Johnson sits in the driver...
Johnson sits in the driver seat of the “Rebel Car,” which is now owned by Mike Yager. Standing (from left) are Doug Bergen, retired GM engineer Gib Hufstader, and Corvette restorer Kevin Mackay.
Remembering "Marietta" Bob Johnson
Legendary Corvette racer Robert D. "Marietta Bob" Johnson died on May 7, at the age of 85. Johnson graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in engineering and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war he became a successful businessman, and was eventually appointed president of the First Colony Corporation. Johnson began racing Corvettes at the age of 37, thanks to encouragement from his close friend Doug Bergen. Bergen owned a '66 big-block Corvette that he had personally prepared to compete in the SCCA's A Production category. He needed a full-time driver and thought his buddy Johnson (whose sobriquet can be traced to his hometown of Marietta, Ohio) was the perfect choice. There was just one problem: Johnson had no racing experience. Bergen asked another friend--also named Bob Johnson, strangely, but hailing from Columbus--to train Marietta Bob in competition driving. Columbus Bob agreed, and it didn't take long for his protégé to become competitive. Marietta Bob finished Fifth in the 1967 A Production finals at Daytona.
After a successful stint in a '68 L88 Corvette, also owned by Bergen, Marietta Bob Johnson joined a Corvette team owned by Or Costanzo from Tampa, Florida. The team, whose members included this author, campaigned a '69 L88 Vette. At the 1971 24 Hours of Daytona, Johnson, Dave Heinz, and Costanzo piloted the car to Sixth overall and Second in GT. In 1972 new owner Toye English renamed the team Race Engineering & Development (RED) and repainted the Corvette to look like a Confederate flag. He did this to poke fun at John Greenwood's famous American-flag paint scheme. The tactic must have worked, as the "Rebel Car" won the GT category at the 1972 six-hour race at Daytona, then finished Fourth overall/First in GT at the 12 Hours of Sebring. RED next went to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished a creditable 15th overall at the classic endurance race.
After a one-year stint with the Greenwood team in 1973, Johnson retired from racing and rejoined the business community. Thanks to Kevin Mackay, owner of Corvette Repair, Johnson rejoined the Corvette hobby at the Bloomington Gold show in 1992. Mackay had restored the Rebel Car, and he invited Johnson to witness its unveiling. I'll never forget the look on Johnson's face when he climbed into No. 57 for the first time in two decades. Tears streamed down his face as he sat in the driver seat, reliving past racing memories in the old warrior. Mackay made this Corvette-racing legend very happy that day, and all of us who knew him were grateful. Rest in peace, my friend; you will be forever missed. --Walt Thurn
Corvettes at Carlisle Wants You--to Win
Mark your calendars for August 24-26, 2012, when Corvettes at Carlisle will transform the Carlisle (Pennsylvania) Fairgrounds into a Corvette wonderland. This year the show's organizers, in conjunction with AllVette.net, will also make one Corvette fan's dream come true by giving away a 24,000-mile '98 C5 coupe. The Vette--which carried an original MSRP of $43,019--features a Sebring Silver Metallic exterior, a black leather interior, a six-speed manual transmission, and a long list of comfort and convenience options. And while its original GM warranty has long since expired, this modern classic comes backed by a 90-day/5,000-mile powertrain coverage. Registration will take place both online and onsite via the registration kiosks located in the new Carlisle Events Guest Services building. Attendance is not required to win, and the winner need not be present. For more information on the giveaway and the show itself, visit www.carlisle events.com.
ZR1 Paces Indy 500
A '13 ZR1 led the starting field of the 96th Indianapolis 500 to the green flag Sunday, May 27, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The car was the most powerful production vehicle ever to pace the race. "Corvette embodies pure performance, so the ZR1 was a perfect car to pace the most prestigious auto race in the world," said Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation President and CEO Jeff Belskus. "Chevrolet is a great partner of the Speedway, and we share in the excitement of the upcoming 60th anniversary of the iconic Corvette brand."
America's Favorite Sports-Car Art
Longtime VETTE contributor K. Scott Teeters has partnered with FineArtAmerica.com to offer buyers a choice of Corvette art prints in sizes from small to very large. FineArtAmerica.com will also professionally matte and frame the prints. "Prints can be custom made on archival paper, glossy or semi-matte photo paper, watercolor paper, or canvas," Teeters says. "There are over 100 colors of matte paper and dozens of frame styles. When you're done selecting your print and frame, your picture is professionally assembled, packed, and sent to you, ready to be hung." Teeters is also introducing two new print configurations: a square format (in sizes ranging from 8x8-inches to 48x48-inches) and a 1x3-ratio format (in sizes from 8x2.63-inches to 48x16-inches). These choices allow buyers to purchase horizontal and vertical layouts of his color Pace Cars, Special Editions, and Corvette Stingray Concept car, as well as a new series of diazo blueprint-style prints. Prints of Corvette engines from the Blue Flame Six through the LS9 are also available as individual prints or in a tribute montage. Prices start at $30 and vary depending on size, paper, and framing. For more information, visit www.kscottteeterscarart.artistwebsites.com.