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1956 Wright Special

Vehicle Description

1956 Wright Special

Auction Estimate $300,000 – $350,000

The 1st V8 Corvette powered Special built

The Poster Car for the 1954 Torrey Pines race

Extensive West Coast Race History

Jim Culbert of CAE Automotive consulted with Carroll Shelby on the chassis design.

Jim Nelson was the engine builder

Dean Meltzer hand formed the body

Johnny Wright built the car

Binder full of photos, history and documents


The story of the Wright Special starts in 1952 when Gene Kopecky took a prewar Maserati that competed in the Indy 500 and modified the chassis to become a Hemi powered sports car with an aluminum body. The car was not successful, but it was striking enough to be the poster car for the Torrey Pines race in 1954. Johnny Wright purchased the body in 1954.

Wright had master chassis builder Jim Culbert (C.A.E.) construct a frame that was far ahead of its time in terms of rigidity and safety without being heavy. The large 3′ tubing was sourced by Carroll Shelby who consulted on the project and it is speculated that this car inspired the Cobra.

The body was taken to Dean Meltzer for modification and fitted with a modified Lincoln flathead which was completed in 1956. Wright acquired a new ’56 Corvette dual quad 265 c.i. V8 and speeds on the dry lakes went from 93 mph to 136 mph. In late 1956 Wright obtained a new for ’57 283 cu, in. block and modified it with a custom crank, rods and cam along with 6 Stromberg carburetors to create a 331 cu. in. engine making over 350 hp.

Timing tags from June 1957 indicate a top speed of 143.6 mph. In 1959 117 mph in the standing 1/4 mile was recorded.

The car has been restored to the way it looked in Hot Rod magazine in August 1960.

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Vehicle Details

  • Auction: Amelia Island Select – 2019
  • Lot: 126
  • Status: Consignment
  • Year: 1956
  • Make: Wright
  • Model: Special

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