NOTE: Big thanks to CarScoops.com for the most excellent renderings and writeup that you can readHERE!
The notion that GM would break off “Corvette” as its own division has been kicking around since the days of GM’s bankruptcy. Government auditors discovered that of all GM’s divisions, only two were turning a profit; the truck division and Corvette.
Before this discovery, it looked like Corvette was once again on the chopping block. This happened once before in the very early ’90s when the late Jim Perkins came back to GM to be the new Chevrolet general manager. When Perkins arrived back at Chevrolet he reported that he didn’t recognize the place, it was in such disarray.
As a result of the happy findings of the g-man auditors, Corvette engineering and design were given the green light for the C7. Tadge Juechter was already working on a mid-engine platform, but an enhanced front-engine layout built empirically on the highly successful C6 Z06-based C6.R race cars would get Chevrolet to the C7 sooner, rather than later.
Since those days, much has changed in the automotive world. Customers liked and wanted more SUV-type vehicles, enough that the industry began walking away from the traditional two and four-door sedan designs. Crossover SUVs filled the marketplace for buyers that didn’t want a big SUV.
At the same time, hybrid cars started getting traction. Then came the success of the Tesla vehicles and the race was on! It wasn’t long before big hybrid and battery-powered, luxury SUVs started showing up from U.S., European, and Asian manufacturers. This was a total game-changer because the public discovered something new… TORQUE…you know, that “other horsepower”.Continue reading “2026 Electric SUV Corvette??? HUH!”→
NOTE: This story was first published in the January 2023 issue of Vette Vues Magazine – We left “The Story of Fiberglass” in the October 2022 issue of Vette Vues. The story goes back to 1880 when Herman Hammesfahr, a Prussian-American scientist, was issued the first-ever U.S. Patent for “glass fibers”. Self-taught “scientists” had been playing with making glass fibers long before 1880. But for decades, many said, “… interesting stuff, but what do you do with it?”
Once the Patent was issued, it took sixty years before the answer to that question was discovered. One of the earliest applications was for the military’s new radar systems during WW II. As microwave energy passes right through fiberglass, large globes were made to house the spinning radar units that gave the Allies the edge during the war.
Post-war, industries that were part of the war effort just wanted to get back to commercial business. The selling of fiberglass (GRP – glass-reinforced plastic) into the automobile industry was very difficult. The industry just couldn’t see it. After all, car parts have always been metal. It took small-time entrepreneurs to show, “Look what we can do with this stuff!”
The “First” Fiberglass Car
After the war, in 1946, Bill Tritt, from Pasadena, California applied what he’s learned while working at Douglas Aircraft to build fiberglass-hulled 21-foot sloop pleasure boats. Because of his hands-on expertise, U.S. Air Force Major Kenneth Brooks commissioned Tritt to build a fiberglass body for his wife’s personal Jeep. Major Brooks was so happy with his re-bodied Jeep he commissioned Tritt to build a slick fiberglass body for a sports car.
As the car was being built, Eric Irwin, from Costa Mesa was inspired to build a similar sports car that became the Lancer sports car. When Mrs. Brooks car was completed, she called the car the “Brooks Boxer” because she loved boxed dogs. In 1950 Tritt teamed with Otto Baeyer to form the Glasspar Company to expand the boat hull business.
Enter the Naugatuck Chemical Company. Their business wasn’t just chemicals, they wanted to be part of what growing numbers of visionaries saw fiberglass as a modern marvel of wartime technology. Several companies had tried to get Detroit to embrace the new material but weren’t having any luck. The car industry needed to see a real fiberglass “car”. Naugatuck was given a license to make replicas of the Brooks Boxer and a version for themselves. This one had opening doors and was called “Alembic-I”.
In the 1950s and 1960s Life Magazine was one of the most popular magazines in America. Bill Tritt from the Glasspar Company built the Alembic-I and was featured in a one-page article on Life’s “Science” page, titled, “Plastic Bodies For Autos.” The photo in the magazine was fascinating, showing the translucent quality of fiberglass with Tritt’s hands on the underside of the rear deck of a sports car body that Glasspar was selling for $600, equal to $6,747 in today’s dollars. The following month, the Alembic-I was on display at Philadelphia’s National Plastics Exposition, on March 11, 1952. Seen as part of the war dividend, fiberglass was as futuristic, gee-wiz stuff!
Note: This story was first published in the ??? issue of Vette Vues Magazine. All photos from the Guy Larsen Collection: The Corvette success story is one of empirical accomplishments built on previous accomplishments. Joe Pike was Chevrolet’s National Sales Promotion Manager in the early days of Corvette and clearly saw the vision. Joe once said, “… the Corvette is more than a car; it is a lifestyle.” When Joe and his team launched “Corvette News” in 1957, they had no idea what the Corvette lifestyle would become.
Many years later in an interview with then-Corvette Chief Engineer, Dave Hill, Hill said something similar, “… We’re not talking about transportation here; we’re talking about a product that changes someone’s lifestyle, and that causes us (Dave’s design team) to be enthusiastic about our duty.” It is easy to forget such statements, but the sentiment has echoed since the mid-’50s.
