Just to say the name James “Jim” Jeffords is to say Corvette Racing. He was at the very first Road America race in 1955 and he piloted his Jaguar to a 2nd place finish in the Production C Class. He now serves on the board of Road America and it was his effort there at the inaugural race that earned him his shot with Corvette Racing which would ultimately lead to him cementing his name in the Corvette archives.
His racing career stretched almost half a century and Jeffords drove many a famous Corvette race car including the “Purple People Eater” and the “Scarab” just to name a couple. His love of speed was matched only by his love of racing in Corvettes and he quickly began to rack up the wins as soon as he started piloting Chevy Corvettes.
In 1956 he drove a Corvette for the first time at Road America and then for the next five years Jeffords would enjoy much success as a Corvette racer. In 1957, Jeffords began the season opening race at Sebring International Speedway as a fully fledged member of the Corvette Racing Team. His efforts and success that year lead to his invitation to help form a Chicago based race team for Nickey Cheverolet. That was when Jeffords piloted the famed “Purple People Eater” to two consecutive championships in 1958 and 1959. While behind the wheel of the “Purple People Eater” Jeffords was practically unstoppable and if something didn’t go wrong with the car then everyone else it seemed was running the race for second place.
Because of that huge success, in 1960 Jeffords found himself as the pilot of the first ever Camoradi Corvette in the World Sports Car Championship. In February of that year he piloted his new ride to a first in class place finish in the Grand Prelimo de la Cuba. Under Castro’s rule this was and remains the only sports car event that was open to other countries. That accomplishment would be one of Jeffords many victories, but certainly ranks as one of his favorites.
His many other racing accomplishments along the way would prove Jeffords to be a winner of anything he drove and it was mostly Corvettes. In 2002 he was an overwhelming vote in to the Corvette Hall of Fame where he takes his place beside the best of the best that Corvette Racing has ever produced.
While the Corvette Racing world is now known for producing excellent drivers, in the early days it was drivers such as Jeffords who were known for helping mold the fledgling Corvette Racing into the mainstay of motorsports that it has become today. While not compensated nearly as much as the drivers of today you will never hear a grumble come out of Jeffords mouth as he truly cherished each and every moment behind the wheel of a Corvette Racing machine. Like so many other Corvette racing legends, Jeffords didn’t race for the money, but rather for the love of speed itself.