Gary Laughlin was a oil-drilling contractor who earned enough to fund his participation in sports car racing. Throughout the ‘50s, Laughlin raced a numerous sports cars, but the cost of servicing the stable was causing him to hemorrhage money. In one instance, the crankshaft of a Ferrari broke, and although the price was $350, the final cost of the part from Italy was $1200 (roughly $11,000 today).
Laughlin admired the style of Italian cars but wanted reliability. With a vision of his dream GT car, Laughlin called his connections at Chevrolet for the engine and reached out to a friend, Pete Coltrin, in Modena to introduce him to Sergio Scaglietti.
As the project took shape, Laughlin approached Jim Hall and Carroll Shelby for investment. Shelby had his sights set on being a constructor and was interested in “hot rodding” existing engines in order to produce more horsepower. Both Laughlin and Shelby tried to persuade Chevrolet to make the “Italia” a Corvette option. Although their pleas did not convince management, Ed Cole, the general manager of Chevrolet, agreed to sell them 3 chassis from the factory.