This week I’ll be pairing different generations of cars in my 1:18 collection, first up the AUTOart C5-R. A monstrous GT racer which dominated international racing in the early 2000’s.

1:1 History

The Corvette C5-R was part of a plan by General Motors to create a factory team to participate in grand touring races, most notably at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. GM had previously been against approving factory support for Corvette racing programs, although the IMSA GT Championship’s Corvette GTPs had seen some support until they ended competition in 1989. With the C5 Corvette however, GM chose to show the performance capabilities of the new car by using a more production-based racing car instead of the silhouette prototype Corvette GTP.

General Motors chose the Pratt & Miller group of Michigan to build and develop the new racing cars, as well as to organize the racing team in preparation for a debut in 1999. Riley & Scott also assisted in the project, running a second team for a year.

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The race chassis shared only basic key structural elements with the road cars. A firewall was placed immediately behind the driver’s seat in the cockpit, eliminating any rear visibility inside the car. A large diffuser and wing were added to the rear, while a splitter and vents on the hood were added to the front. The front headlights were also replaced with protruding permanent units in place of the pop-up headlights on the road car.

The C5-R initially used a 366 ci (6.0 liter) V8 engine based on the road car’s LS1. This was replaced with a larger 427 ci (7.0 liter) engine several months later and became the standard engine for the C5-R for the rest of its career. Katech Engine Development constructed the C5-Rs engines, although they retained elements of the production LS1 units.

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In 2000, Pratt & Miller took over as the sole Corvette team. The team was not able to match the performance of the Vipers at Sebring, nor at their debut at Le Mans. The team rebounded though, as they earned their first class victories upon returning to the ALMS. The Corvette team managed to upset the Viper squad at Texas as well as the Petit Le Mans. Even though the C5-Rs ran only a partial season, the team earned third place in the GTS class championship.

2001 saw improvements at Daytona. The C5-Rs outlasted the prototypes in the field and earned themselves the overall race victory. Pratt & Miller ran their first full season of the ALMS and earned six class victories, including their second at the Petit Le Mans. The C5-R also took its first victory at Le Mans, finishing eighth overall and 34 laps ahead of the closest competitor in their class.

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In 2002 Corvette won nine out of the ten ALMS events, including their first class victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Their only loss came to the new Prodrive Ferrari team. Corvette secured their second win at Le Mans in 2002 as well.

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2003 saw the first challenge to Corvette Racing’s two years of dominance in their class. Prodrive chose to enter their Ferraris in the full ALMS season as well. The Ferraris managed to end Corvette Racing’s Le Mans streak, an event in which Corvette Racing celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Corvette.

Prodrive did not return to the American Le Mans Series for 2004, allowing Corvette to sweep the entire season and earn their fourth straight championship. Although Prodrive did compete at Le Mans, Corvette Racing was able to avenge their loss and add their third class victory at the event. This season was the final one for the C5-R under the Corvette Racing banner.

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In total, Corvette Racing’s C5-Rs would earn 31 class victories in the American Le Mans Series, three class wins at Le Mans, and one overall victory at Daytona.

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The Model:

This particular C5-R is the #4 car of Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim (my favorite driver) as it ran at Road America (my favorite track). This was my first AUTOart and is probably the most detailed model in my collection.

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The exterior of the car features tons of details ranging from fuel and air jack ports to mesh covered intakes. I’m always impressed by how fine the meshes on the nose of the car are. Another small detail I love is all the tiny red arrows pointing out the latches holding the body panels on. The OZ Racing wheels and soft rubber Goodyear slicks are very realistic, I’ve seen a race used C5-R wheel IRL and they’re dead accurate.

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With the hood off the level of detail really starts to show. The dual manifold intake on the 7.0 liter LS motor is fed via ducts running from the front end. Another favorite detail is the air scoop on the passenger side which feeds the driver air conditioning system. The interior is also nicely detailed with a fully rendered roll cage and cockpit. Look at those rear NACA ducts and hoses under the back window, that’s what sets AUTOart apart.

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The whole car just exudes a sense of purpose, with intricate engineering bristling just bellow the surface. These cars along with the Viper brought America back into international GT racing in a big way and paved the way for the C6.R and C7.R.

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Final thoughts:

Although I’m biased towards American cars I can’t think of a much more iconic modern GT car than a yellow Corvette. These AUTOart C5-Rs can be found for pretty decent prices now days since they’re two generations old at this point. I bought this one because it’s the perfect storm of driver, track/race, and car. It’s a big, wide, yellow wedge in the middle of my collection, and I love it.

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Thanks for reading!