By: Drew Hardin
The passing of Corvette racer and builder Dick Guldstrand in September 2015 has caused many automotive writers to revisit the man and his remarkable accomplishments. His death has affected so many so deeply, not just because of his success behind the wheel or the legacy he leaves with the high-performance Vettes that bear his initials. Guldstrand was a warm and welcoming man, a legend who wore his successes lightly. When you talked to him you knew you were speaking to an icon, but he didn’t. He always exuded more enthusiasm and excitement about the cars, or the races, than any trace of ego about his place in the Corvette world.
A deep dive into the Petersen archives turned up this film of Guldstrand and the Grand Sport roadster, shot by Jerry Titus for Sports Car Graphic magazine at Sebring in 1966. Following a string of championship seasons in West Coast SCCA racing from 1963-’65, Guldstrand was hired by Roger Penske to drive an L88 Corvette in the 1966 Daytona 24-hour race. That’s the event where Guldstrand famously finished First in class and 12th overall after crashing hard enough to destroy the Vette’s nose, but continuing to race with flashlights taped to the tops of the car’s fenders.
Penske asked Guldstrand to return to Florida the following month for the Sebring 12-hour race, sharing driving duties in the number 001 Grand Sport with Dick Thompson. This time, unfortunately, things didn’t go as well, though Thompson, not Guldstrand, was at the wheel when things went south.
As the magazine described it in the June 1966 issue, “The Stingray Roadster Proto, driven by Dick Thompson and Dick Guldstrand, had been going along strongly, but tangled with the Morgan—yes, Morgan—ran off the road in the esses, where the engine came adrift from the mounts, dumped its oil and gave up the battle.”
The rest of 1966 didn’t go so well for Guldstrand, either. His record shows some back-of-pack finishes and DNFs, and a stillborn attempt to drive at the Indy 500.
Guldstrand went to work for Peyton Cramer at Dana Chevrolet in 1967, and his fortunes began to turn. Dana sponsored a Traco-powered Camaro in that year’s Trans-Am series, and Guldstrand drove it to a win in St. Jovite, Canada.
And yet it was off the racetrack that he added to his legend that year, when he and Bob Bondurant famously drove their Le Mans entry — a red, white, and blue L88 Vette coupe — through France on public roads to get to the Circuit de la Sarthe. It seems the team, in its haste to pack for the trip, forgot a trailer. Engine failure put them out of the race after 15 hours, but still. What a sight it must have been to see that snarling brute running through the French countryside.