The Greatest Corvette Story Ever Told

On the trail of perhaps the most well-traveled C1 racecar in existence

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December 28, 2023

Every vintage Corvette has a story to tell, but few are as complex or interesting as this one. It involves triumph, tragedy, deception, near-total destruction, miraculous survival, and an equally miraculous rebirth. It also includes more than a few larger-than-life characters, beginning with Lloyd Perry “Lucky” Casner.

Born in 1928 in New York City, Casner went on to graduate from the University of Miami, after which he went to work as a commercial airline pilot. In the mid-1950s, while also selling various used cars in Miami, he took up sports-car racing, starting with an MGA and quickly progressing to an AC Bristol and then more exotic machinery from the likes of Ferrari and Maserati. On his own, Casner couldn’t afford to go big-time racing with Tipo 61 Birdcages or 250 Testarossas, but he had a special skill that paved the way: he was capable of convincing just about anyone to do just about anything, and he convinced a lot of people to support his passion for motorsports.

In furtherance of his efforts to procure racecars, big-name drivers, and sponsorship, Casner created a company called Casner Motor Racing Division in 1959. In its abbreviated form, “Camoradi” sounded Italian and effused an air of aristocratic tradition at a time when virtually all high-level privateer racing teams were owned, or at least funded by, wealthy, well-connected individuals such as Marquis Alfonso de Portago, Briggs Cunningham, and Lance Reventlow.

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The Camoradi Vette leads the pack in a photo from the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans program.

In March 1959, at the SCCA national race held on a temporary circuit at Opa-Locka Naval Air Base in North Miami, Casner seized the announcer’s microphone and asked those present to become “members” of the Camoradi team. The goal was to help fund his impending assault on the most prominent European road races, including Le Mans. The idea was met with a fair degree of ridicule, as virtually everyone there would have gladly gone overseas themselves to race if they had the means. Casner’s entreaties did, however, yield tangible results, courtesy of a young motoring journalist and upcoming racer named Fred Gamble.

Gamble, like Casner, is a colorful character who was essential to the rise of Camoradi in international racing. He was also indispensable in creating this story. At the age of 91 and living comfortably in Hawaii, his sharp memory and equally sharp sense of humor made it a pleasure to speak with him as he recounted in great detail the people, places, and events surrounding our feature car.

“I was driving an MGA at the Opa-Locka national,” Gamble recalls, “and I knew Lucky to be a super salesman, even what you might call a con man, and I thought if anyone could get such a project off the ground, he could. I went over to talk to him after his spiel on the PA system. He knew who I was, as a journalist, because he was a publicity hound, and I told him if anyone could get such a scheme going, he probably could…I asked if I could be associated with his effort, go with him to Europe at my own expense, do PR work for him, and finance myself by selling articles to American magazines. He replied by saying, ‘Better than that, let’s join forces and make this thing work!’”

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Lloyd “Lucky” Casner (center left) and team discuss strategy in the pits.

Excited by the concept of crossing the Atlantic to go racing, the recent college grad spent the next several weeks formulating a plan to raise the money it would require. “In that era,” Gamble explains, “a similar idea had been successfully promoted by Ecurie Ecosse in Scotland. Jimmy Clark got his start with them. They got private and industry backing for that Scottish team, mainly racing D-Type Jaguars. So I put together a similar proposal for an American team.

“The idea evolved into a concept of an ‘American Olympic team of auto racing’ that we could sell to industry. The idea built upon the reality that no American driver could get a top-line works car to race against the European factory teams. Our promotion was to solicit U.S.-industry financial backing to buy the most competitive cars we could get and select America’s best drivers to challenge for the World Championship.”

Casner took Gamble’s detailed proposal and ran with it. The consummate salesman struck gold with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, which coincidentally was looking for a way into high-level road racing at the time. Once Goodyear signed on, Casner leveraged that connection to get additional sponsors, including Chevrolet.

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Casner en route to a GT-class win at the Karlskoga circuit in Sweden.

In the summer of 1959 he worked his magic on Chevrolet General Manager Ed Cole and Zora Arkus-Duntov, who then held the title of Chevrolet Director of High Performance. Camoradi would receive two new 1960 Corvettes equipped with the full suite of available race options, including the 290-horsepower fuel-injected engine, four-speed gearbox, 24-gallon fuel tank (replaced for Le Mans with a 37-gallon tank supplied by Chevrolet Engineering), and the Heavy Duty Brakes and Suspension package. For his part, Casner would see to it that these cars competed in all of the big races at home in the U.S. and abroad, with top mechanics and drivers. Included among the latter, and undoubtedly adding to Camoradi’s credibility with Chevrolet, were Dan Gurney, Carroll Shelby, Jim Jeffords, and Stirling Moss.

