Purple People Eater: This Rare Corvette Has a Winning History
A “Purple People Eater” isn’t exactly the first name that comes to mind when describing something fierce and all-conquering. In fact, it probably doesn’t come to mind at all unless you’re a huge Sheb Wooley fan. Nevertheless, that’s the moniker that this very special Corvette earned…and it’s a car deserving of some serious respect. In the mid 1950s, a young sports car driver by the name of Jim Jeffords began shaking-up the Sports Car Club of America racing scene. He was quick…really quick, and it didn’t take long for him to make the jump from C-Production Jaguar XK140s into B-Production Corvettes. Once there, he became a winning machine, and went on to claim the 1958 and 1959 SCCA National titles, taking an incredible 29 wins from 42 races. In 1959, this was the car to do it—Jefford’s “Purple People Eater” Chevrolet Corvette—and at Barrett-Jackson’s 2016 Scottsdale event in January, it’s going to fly across the auction block. That’ll be hard to miss. RELATED: See More Photos of the '59 Purple People Eater Corvette
Long story short, Jeffords made a big splash as a driver on Chevrolet’s own Corvette Racing Team, but he’ll be best remembered for the Purple People Eater Corvettes he campaigned while a part of Chicago’s Nickey Chevrolet race team. The cars received their non-factory paint at the Nickey body shop, and were designed to stand out from the pack on race day. And stand out they did.
But the sheer dominance that Jeffords enjoyed wasn’t enough to give this car an easy retirement. In 1961, the “MK III” Purple People Eater was sold off, repainted and subsequently raced again. It would exchange owners over time and its motorsport history would be lost to the past, hinted to only by the roll bar, hood latches, and racing fuel tank stuffed in its rear. At one point, the Corvette was allegedly even used as a makeshift table for mixing paint in a restoration shop.
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Thankfully in 1985, its owners—Chip Miller and Ken Heckert—decided to delve deeper into the odd Corvette’s history. They tracked down owners, looked through photographs, and presumably jumped for joy when they discovered its Purple People Eater roots. The car was then fully restored to its 1959 season livery and likeness.
Sadly, Jim Jeffords passed away at the age of 87 on March 25, 2014. However, his racing legacy lives on and thankfully so does his long-lost Corvette Purple People Eater.
RELATED: Jeffords Also Owned the Wild '56 Chevrolet Corvette SR-2