Were it not for that sentiment, that ephemeral heart connection to Corvette, there’s be no Vette Vues Magazine or any of the other Corvette print publications over the years, no National Corvette Museum, no Corvette clubs, noNCRS, and no big Corvette shows; such as Bloomington Gold. It is not an overstatement to say that the foundation of the Corvette hobby, as we know and enjoy it, is Love.
Guy Larson Gets Bit By the Corvette Bug!
Recently we had a conversation with Guy Larsen, the current owner, and CEO of Bloomington Gold. What started out as a regional Corvette parts swap meet in 1973, quickly became a force of nature that added a depth of credibility to mostly-original Corvettes. When the event started, it wasn’t called “Bloomington Gold”, it was simply “Corvette Corral”, and was held in Bloomington, Illinois.
To put this into perspective, in our interview with Guy, he said, “People lament that the Swap Meet part of Bloomington Gold isn’t what it used to be. Well, of course not. Back then, if a Corvette owner was looking for missing parts, he had to hunt and scratch around at swap meets because it was the only way to find parts. Everything changed when the internet and eBay started and Corvette parts started to become available online.”
For those that are relatively new to the hobby; imagine traveling hundreds of miles to pick through parts at swap meets a few times a year, to finish your restoration project. Yes, the “hunt” was part of the fun, but it sure made restorations much slower than today.
There are a few dozen Corvette heroes and arguably hundreds of unsung heroes. Most engineers are quite thoughtful people that do not seek attention. Of all of the Corvette heroes, Zora Arkus-Duntov was atypical, he loved attention, and that made him the perfect Corvette frontman.
But Duntov wasn’t the only player in Ed Cole’s dream team of specialists for the then-new Opel sportscar project. Riding on his success with the 1949 Cadillac OHV Cadillac engine and the soon-to-be-released small-block Chevy engine, Cole was promoted to Chevrolet chief engineer in the fall of 1952
Chevrolet Chief Engineer, Ed Cole Builds His Corvette Team
Cole wanted a team of engineers with chassis, suspension, and racing expertise for Harley Earl’s Opel sports car project. His hand-picked team included: chassis expert Maurice Olley, engineers Harry Barr, Russ Sanders, Maurice Rosenberger, Duntov, and three-time Indy 500 winner, Mauri Rose. Rose had the most racing experience and Cole told him, “You are the man to do the sports car.”
Rose later said, “There were no drawings, all I had was an 8-1/2” x 11” sketch.”(Olley’s sketch) Working in a sequestered loft with a sketch and basic dimensions, Rose started roughing out the frame with wood and Styrofoam. When pieces worked out they were then made from metal in the build shop.
While Rose’s three-time Indy 500 record loomed large, he only ever raced at Indy and was always a working engineer at the Allison Engine Company in Indianapolis. When Rose was preparing for a race, he would do his track testing on his lunch hour.
Rose raced at Indy a total of 15 times, won in 1941, 1947, and 1948 and had a reputation for being a hard-charging, fierce driver. After a crash in 1951 at Indy, Rose retired from driving at the age of 45 and quickly found work at GM. Continue reading “Corvette Engineer Mauri Rose”→
What a very special day for lovers of Chevy’s “Plastic Fantastic”! The Corvette phenomenon was launched seventy years ago today. The car that few inside Chevrolet and GM understood and many wanted to see go away! What an amazing story! Seventy years later, not only has Corvette survived and thrived, it is one of a small handful of GM Flagship technology vehicles!
Our resident Corvette historian from Maryland, Mike Waal e-mail published the below photo essay. So, after you check out all the articles and YouTube videos about the new and amazing E-Ray Corvette, have a look-see where and how it all began, seven decades ago.
“Corvette” is arguably Detroit’s greatest marque!
(Mike has had several essays and a feature article HERE.)
Harley Earl, the first Head of GM Art and Color [circa 1927], with a name change to The Styling Section [circa 1937], and finally VP of GM Design. Earl conceived the idea for an American Sports Car while attending and being Grand Marshal of the September 14/15, 1951 Watkins Glen Grand Prix Races. The car that Earl brought with him was his personal car at the time, the Le Sabre Concept Car. Earl’s Le Sabre was also the Parade Car for all the races.
So impressed was Harley Earl with the ‘European’ sports cars that were racing; MG, Jaguar, Healey, Alfa, and Ferrari, he decided that America should have a sports car, and GM needed to produce it. About a month later, upon his return to Detroit, ‘Project Opel’ was initiated.
And we all know the rest of the story.
September 14/15, 1951: Watkins Glen Grand Prix Races, Harley Earl in his personal car at the time, the Concept Car – Le Sabre, front and center, curd-side viewing the race.
Doug Whyte Replicates George Hadad’s “Re-Creation” 1966 Penske Red L88 Sting Ray
Greetings and Happy New Year.
I’d say it’s a pretty good guess that most of us that love Corvettes and cars in general, spent hours and hours building 1:25th scale model cars when we were youngsters. When you are ten years old, it’s a great way to learn about the various parts of an engine, drive train, suspension, etc. It was as if AMT, Revell, and Monogram were “teaching” us about real cars.
