The 1964 AWD CERV II – Duntov’s planned Ford GT40-Killer and Le Mans Champion.Dateline: 11.23.17 – For decades the topic of a mid-engine Corvette was simply “pie in the sky.” It was a fanciful piece of Corvette lore going back to the early days when Zora Arkus-Duntov was driving the Corvette brand. Every so many years, the topic would resurface, so when I heard it again for the umpteenth time, just after the C7 arrived, I said, “Oh, sure…” But, it’s going to happen, finally! The mid-engine C8 Corvette will make its grand debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a 2019 model.
In the interest of explaining how we got to where we are with the whole, long, mid-engine Corvette story, lets buckle into the Corvette Report Time Machine, set the dials (yes, we still use “dials” here at Corvette Report) and go back to 1963/1964 when that wiley, silver-haired Russian fox, Zora Arkus-Duntov tried once again, to build a “Corvette” to race at Le Mans. Indulge me while I bench race a little here, Continue reading
Dateline: 11.21.17 – We’re not sure how often this has happened, but “not often” is a safe bet. This was the inaugural season of IMSA’s GT Championship racing series. The cars were Grand Tour-style racecars that ran in the GTU and GTO classes. “GTU” class was for cars with engines under 2.5-liters and “GTO” class was for cars with engines over 2.5-liters. At the end of the 200-mile race, Don Yenko and Dave Heinz came in 1st overall and 1st in the GTO class, followed by SEVEN other Corvettes!
It was a banner season for Corvettes and Chevrolet in IMSA GTO racing in 1971 with Chevrolet winning the Constructor’s Championship for the year with 51 points and Shelby way back in 2nd place with 13 points.
Here’s how the cars crossed the finish line:
1st in GTO class and 1st overall is the Toye English #57 1969 Corvette L-88 driven by Dave Heinz and Don Yenko. Continue reading
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A walk on “hallowed ground” of Corvette design.
Dateline: 11.18.17 – My monthly column in VETTE Magazine, “The Illustrated Corvette Series” is now in its 21st year. I’m in the middle of a series I’m calling, “The Corvette’s Founding Fathers” that covers the careers of Harley Earl, Ed Cole, Bill Mitchell, Zora Arkus Duntov, Larry Shinoda, and Peter Brock. Each of these men played a foundational roll in setting the pattern and personality of the Corvette. Without them, the Corvette might not have survived the 1950s.
I’m now working on installment number three, covering Bill Mitchell that will appear in the May 2018 issue of VETTE Magazine and will be out in March 2018. While researching Mitchell Continue reading
Corvette “Timeline Tales” Nov. 16, 1956: One magnesium-bodied XP-64 (Corvette SS) would be built for the 1957 12 Hours of Sebring race
The 1957 Corvette SS Racer’s exotic body turned out to be the hot ticket to failure!
Dateline: 11.16.17 (VIDEO BELOW!) – This was such a heady time! Corvettes were starting to do well in racing and the Fuelie was about to go into production. Chevy general manager Ed Cole gave Duntov the green light to move forward with the XP-64/Corvette SS racer. The XP-64 was a purpose-built, tube-frame racer that was to be the template for Duntov’s 1957 Le Mans assault team of Corvette SS racecars.
“Lightweight” was sports car exotica in those days and the only thing lighter than fiberglass or aluminum was magnesium, so the XP-64 was to have an exotic magnesium body. Continue reading
Chevrolet just released “The Ultimate Front-Engine Corvette”!
Dateline: 11.15.17 (All images GM Archives, except where noted) The wait is FINALLY over! If you recall, the C7 ZR1 was supposed to make its debut last January at the Detroit Auto Show, but was a no-show. Since then, there was a steady stream of reports, rumors, and spy photos of heavily camouflaged ZR1 engineering mule cars. Lots of tease, no solid details.
The December 2017 issue Car and Driver is first off the line to splash the new ZR1 and I’m sure the rest of the automotive print publications will be dedicating their covers to what is now being called, “The Ultimate Front Engine Corvette!” (Note the reference to “front-engine” as a primmer for the mid-engine C8.) But yes, the new King will get boat loads of ink.
