Then Heckert saw this car, pictured in action wearing No. 33, in Karl Ludvigsen's masterwork Corvette: America's Star-Spangled Sports Car. Contact with Ludvigsen followed, then Miller and Heckert asked just about everyone they met up with at every Corvette show they attended about this distinctive fuel-injected '59. That led them to early-Vette-racing-expert Mike Pillsbury. He had heard about the No. 33 car, and he knew that Bob Spooner had raced--and won--with it. Pillsbury called Spooner, then handed the phone to Miller. During that call, the car's tie to Spooner was established, and as fast as you could say "Bless my soul, rock and roll, flying purple people eater!" the car's history started to come into focus.
Heckert restored the car back to the way it looked when Jeffords drove it to his second B-Production title in a row, in all its one-eyed, one-horned, flying '59 glory. The restored car debuted in 1998 at Corvettes at Carlisle, where both Spooner and Jeffords autographed the roundel on the driver's door. Since then, the Purple People Eater Mk III has graced events like the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance, special displays at the National Corvette Museum and the Monterey Historic Races, and it made a trip to the Amelia Island Concours in 2003 (after an undercarriage detailing by Corvette Repair of Valley Stream, New York), but it stayed in the trailer when heavy rains hit the South Carolina coast on the concours weekend. The list of awards it has won is almost as long as the list of documentation that Heckert and Miller--who bought out Heckert's share of the car--discovered, including extensive Nickey Chevrolet documentation courtesy of Jim Stephani's son, Tom.
The car is part of the Miller Corvette collection, and Lance Miller says it's a big attention-getter any time that it's shown. "Whenever you take that car to a show, immediately everybody gravitates to it," he says. "It's neat to watch."
The song "Purple People Eater" turned out to be one of the top 25 selling records during the early rock 'n' roll era (1955-59), according to Billboard magazine and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Thanks to a desire for Nickey's cars to stand out, plus its success at the hands of Bob Spooner and (especially) Jim Jeffords, Purple People Eater Mk III is just as big a part of Corvette history.
FUZZY WUZZY ::: The car's...
FUZZY WUZZY ::: The car's namesake... sure looks strange to us.
SHIFTY BUSINESS ::: The...
SHIFTY BUSINESS ::: The original four-speed shifter was used to race and was there when Chip Miller and Bob Heckert bought it in 1974.The clock is accurate at least twice a day.