Fast Out of the Gate

Because GM was still bound by the June 1957 Automobile Manufacturers Association ban on racing, Cole and Duntov had to get creative with their support for the teams racing Corvettes and other Chevy vehicles. Camoradi’s Corvettes were delivered through Miami’s Don Allen Chevrolet, complete with a contract to do “field testing and development.” In February 1960, following the addition of roll bars, safety belts, auxiliary lights, and blue stripes to complement the factory Ermine White, the two Corvettes, including the SN00867S102272 car featured here, were put on a ship to Cuba for the Gran Premio de la Habana GT race. Jim Jeffords drove one of the cars to victory in the all-GT race, following that up three days later with a GT class win and Eighth overall in the main event.

One month after returning from Cuba, Camoradi’s two Corvettes and five other team cars made the journey to central Florida for the 12-hour endurance classic in Sebring. “At Sebring I signed on as a reserve driver for the Corvettes,” remembers Gamble, “not intending to actually drive, but just to get my name in the program.” That changed when one of the team’s Corvette drivers, Skip Hudson, didn’t show up. Gamble, who had never even driven a practice lap at Sebring, took the start in 2272 (badged as No. 5) and was lapping at a very comfortable pace before getting called in and told to turn his car over to Jim Jeffords, who had reportedly over-revved the other Corvette and bent some valves scarcely an hour in.

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The car following its roll-over accident outside the Swedish town of Ljungby.

A few minutes later Lee Lilley, the team’s chief mechanic, told Gamble that although the No. 4 Jeffords car had a damaged engine that wouldn’t rev over 5,000 rpm, he was welcome to drive it around “until it blew up.” Gamble jumped at the chance, and despite being rev-limited and down on power, he managed to turn consistently respectable lap times. In the early evening he was further hampered by the loss of all forward gears except Fourth, but he continued on, doing fairly well on Sebring’s long straights but struggling mightily on the circuit’s turns.

Another long stop near the end to replace a broken fuel line put Gamble further down in the standings, but he managed to finish Third in class, driving the entire 12 hours solo when such a feat was still permitted. Sadly, that car burned to the ground the following day when a mechanic attempted to start the engine. Unbeknownst to him, the replacement fuel line, which had been borrowed from a street Corvette, had already been returned, so cranking the starter caused gas to spray everywhere.

After Sebring the surviving Camoradi Corvette, now wearing No. 4, was entered in the Targa Florio, arguably the world’s most dangerous sports-car race, held on a 44.739-mile-long course consisting of treacherous public roads in the mountains of Sicily. Gamble was to be the only driver, but the car wasn’t shipped in time to make the race, leaving him profoundly disappointed. “Sadly, Lee Lilley and I had a personality conflict,” Gamble explains. “He was an older, ex-professional midget and sports-car racer, and a very good mechanic, but he was irritated by my enthusiasm and cockiness regarding my presumed talent. Since he wasn’t going to Sicily, too, he dragged his feet and intentionally missed shipping the Corvette in time.”

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The Corvette did make the next deadline, for the 1960 Nürburgring 1,000-km race in Germany. It did not fare well, however, retiring early with a seized front wheel bearing. “Lee and I were to co-drive the car, and we did many practice laps in our Ford station wagon to learn the course,” remembers Gamble. “To save it, we drove the Corvette very few laps, maybe five each in practice, with both of us riding in the car together.

“There are several jumps at the ‘Ring, with one in a particularly fast corner. Unfortunately, Lee insisted on sliding through that corner and over that jump, landing sideways on two wheels. I tried to convince him to go slightly slower, straighten it out, and jump the car straight so as not to damage anything. He was annoyed that I was considerably quicker, and he wouldn’t listen. I qualified the car at 11:18, and Lee started because I had driven at Sebring.