If you recall, Car and Driver splashed the C7 ZR1 on its April 2017 issue with the cover story, “25 Cars Worth Waiting For”. After that, it certainly seemed like, “any day now” the ZR1 would arrive. Then the LONG wait began. I recently said to my Corvette friend, Mike Wahl, Continue reading
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Chevy’s Steroid-Injected “Bad Boy” Vette
Dateline: 11-9-17 (All photos GM Archives) Kudos to the Corvette product planners and engineers for expanding on the Z06 “performance model” concept. “Suspension” has always been key to the Corvette’s success. From 1957 to 2000 Chevrolet offered many variations of suspension options for Corvette buyers. The early offerings up to 1975 were for serious track cars and included, the 1957 to 1959 RPO 684 Heavy Duty Brakes and Suspension, the 1960 to 1962 RPO 687 Heavy Duty Brakes and Special Steering option, the 1963 RPO Z06 Special Performance Equipment package, the 1967 to 1969 L88 engine and J56 Special Heavy Duty Brakes package, the 1970 to 1972 RPO ZR1 and ZR2 packages, and the 1973 to 1975 RPO Z07 Off Road Suspension and Brake Package. Up to this point, all of the before-mentioned special option packages were considered, “Off Road”, that’s code for; RACING.
For spirited street use, from 1974 to 1982 customers could option RPO FE7, the Gymkhana Suspension that gave customers stiffer front sway bar and stiffer springs for just $7.00! The term “gymkhana” means, “A day event comprising of races and other competitions between horse riders or car drivers.” A more modern term today would be, “Autocross.” Continue reading
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The 1962 Monza GT – Corvair-based, Mid-Engine Sports Car – Think Porsche 550/1500 RS Spyder and you’re close!
By the early 1960s the Fuelie Corvette, equipped with Duntov’s “Racer Kit” suspension and brake packages, established itself as a solid, dependable platform for a B/Production or A/Production SCCA racer. Several cars had killer reputations on the track, including; the Nickey Chevrolet-sponsored 1959 “Purple People Eater” driven by Jim Jeffords, Dave MacDonald’s “Don Steves Chevrolet” C1 Corvettes, C1s raced by Dick Thompson and Dick Guldstrand, as well as Grady Davis’ 1961 B/Production and 1962 A/Production “Gulf Oil” Corvettes, and others. Setup right, these cars could be unbeatable.
Yet, despite their track success, the European sports car community did not accept the early Corvettes. Why? Because Corvettes were big and heavy, compared to European sports cars. Traditionalists considered Corvettes to be crude, with more in common with a Chevy Bel Air than anything from Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, Aston Martin and other low-volume European exotics. Corvettes were “mass produced” while European sports cars were “hand-crafted.” This perception did not go unnoticed inside Chevrolet, and some were thinking of a “Plan B” for the Corvette.
The Monza GT and the Monza SS roadster were never intended to be replacements for the Corvette. After all, the basic platform was the rear-engine Corvair. Now before you go, “Puke! Puke!” lets go back to 1957 for a brief look at where the Corvair came from, Chevrolet General Manager, Ed Cole’s aggressive and innovative, “Q-Chevrolet” line of cars. Continue reading
Chevy’s New “Performance” Model C5 Corvette, the Z06!
Dateline: 10.19.17 – (All images, GM Archives) The arrival of the C5 Z06 was a delicious surprise for Corvette fans at the end of 2000 as the new 2001 models were being announced. It had been 38 years since the first and only RPO Z06 quietly arrived as an expensive Off Road suspension option, designed strictly for racing. Ordering a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray with the Z06 option for street use was pointless because there was no horsepower advantage, as the Z06 option required the same 360-horsepower L84 317 engine that was available on any Sting Ray. There were no special badges or trim to make a Z06-equipped Corvette look unique. No, all the good stuff was in the suspension and brakes. And since only 199 Z06 Corvettes were built in 1963, unless you were into road racing, you didn’t even know about the Z06. Then add in a 38 year gap between 1963 and 2001, and its no wonder that hardly anyone knew what a Z06 was!
For years there’d been a clamoring for a “cheap Vette”, you know, a strippo model void of all the thrills and creature comforts. The “logic” being that if Chevy would just take out all the goodies, the car would be lighter, leaner, and therefore, meaner and cost a bunch less. After the successful launch of the C5 Corvette, Corvette Chief Engineer, Dave Hill and his team seriously considered such a Corvette.
The problem was that removing the frills didn’t add up to much an any weight advantage and the price hardly dropped at all. To really make the car cost less, smaller wheels and tires, and a lesser engine were needed. The end result was a Corvette that no one would have wanted. Continue reading
Scott Teeters’ New Corvette Art Prints Series for 2017!
Dateline: 9.1.17 – In November 2015 I helped out with Jan Hyde’s John Greenwood Tribute Event at Daytona International Speedway. Jan is the owner of Registry of Corvette Race Cars. My part of the effort was the creation of a promotional flyer, a two-sided poster featuring Greenwood’s Stars and Stripes BF Goodrich Corvette and his Spirit of Daytona ’76 Corvette on the high banks of Daytona, and a hand-out sticker featuring a profile view of Greenwood’s Sebring ’75 Corvette in front of an American flag. (see the end of this post)
The graphic layout for the sticker stuck with me and I kept looking at it thinking there might be something there as a new prints series that would appeal to Corvette owners and fans of all generation Corvettes.
