A tribute to Marietta Bob Johnson, 1927 - 2012
Robert D. Johnson died on May 7, 2012. He was 85. Bob may be best known as “everyman’s Corvette racer”, driving in an era that many of us still wish for today.
Bob was from Marietta, Ohio, not to be confused with Corvette (and Cobra) racer the late Bob Johnson from Columbus, Ohio. “Marietta Bob” was already 37 when he got into racing at the urging of his good friend Doug Bergen. Doug owned a 1966 big block coupe they prepared and campaigned in the latter half of 1967. Bob won enough races to qualify in the A Production class for the SCCA Runoffs at Daytona and finished 5th.
Doug got the idea they would try some of the longer distance FIA races. GM performance parts engineer Gib Hufstader was influential in getting Doug a 1968 L88 roadster specially equipped for racing. Marietta Bob and the then more experienced Columbus Bob teamed up to win the GT class, finishing 11th overall at the Watkins Glen 6 hour endurance race. Doug’s other business interests at the time resulted in his selling that car to Corvette racer Jim Greendyke.
But Hufstader saw promise and pitched Doug to buy a 1969 L88. Doug got it prepped and running in 1970. “Johnson and Johnson” debuted that car # 8 at Daytona finishing 9th in class, 27th OA. The pair next shared this car with Greendyke, now # 3 at Sebring, and won the class and 11th OA. Two cars, two winners, Doug sold the car to V.V. Cooke, a Chevy dealer in Kentucky. Alan Barker and his brother Don turned it into a 350 small block # 80 and won the B Production class twice at the SCCA run-offs.
More good rides were still to come. In 1971 Marietta Bob drove a 3 hour enduro with John Greenwood # 48 at Michigan Intnl Speedway marking the introduction of the BFG T/A radial tire. Bob hooked up with Dave Heinz and Or Costanzo, # 57 (1972 Daytona class win), Toye English (1972 Sebring class win and IMSA races) and N.A.R.T . # 4 (1972 Le Mans 7th in class, 15th OA). Bob drove the entire 1973 season for John Greenwood including # 29 Le Mans DNF and # 49 in IMSA/USA.
After 1973 Marietta Bob Johnson was a fixture at racer reunions and shows with his best friend Doug Bergen. Bob will be greatly missed as a friend and remembered for his record. He also leaves an enduring legacy through the Corvettes he raced that have been found, restored and treasured by racers and collectors today.
The Corvette community mourns Bob’s loss. Our sympathies go out to his family and friends.
Narrative adapted from personal interviews by Wayne Ellwood. Special thanks to Doug Bergen. Photos credited by Wayne Ellwood, sourced and compiled from RCRC archives.