by Scott Teeters as written for Vette Vues
Timeline Tales: December 19, 1962 – Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen argues his case to GM’s top management for a special Corvette exemption from the 1957 AMA Racing Ban
Dateline December 2015: Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen was an unusual corporate executive. His dad was William “Big Bill” Knudsen, General Manager of Chevrolet then President of General Motors before WW II. But his son didn’t get many breaks. When his dad gave him a car, it was in pieces that Bunkie had to put back together. During summer breaks from college, the young Knudsen worked on a Pontiac assembly line.
But Bunkie was a car guy and while general manager of Pontiac, he was responsible for Pontiac’s success in stock car racing. So when he became General Manager of Chevrolet (GM’s big money maker) he did his best to help Duntov and his covert racing efforts.
Knudsen went to bat with the General Motors executive committee of Fred Donner, Jack Gordon, Ed Cole, and others, asking for exclusion of Corvette from the 1957 AMA racing support ban. A simple executive exemption would have given the green light for the Grand Sport program that would have made Grand Sport Corvettes an RPO option available at any Chevrolet dealership. The entire course of Corvette racing history could have been different – very different. Donner said he needed time to think about it. And we all know what his answer was; “No!”