“Near the end of his first session he came in early, complaining of something being wrong in the front end. Our lead Maserati was due in for a stop, and since we couldn’t see anything wrong with the Corvette, we told Lee to go around one more lap. He made it about a mile and the right, front wheel bearing seized, shattered by his sideways jumping. He said it couldn’t be fixed even though we had about six hours to go. I was heartbroken. It took him 15 minutes to replace the bearing after the race. I believe he was just intimidated by the whole event and track, and didn’t want to continue.”

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The Camoradi car, in its initial and partially reconstructed post-crash forms.

Following the ill-fated Nürburgring experience, the Corvette went to Camoradi’s base in Modena, Italy, where it was prepared for the next race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Gamble was to co-drive with Lilley again and was determined to finish the event. “I got Lee in a corner and told him, ‘We are not going to push it. We are going to take care of this car and just drive it around for 24 hours. I want to shift at no more than 5,000 rpm and feather on the Mulsanne [Straight] at 5,700 rpm.’ The redline was 6,500 rpm.

“The three Cunningham Corvettes were just being thrashed around as hard as they would go. Lee apparently stuck his foot in it on one practice lap and was credited with 155 mph down Mulsanne. I chewed him out, and he apparently behaved himself in the race.”

As often happens in Le Mans, it rained for much of the first half, slowing down the faster sports-racing cars and allowing the production-based GT competitors, including the Corvettes, to nearly keep pace with them. True to Gamble’s wishes, the Camoradi car ran a conservative pace the entire 24 hours. That, along with the heavy rain on Saturday, helped minimize tire wear, and they completed the entire race on one set of Goodyears. The Corvette crossed the finish line 10th overall, and would have done even better but for one long pit stop to diagnose and replace a broken FI high-pressure pump cable.

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In August Gamble and Bob Wallace, a mechanic from New Zealand whom Gamble had hired prior to Le Mans, took the Corvette and Camoradi’s Maserati to Sweden to contest a 75-km sports car race at the Karlskoga circuit. Casner drove the car to First Place in the GT category, and afterward Swedish driving legend Jo Bonnier, who had driven Camoradi’s Tipo 61 Maserati to Second overall at the same event, drove both cars on a nearby Swedish motorvãg (motorway) and established new national speed records.

A Turn for the Worse

Following the race in Sweden, Gamble and Wallace set out for England for the Goodwood Tourist Trophy. The event’s organizers invited Camoradi on the basis of the team’s performance in Le Mans and offered Gamble $2,000 to participate. “They claimed the only other entrant paid starting money was Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s 250GT Ferrari, the favorite to win,” remembers Gamble. “I knew Goodwood was very abrasive and hard on tires, and I was confident we’d have a big tire advantage with our Goodyears. I also knew that the Corvette was as quick as the Ferrari, but I had no illusion that I was as quick as Sterling. But with a tire advantage, I thought we had a good chance of keeping up with him on the basis of fewer tire changes. So I was confident, with Bob’s car preparation, we’d surprise a lot of people, and I was ready to drive the car hard.”

Alas, we’ll never know whether Gamble and Corvette 2272 could have given Moss and his Ferrari a fight. On the journey to Goodwood, with Wallace at the wheel of the Corvette and Gamble following in the team’s Ford wagon, Wallace veered across the road outside the Swedish town of Ljungby, went into a ditch, and rolled several times. He was uninjured, but the Corvette was a battered mess. After Wallace was released from the local hospital, he and Gamble salvaged the car’s engine and transmission and gave the seemingly totaled car to the first policeman who had arrived at the crash to render aid. It was their presumption that the policeman would sell some of the pieces of the race-winning, record-setting car as souvenirs and then scrap what remained.

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When Gamble and Wallace got back to Camoradi’s shop in Modena, they sold the Corvette’s engine and transmission to a man named Hans Tanner. Tanner, partnered with Valerio Colotti in a company they called Tec Mec, acted as an agent for overseas Maserati and Ferrari owners who sent their cars back to the respective factories in Italy for repairs. A New Zealand racer named Ross Jensen had sent his Maserati 250F to Tec Mec for a factory rebuild, and Tanner paid Gamble and Wallace to install the crashed Corvette’s powertrain in it. Though he didn’t own the Corvette-powered Maserati and thus had no right to sell it, Tanner did exactly that, selling it to another New Zealander, Johnny Mansell, who had previously employed Wallace as his race mechanic.

And that, thought Gamble and Wallace, was how Corvette 2272 met its demise, with its engine and gearbox living on to power a Maserati racecar. They were mistaken.

