In 1956, Ford was building the two-seat Thunderbird, and outselling Corvette four to one. After two disastrous sales years, the Corvette had to change or die. And change it did. First, it received a new body to replace the classic roadster style body of the previous three years. Still in fiberglass, it now had external door handles, wind-up windows and a stylish “cove” or indent in the side, outlined with a polished, stainless-steel strip. Corvette also began to get some real engines as Zora Arkus-Duntov’s influence started to have its effect.
The top-of-the-line engine for ’56 was the dual-quad, 225-hp, 283-cubic-inch engine, as in the car shown here. It was also the only engine GM shipped until June ’56, when the single-carb, 210-hp version became standard and the dual-quad an option (RPO 469). Nearly two-thirds of the year’s Corvettes were delivered with the dual-quad engine.
One hundred and eleven buyers of the 225-hp dual-quad engine opted for the RPO 449 special camshaft, the fabled “Duntov” solid-lifter cam, which boosted the engine’s power to an estimated 240 hp and was the same camshaft used by Duntov to post a speed of 150.583 mph on the sand at Daytona during Speed Week 1956. These very rare RPO 449 cars are identified by their block numbers: GU for the 240 hp engine, which was available only with a 3-speed manual transmission. The 225 engines had FG and GR block number suffixes, FK and GV for the 210. Fs are Powerglide, Gs are 3-speed. Production figures for 1956 are among the lowest in Corvette’s post-’53 history, with only 3,467 built.
The car described here is finished in Aztec Copper with beige coves, a color scheme that is believed to be original. It has a 4-speed manual transmission and a power convertible top, but no hard top. The car is believed to have been sold new to a woman in San Mateo, California, who owned it for 34 years, accounting for its unusually original condition. Its intervening history is not known, until it was sold to a German enthusiast in 1991 for a reported $90,000 (Canadian)! It is believed that all its important mechanical components are “numbers matching.” This is a highly-desirable car from one of the lowest production years with a high-performance engine that is quintessentially “Corvette.”