Regardless, it was big fun for me, and because I’m patient and have a steady hand, my model builds were pretty good.
But I Was Never This Good!
I’d like to introduce you to two “gasoline in the veins” kinds of guys. George Haddad, owner of Fabulous Restorations in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has been a hot rod builder for over 45 years. Doug Whyte learned his modeling craft through his work for The Danberry Mint.The die-cast, articulated cars, and trucks that Danberry Mint creates are well known for their extraordinary detail.
George has carved a unique corner for himself, besides being a custom car builder and painter, he’s the Master of Re-Creations. George’s shop, Fabulous Restorations has been building and painting hot rods, street rods, customs, and race cars for over 45 years.
The Roger Penske 1966 L88 Corvette Race Car
The Penske 1966 L88, the Sunoco Blue with “Sunoco” livery, is currently owned by Kevin Mackay, in Valley Stream New York. But, the Sunoco Blue livery wasn’t the car’s first livery. When the Penske team first raced the car with just “Sunoco” on the car’s front fender at the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona, the car was factory Rally Red, with obvious racing modifications. This configuration and livery won its class at the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona.
Sunoco was happy with Roger Penske’s success they granted another “one race” sponsorship, but with one change. Sunoco wanted the Rally Red Corvette to be painted “Sunoco Blue”. Penske said, “No problem!”
Corvette Man, Mario Brunner from Germany’s new 70th Anniversary book to be out by June 2023!
I met Corvette Man, Mario Brunner in December 2020 through Vette Vues Magazine. The magazine regularly gets requests from readers to publish stories about their Corvettes. Editor Bonnie Wolf sends me the photos the owners sent to her and their contact information. I reach out to the owners, interview them to get their stories, and work with the photos they send to me. These are what I call, “Reader’s Rides” stories and they’re a lot of fun for me to write.
Mario’s story was especially interesting.
Mario grew up in the small German village of Enzweihingen, just northeast of Stuttgart in southern German. His home was close to the Porsche factory and museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Mario’s Dad was into American muscle cars, hot rods, and motorcycles; so it’s no surprise where Mario’s passion for cars came from. After his Dad passed, Mario’s Mom suggested that he get the car of his dreams because that’s what his Dad would have wanted.
Mario Finds a Sweetheart of a Corvette!
For years, Mario felt that the Corvette was the ultimate American muscle machine. Corvettes are outstanding sports cars with muscle car grunt and thunder. C2 Sting Rays were Mario’s favorite generation (mine too!), so he started looking for something Sting Ray sweet.
One day while scanning Facebook-Colorado for Corvettes, Mario found his dream Vette. Everyone’s “dream Vette” is special to them, but Mario’s find was a loaded small-block 1966 Sting Ray Convertible “Pilot Line Car”. These are pre-production cars built for evaluation and to be used for magazine testing. Afterward, Pilot Cars are sold through Chevy dealers as “Used Cars”. Each year, perhaps a dozen or two are produced, making them unique. Continue reading ““70 Years / 70 Stories” by Mario Brunner!”→
A look-see of Larry’s Big-Block Sting Rays and his C3 ’68 427/435 L89 Big-Block
Dateline: 12-9-22 – This story was first published in the October 2022 issue of Vette Vues as part of their ongoing “Reader’s Rides” series of stories. Last month we told you about Larry Lipsitz’s beautiful collection of vintage performance Corvettes. When Larry Lipsitz started planning his Corvette collection, he wanted the best of the best “performance” optioned Corvettes. Each of the four Corvettes in Larry’s collection represents, from a performance perspective, the Best of that year’s offering.
This month we’ll look closely at Larry’s 1965 L79 396/425 big-block Corvette Convertible, his 1967 427/437 L71 big-block Corvette Coupe, and his 1968 L89 427/435 big-block Corvette Coupe with lightweight aluminum heads. Let’s start in chronological order.
1965 L78 396/427 Corvette Sting Ray Convertible
1965 was the end of one era and the beginning of another. From 1957 to 1965 the Fuelie was the toughest stock Corvette you could buy. But in 1962, Chevrolet started work on a replacement for the W-Block 348/402/427 truck engines. The new Mark IV engines were bigger and stronger than the small-block engine. Although Duntov didn’t like the added weight, he sure liked the horsepower and torque.
The new 396 big-block arrived in the spring of 1965 and was the performance option of the year! The L84 327/375-horsepower Fuelie was a $538 option, whereas the L78 396/425-horsepower big-block only cost $292! Engineers discovered that cubic-inches were the least expensive way to get more power.
By the close of the year, Chevrolet sold 2,157 396 Corvettes. Big-Block 1965 and 1966 Corvettes all have the revised hood design with a large center bulge needed to clear the taller engine and functional vents on the sides. In all, the big-clock weighed about 200-pounds more than the small-block Corvette.
Larry is only the car’s second owner and says, “It’s a keeper!” The 396 Vette was originally purchased in 1965 in San Luis, California by a doctor. The car was originally Silver Pearl, but the doctor had it repainted red. When the doctor passed, in 1984 his widow sold the car, and for four years was exchanged between dealers, but untitled.