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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.
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.
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.