After numerous prototype layouts I settled in on “America’s “Old Glory” Sports Car”. The first one was kind of easy, but once layout completed, I knew I had a ton of work ahead of me. What started out as a fairly simple idea turned into my Project for 2017! And now, it is ready to present. Continue reading
Retired Corvette R&D engineer Bill Tower shares some of his insights into the background of the 1963 Grand Sport Program
The 57-Year Saga to the C8 Mid-Engine Corvette – The Old Mid-Engine Advantage & the 1960 CERV I
Dateline: 8.13.17 – Images: GM Archives & Mecum.com – Introduction: Honestly, I didn’t believe it at first. It seemed like the floodlights from the debut of the C7 Corvette weren’t even cool yet when the automotive press and the Internet started chattering about the C8 Corvette being a mid-engine design. GM then added fuel to the fire when it was announced that they had trademarked the word “Zora” which ignited the speculation of a mid-engine Corvettes.
Part of Corvette-lore is that Zora Arkus-Duntov unsuccessfully tried many times to make the Corvette a mid-engine car, because in Zora’s day, it made perfect sense. The trouble was that Chevrolet was selling enough Corvettes to make the argument that, “the Corvette wasn’t broken, so don’t fit it!” The mid-engine Corvette concept lost its champion after Duntov retired in 1975. Dave McLellan’s team tried to recycle the body design of the mid-engine Four-Rotor Corvette, powered by a transverse-mounted small-block Chevy engine. That idea was actually “approved” briefly, but died a quick death. The mid-engine Corvette concept came back again as a development program that started with the Corvette Indy (a full-size static model), the Running Corvette Indy (a functional, drivable version), and finally the CERV III. This CERV III was an almost completely flushed out car, meaning that it “could” have been put into production, had GM not been embroiled in a financial crisis in the early ‘90s. The crisis was so bad that once again, the Corvette was on the chopping block!
Perhaps by sheer luck, the C5 plan eked through and turned out so good, that the mid-engine concept then seemed antiquated. Then suddenly, shortly after the C7 came out, the Mighty Wurlitzer Rumor Organ got cranked up and once again, we are in mid-engine mania. But does the mid-engine make sense? Is this what the Corvette community really wants? I’ve had my head plugged into the world of Corvettes since 1965 and followed all of the mid-engine Corvette concept cars. Most were engineering studies and not real, drivable, serviceable, safe cars – a few were close to production-ready.
The “story” of the Corvette is long and rich with colorful characters, loud and awesome machines, and two, BIG, “Could’a been so cool!” chapters – The Grand Sport and the mid-engine Corvette. While it was wonderful that Chevrolet used the Grand Sport moniker for one of the two special-edition 1996 C4 swan song Corvettes, and then as a separate model Corvette starting in 2010, these were not Duntov’s original vision. Continue reading
Dateline: 8.12.17 / Photos: WikiCommons, Illustrations by K. Scott Teeters – When I was a wee lad and would see the term, “For Off Road Use Only” I used to think, “Well who drives these cars in the dirt and grass?” What I didn’t understand was that the term is code for “RACING”! Beginning in 1957, Chevrolet’s new general manager, Ed Cole, made the command decision that he would let “customers” carry the Corvette racing mantle by offering Chevrolet-engineered parts, specifically designed for racing, available through the Chevrolet Parts Department.
For decades, Zora Arkus-Duntov has been credited for the implementation of the Corvette “Racer Kits” through the RPO (Regular Production Option) system. Zora was the face of the unofficial Corvette racing effort, but while researching C1 Corvette chassis design, I came across some interesting information in Karl Ludvigsen’s 2014 book, “CORVETTE: America’s Star Spangled Sports Car”. While Duntov was definitely the front man, Ed Cole also charged three-time Indy 500 winner and engineer, Mauri Rose with the development of the Corvette’s RPO parts program. So, the Corvette “Off Road” RPO effort guided by Le Mans racer and class winner, Duntov, AND Mauri Rose, the second man to win the Indy 500 three times (1941, 1947, and 1948)! Pretty cool, huh?
The Racer Kits weren’t a “secret” but unless customers were tuned into racing, most weren’t aware of this special program. In truth, since improvements in suspension and brakes were for racing, customers rarely used them for their street Corvettes. And typically racers used the expensive dual quad or Fuel Injection performance engines. The Racer Kit RPO option program enabled Corvette racers to be seriously competitive in SCCA racing such that by the end of the 1950s, Corvettes were a force to be reckoned with.
Engineer Maurice Olley designed the chassis and suspension of the first Corvette in 1952 and was considered to be the best suspension and chassis engineer in Detroit. It is essential to remember that the Corvette was NOT designed to be a racecar. Continue reading