Letter-Writing Campaign

Thirty years later, a Corvette enthusiast named Loren Lundberg contacted Mike Pillsbury to discuss displaying Pillsbury’s 1960 Cunningham Le Mans Corvette at a southwest regional NCRS show. The conversation turned to vintage Corvette racecars in general, and after Lundberg revealed that he lived in Glendale, Arizona, Pillsbury asked if he was familiar with Bob Wallace and his Phoenix-based business, Bob Wallace Cars.

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Yes, this was the same Bob Wallace whom Fred Gamble had hired in May 1960 to care for the Camoradi Corvette. After his tenure with Lucky Casner’s operation, Wallace wrenched on Ferraris for Scuderia Serenissima, and in 1964 he went to work for Lamborghini at its new factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese. Wallace left the company in 1975 following its sale by Ferruccio Lamborghini and settled in Arizona, opening an independent shop specializing in Ferrari and Lamborghini restoration and race prep.

Lundberg didn’t know Wallace, but he was vaguely familiar with the Camoradi Corvette. And so, keen to know where the car ended up, he made the roughly 10-mile drive to visit the New Zealander. Wallace shared his recollections, including the car’s crash and subsequent donation to the Swedish police officer, and advised the Lundberg to get in touch with Fred Gamble for more information. Wallace didn’t know Gamble’s whereabouts but thought he was somehow involved with skiing in Colorado.

Armed with some clues, Lundberg looked through a bunch of ski magazines and called a resort association in Colorado, but he found no trace of a Fred Gamble. He also enlisted the help of his older brother, who knew more about the family’s Swedish ancestry and was able to provide the name of a Swedish member of the Chrysler Town and Country Club. In December 1991 Lundberg wrote the man, asking for details about the August 1960 race in Karlskoga and also inquiring as to what authority would have jurisdiction over the Corvette’s crash.

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In January 1992 Lundberg was thumbing through some car magazines before filing them away when he came across a letter to the editor in an old issue of Road & Track. It was from one Fred Gamble, and it included the name of his hometown in Colorado. A quick call to telephone information yielded a phone number and street address. Lundberg fired off a two-page letter with six groups of questions, and a little more than a week later received Gamble’s eight-page response, which began, “OK, you asked for it, so you will get an earful.” Gamble provided a treasure trove of information, but like Wallace, he couldn’t remember the name of the town where the Corvette was crashed and given to the policeman.

In late February Lundberg received a response from the Swedish Chrysler-club member, who was kind enough to send copies of two magazine articles covering the Karlskoga race, along with a key bit of information: in Sweden police records are maintained in each individual local jurisdiction. Still ignorant as to which locality the crash occurred in, Lundberg studied a map and determined the most probable route that Gamble and Wallace would have taken from Karlskoga to Goodwood. He then sent a letter to the Swedish Embassy in Washington, requesting the names and addresses of every police jurisdiction along the presumed route.

In September Lundberg received a response from the Swedish Embassy, providing contact information for all six police jurisdictions along the route. At the end of the month, after sending letters to all six, he received a response from each, including one with copies of the accident report from Ljungby police officer Stig Johansson. (Ljungby, you’ll recall, is where the crash occurred.) The report included the names of the investigating officers, one of whom Lundberg knew had been given the car. A follow-up letter to Johansson yielded contact information for the policeman who had filed the report more than three decades prior.

In early December Lundberg wrote to the now-retired officer, and later that month received a response. The man confirmed that he had in fact been given the crashed car, which he described as “a twisted chassis and a heap of broken pieces of plastic.” He removed the seat and steering wheel and gave what remained to the mechanic whose shop it was towed to. He concluded by speculating that it was unlikely that the car still existed.

Unwilling to give up, Lundberg wrote again, asking for the name of the mechanic and the locations of any area scrap yards where the car’s remains might have ended up. He also asked what became of the Corvette’s steering wheel and seat. The officer did not respond to that letter, a second one sent in February 1993, or another one sent a year later.

Dejected but not defeated, Lundberg enjoyed another stroke of luck. While he was rearranging old NCRS magazines, a 1981 membership roster fell out of one. When he picked it up it happened to be open to the inside back page, and on that page were the names of the four NCRS members in Sweden. And among the four, there was a man in Ljungby who was listed as the owner of a 1960 Corvette. Lundberg learned from the NCRS that this individual was no longer a member, but he did get his last known address and, of course, sent a letter. When that got no response, he sent yet another letter to officer Johansson, asking if he knew the Ljungby Corvette owner and if that man’s 1960 Corvette was in fact the Camoradi car.

