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Long-lost 'Purple People Eater' Corvette race car heads to Amelia Island

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Motor Authority

(Read caption) This custom-built Chevrolet Corvette – nicknamed "The Purple People Eater" – won a series of road races back in the 1950s. The vehicle will be on display this weekend at the Ritz-Carlton and Golf Club of Amelia Island in Florida.

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Each year, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance features some of the most remarkable automobiles in the world, but this year it will host a true monster. One car that is sure to grab attention is the restored Corvette racer known as the Purple People Eater.

Named after its unusual purple-and-white paint scheme, the car gained fame by dominating West Coast sports car racing in the late 1950s, with driver Jim Jeffords at the wheel and backing from dealer Nicky Chevrolet.

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Race car technology moves fast, though, and soon the Purple People Eater became just another used car. After dropping off the radar for several years, it resurfaced at a classic car event in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1974. However, the car's true identity had been (temporarily) lost to history.

Luckily, the two men who recovered the car weren't exactly Corvette novices. Chris Miller was the founder of Carlisle Events--which organizes car shows in its namesake Pennsylvania town, including the one where the car was found--while Ken Heckert owned a restoration shop.

Ironically, the Purple People Eater sat in the back of Heckert's shop for years, until Miller set out to find the assumed-to-be-missing car. Obviously, he didn't have to go far to find it.

The restored car will be on display during the entire Amelia Island Concours, which runs from March 7 through 9 at the Ritz-Carlton and Golf Club of Amelia Island in Florida.


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