Just as he continues to meet and beat tremendous challenges stemming from a drag racing accident that left him 100-percent blind, Columbus, Georgia’s Dan Parker plans to restore a Hurricane Harvey-damaged Corvette to better-than-new condition—then drive it as a record-setting race car.
“I found a flood-damaged 2008 C6 Corvette with no motor in Oklahoma City, so me and three buddies went down there late last year to pick it up. Then, when I came back home I accidentally came across another complete, but wrecked, C6 of the same year with the same engine and transmission combination. So a family member bought that car and donated it and we started putting the two of them together to make one good car,” says Parker, who crashed nearly six years ago while testing a 1963 Corvette Pro Mod at a drag strip in Steele, Alabama.
“I’ve always liked Corvettes, even though I’d never personally owned one before, so I thought this was as good a time as any to get one. Plus, my crash was in a Corvette so I wanted to come back in a Corvette. I’ve named the car ‘See No Evil,’ so hopefully it’ll be good to me when we both get back out there on the track.”
We plan on bringing the world’s fastest blind man record home to America where horsepower and cubic inches still rule the road.
Despite being blind, Parker remains no stranger to racing and danger. In 2013 he rode a 50-cc, open-wheeled trike of his own design and construction to more than 55 miles per hour, the highest speed ever attained by a sightless person on the famed Bonneville Salt Flats. He returned the next year to set the F.I.M. class record—with no exceptions for blindness. This time, though, with his team aptly named “Tragedy to Triumph Racing,” Parker is aiming for more than 210 mph.
“A legally blind man in Europe has been 200.4 miles an hour with human assistance,” Parker points out. “But just like on the bike I’ll be using an in-helmet audio system designed by Patrick Johnson to keep me going straight as I head down the track. Basically, it beeps louder and faster in either my left ear or right ear if I deviate from a straight line, so that way I can respond and drive without human assistance, without anyone in the car with me. We learned a lot the first time out and this system has to be much more sophisticated—which means more expensive, of course—in order for me to race at speeds over 200 miles an hour with absolutely zero eyesight.”
Work on the salvaged Corvette has been progressing quickly at Parker’s garage in the backyard of his suburban Columbus home. The Vette from Oklahoma was “actually in pretty decent condition,” he says, while the local car had been in a serious collision that badly bent its frame. However, its interior and more importantly its engine and transmission were left essentially intact.
“Together they made a blank canvas, which is what I was used to working with my whole career, starting with nothing and turning that into a race car,” says Parker, a former professional chassis builder who now teaches machine shop at a local high school and continues to do a lot of the hands-on work himself, including much of the cutting, grinding and fitting of chassis tubing.
Assisting him in welding together a custom-fitted roll cage kit donated by Stormin’ Normand Custom Cages in Indianapolis is Art Gravatt of Little Arts Race Cars in Dothan, Alabama, along with Josh Mackey, Brad Ash, Ty West and Jacob Edwards. Additional chassis and cage materials were donated by Ray Herring of Herring Outsource Fabricators, also in Dothan.
For the engine, USA Performance in Mooresville, North Carolina, donated a complete rotating assembly to fill an aluminum block provided by Troy, Michigan’s Dart Machinery. Longtime Parker friend Gene Fulton will add many of the donor car’s underhood parts while assembling the naturally aspirated 427 c.i. LS3 engine at his shop in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where it’s expected to pump out more than 750 horsepower on high-octane race fuel.
“We’re probably about four weeks away from taking it to the body shop for paint. It’s going to be red, just like most of my race cars,” Parker says. “Once it comes back from body and paint we’ll just be waiting on the motor from Fulton. In the meantime we’ll be busy wiring and plumbing so when the motor’s ready we can just drop it in.
… my crash was in a Corvette so I wanted to come back in a Corvette. I’ve named the car ‘See No Evil,’ so hopefully it’ll be good to me when we both get back out there on the track.
“I’m so thankful for all the support I’ve received from friends and sponsors because without them this project would just not be possible,” he adds. “But we still need to raise more money to buy electronics for the new guidance system, so we set up a GoFundMe account (www.gofundme.com/helping-a-fellow-racer) and sincerely appreciate any donations we may receive. If we’re blessed enough to reach our goal, any extra money raised will go toward finishing the car, team travel expenses and track rentals.”
Parker and his Tragedy to Triumph teammates hope to be testing the resurrected Corvette by July at nearby Phenix City Dragstrip and Montgomery Motorsports Park in Alabama before seeking out half-mile and one-mile special events at temporarily closed airstrips.
“That’s when we’ll be going for the record and I can’t wait. Me and that ol’ Corvette are gonna’ rise up and show everyone we’ve still got a lot left in us,” Parker promises. “We plan on bringing the world’s fastest blind man record home to America where horsepower and cubic inches still rule the road.”