In November 1994 Lundberg got a response from Johansson. The retired policeman stated that he had spoken with the former NCRS member, who confirmed that his ’60 Corvette was not the Camoradi car. Johansson also revealed that he had been inquiring about the car around the town of Ljungby, and two people who were present at the accident scene told him that, as of six months after the crash, the car was still around. Beyond that they didn’t know what happened to it.

Encouraged by the news the car hadn’t immediately been scrapped, Lundberg wrote back, asking if Johansson could somehow provide the serial number of every 1960 Corvette registered in Sweden. The policeman’s responding letter went a step further: the Camoradi car was still alive and he had found its owner, who bought it in 1979. The car had been partially repaired following the crash, and the new owner took it apart in 1980 to “re-repair” the earlier work. He didn’t get any further than disassembly, however. Lundberg was happy to also learn that a lot of the car’s original, race-specific components, including the heavy-duty suspension and brakes, 37-gallon fuel tank, and Koni competition shocks, were still present.

On New Year’s Eve, 1994, Lundberg wrote to the car’s owner, expressing his interest in buying it and providing a bank draft to pay for photos of it. On February 27, 1995 a response finally arrived, with the requested photos and a lot of information about prior owners, parts present, and parts missing, but with no mention of whether the car was for sale. Another letter and another response from the owner indicated that he would be willing to sell, but for a price that Lundberg described as “disturbingly high for a car without a motor or transmission, that required reassembly of the rear fiberglass, paint, a full interior, etc.”

Lundberg showed the photos he was sent to Wallace, who confirmed that the Corvette in question was in fact the Camoradi car. Despite the stratospheric asking price, Lundberg had to have it. He applied for a passport and made travel arrangements for himself and his wife, a task complicated considerably by her request that they do an extended tour of Europe as well. Lundberg also contacted Bob Stump, his congressman, asking for assistance with getting the car through U.S. Customs. When Lundberg’s Corvette buddy Gene Florian learned of the plan, he recognized the makings of an epic adventure and volunteered to go along. The Lundbergs and Florian eventually made it to Ljungby to meet officer Johansson and others with a connection to the Corvette. They then traveled to Stockholm on June 29, 1995, to buy the car from its owner, a man named Claude.

After gathering up all of the parts and preparing the car for its long journey, Claude, with supervision from officer Johansson, packed everything in a cargo container. The container went from Stockholm to Bremerhaven, a port city on Germany’s North Sea coast, where it was loaded onto a cargo ship. On October 30 the ship reached California’s Port of Long Beach, where it was met by Lundberg, Florian, and two more Corvette friends, Bob Rosebaugh and John Amgwert. Initial difficulties with Customs were cleared up by a letter to the agency from Congressman Stump, and the four enthusiasts transferred the car and its many parts from the shipping container to Florian’s trailer. The Camoradi Corvette was back in America for the first time since May 1960, and 400 miles later it was across California, the Mojave Desert, and half of Arizona, resting comfortably in Lundberg’s Glendale garage.

Phoenix Rising

Over time Lundberg reassembled the car to its 1960 race configuration, after which he drove it regularly and shared its story with others at many car shows and other events around the country. After his passing in 2021, his family sold the Corvette to brothers-in-law Dominic Testa and Sal Caliguri. The two men shared Lundberg’s passion for the car and its incredible history, and to that end, they decided it deserved another, full restoration to the highest level possible. To that end, they entrusted it to JTM Motorsports in Deer Park, New York. The skilled team there performed a painstakingly accurate restoration that returned the Camoradi Corvette to the same condition it was in after it underwent its initial race preparation in Don Allen Chevrolet’s shop in January 1960.

Since then the Camoradi Corvette has been shown extensively, and Testa and Caliguri plan to continue that practice. Like Lundberg before them, the two men love sharing the car’s history with others—and because it’s such an incredible story that includes triumph, tragedy, deception, near-total destruction, miraculous survival, and an equally miraculous rebirth, others love hearing it.

Also from Issue 167

  • 700-HP C6 Drift Car
  • Restored ’55 Driver
  • L46-Powered ’66 Roadster
  • Racing: Inside PME
  • Origins of the Grand Sport
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