage of the legendary 427-ci L88 engine’s power. The combination was clocked down the Mulsanne straight at 191 mph and turned in a sub-four-minute lap in testing.
The Corvettes were fast but suffered from what the French called the “ennuis de freins”—brakes not measuring up to the inertia of one and a half tons accelerated to nearly 200 mph by th big-block L88. Greder recalls having to brake for the Mulsanne turn at the 500-meter mark.
In the 1968 race, Greder and Maglioli dominated the Porsche competition and led the GT category until the sixth hour, when a carburetion problem melted a piston. Garant wiped out the other Corvette in the Dunlop Curves in the 14th hour.
Returning in 1969, now with Reine Wisell as co-driver and Ronnie Petersen as backup, Greder’s L88 Corvette endured 16 hours of aggressive downshifting, using engine braking to relieve the brakes’ “ennui,” before the gearbox gave up, again while leading the GT category. Following Le Mans, Greder placed 6th overall at Magny Cours, then in September reprised the Tour de France, a 5,000-km marathon over nine days, including eleven events at nine different tracks. Greder and the Corvette finished 2nd and won the GT category, earning the description “La phénoménale Chevrolet Corvette” in Maurice Louche’s history of the Tour de France Automobile.
The 1968–69 Greder car was sold to Jean-Claude Aubriet and entered by Aubriet’s Ecurie Leopard a further four times at Le Mans from 1970 to 1973, finishing as high as 18th overall and 2nd in class, as well as contesting an active schedule of other races, including the Tour de France in 1970 and 1971. Six years at Le Mans, much less consecutive, as in this case, is a record unequalled by any single chassis in Le Mans history.
The Greder Corvette was sold in 1989 to Bob Rubin, then to Marc de Peescara. It was acquired by its present owner in 2000 and was gone through thoroughly and professionally in the owner’s own shop to prepare it for historic racing. Its first appearance was at the Monterey Historics in 2001. It subsequently has been displayed several times at important events without further historic competition.
Today it is powered by the engine it had when acquired in 2000, a 1970s vintage 454 in the guise of the classic L88. It is prepared for historic racing with a lightened flywheel, carbon fiber clutch, M22 “Rock Crusher” close-ratio gearbox, and J56 heavy-duty brakes. In addition to FIA Historic Vehicle Identity and a new Historic Technical Passport, its documentation includes copies of the original ACO entry forms from its six appearances at Le Mans.