Extremely Rare and Historic Corvette on Display During Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
Famed Purple People Eater Race Car Comes to the First Coast in March
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
The annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance event, March 7-9 at the Ritz-Carlton and Golf Club of Amelia Island (Florida), historically hosts some of the most high-end cars in the country and also helps contribute millions annually to local First Coast charities. For many of the cars, the following words may apply: historic, unique, rare, one-of-a-kind, legendary, etc. One car slated for display can best be described as all of those words and more, a very unique 1-of-1 Corvette racer known as the Purple People Eater. Not only is this car special because it’s the only one of its kind, it’s special because of the story that surrounds it.
In the mid to late 1950’s, the racing scene on the west coast was dominant to say the least. West coast drivers were racing Corvettes and blowing the doors off of all comers. That all changed during the 1958/1959 racing seasons when a Florida-based east coast driver named Jim Jeffords piloted the oddly named racer to victory after victory. Jeffords and the Nickey Chevrolet car were so dominant in fact, that he was nearly unbeatable. His efforts behind the wheel as well as his contributions to the sport landed him a spot in the National Corvette Hall of Fame in 2002.
Following the racing career of the car itself, it slipped off into obscurity as many Corvette race cars of that era did. It wasn’t until 1974 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania at an event known as Post War ’74 (now known as Fall Carlisle), that the car was rediscovered. At that time, however; its finders didn’t know that they had the Purple People Eater, only that they had an old Corvette race car that they could bang around and use for autocross.
The finders, by the way, weren’t just two guys who happened upon a car. Both were knowledgeable on the brand, with one (Ken Heckert) owning a restoration shop and the other (Chip Miller) being the founder of what is now known as Carlisle Events in 1973, founder of Corvettes at Carlisle in 1982 and in 2005, a National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame inductee. Despite their depth of knowledge on the Corvette, neither knew at the time that they were in possession of the Purple People Eater and, in fact, stored it off to the side at Heckert’s warehouse, covered it with a sheet and since the car didn’t have a roof, it essentially became the bottom of a table used for work space.
Some time later, Miller, being the Corvette aficionado that he was, set out to find the Purple People Eater. His goal was to find it, restore it and add it to his always-expanding Corvette collection in Carlisle. Of course Miller already had the car and after multiple correspondence with enthusiasts and experts within the Corvette community, he found that the dingy “beater” that was stored in Heckert’s shop – the work table if you will, was indeed the Purple People Eater.
Now restored, the car once again looks as it did during its racing days with Jeffords behind the wheel - purple with white coves, a white circle on each side and the hood with black numeration along with all original graphics and designs. This amazing and rare piece of automotive history will be on display during the entire Concours weekend. Further, Miller’s son, Lance Miller, co-owner of Carlisle Events will be onsite with the car and will be available for interviews as requested.
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Journalist note: Information about Carlisle Events, its event listings, auction
offerings and the Carlisle Expo Center is available to journalists by phone:
717-243-7855 ext. 133
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