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
One of the five 1954 Corvette Nomad show cars that would today be worth over 1,000,000 was ordered destroyed by a bureaucrat!
Dateline: 7-8-17 – Norm Brown got a new job at Chevrolet, but little did he know that he’d be helping to send one of the five Corvette Nomad show cars built for the 1954 Motorama to the crusher. According to Mario van Ginnekin’s *** “Remarkable Corvettes” webpage, three of the five Nomads are known to still exist. “Why” one of the Nomads was sent to the crusher is not known. However, even though the ’56 Corvette with its updated body was about to go into production, the Corvette was not generally liked inside GM.
Also, by the end of the 1955 production cycle, Chevrolet had only sold 4,640 units from ’53 through ’55, which was NOTHING for a GM car. Continue reading
A little known Chevrolet/Corvette milestone, a 1958 Corvette marks the 39 Millionth Chevrolet!
Dateline: 6.26.17 – In the early days of the Corvette’s existence, GM had an odd relationship with the car. Power-players such as Harley Earl, Ed Cole, and Bill Mitchell went to bat for the struggling sports car many times. And then there was the wild Russian engineer with the funny name, Zora Arkus-Duntov that pushed to make the car a successful racecar. But GM is all about sales and Chevy wasn’t selling many Corvettes. By the end of 1957 Chevy sold 14,446 Corvettes in total from 1953. In 1957 alone, Chevrolet sold 254,331 4-door Bel Air Sedans!
No, Corvette sales weren’t even a blip on the GM profit margin. So it is peculiar that GM would have chosen a 1958 Corvette to officially be the “39th Million Chevrolet. But bean-counting aside, the Corvette indeed had a special place in GM. No other car was using what was then, a new high-tech composite material Continue reading
The Hands-On Life and Times of a Lifelong Corvette Guy, Allan “Bunky” Garonzik
Even though Zora Arkus-Duntov was “only” the chief engineer, he felt a personal connection with Corvette customers. He used to refer to them as “his” customers. One of the young engineers that worked with Duntov once said that Zora lead with love and passion. Duntov wanted his customers to ENJOY their Corvette. He wanted them to not only drive their Corvette, but also drive them hard – go racing if they wanted, and he and his team would supply the parts to be successful.
Of course, back in the day, up to the introduction of emissions controls, Corvettes (all cars for that matter) were really simple. The cars were 100-percent mechanical. With just modest mechanical skills, a box of Craftsman tools, a tackle block pulley and a few other basic tools, an owner could swap an engine on a Saturday and be back on the road on Sunday. It was easy to learn auto mechanics on your own car.
We all start off knowing nothing about cars until the day arrives when the “car bug” bites us and for many, it becomes a life-long, positive infection. When Allan Garonzik (“Bunky” to his friends) was in school, he started out like all of us car guys, hanging on, watching an “older guy” (usually around 21) do stuff to their cars. Continue reading
Mr. Duntov took care of “his customers” that wanted to go racing!
Dateline: 5-27-17 (Download link is at the bottom of this story) – Before the ax fell in 1957 thanks to the AMA Factory Racing Ban, Zora Arkus-Duntov was planning to take a team of his 1957 Corvette SS Racers to Le Mans. The completed SS Racer was an embarrassment at it’s 1957 Sebring debut and in fact, the Corvette SS mule car showed more promise. The car was rushed in its construction and was actually being finished inside the transported on route from Detroit to Sebring, Florida. Management seemed to be more interested in having the car look good than a developed racecar. In retrospect, the car was terribly underdeveloped. Then, right after the race, GM signed on with the AMA Racing Ban and as Duntov liked to say, the program came to, “… a screeching halt!”
But two major elements from the Corvette SS project survived and eventually made a significant impact on Corvette racing. The finished Corvette SS Racer with its magnesium body was converted into a show car and went on tour with a jet age bubble top. The rough mule car was stripped of it’s cobbled together fiberglass body and the chassis went into storage, only later in 1958/59, to be bought for a nominal fee by then-new GM VP of Styling, Bill Mitchell so that Wild Bill could go racing. His racing effort could in no way look like it was a GM-sponsored enterprise. Mitchell’s racing indulgence became the Stingray Racer, which was the public face of what would eventually become the 1963 Sting Ray. Continue reading
by Scotty Lachenauer as republished from Super Chevy
Silver Mined: Digging out a barn find Gen One
Dateline 12.2.15: Gary Clairmont needed to sell his car. The South Burlington, Vermont, resident decided the time was right to pass on his 1960 Corvette – a car that had languished in his garage silently for the better part of four decades. He received the stylish ride as a gift from his parents in the late ’60s; a present that any young man would surely cherish. And now his longtime daily driver was ready for a new home. Continue reading
by John Gilbert as republished from Super Chevy
1955 Duntov Corvette
Dateline 11.24.15: There were only 700 Corvettes built in 1955, so that places 1953’s production run of 300 units at number one in rarity and bumps 1955 to second place. For a 21st Century Corvette collector buying a rare vintage Corvette can cost a bunch of money, but if one had a time machine that would make it a completely different story. With a time machine a fellow could go back to the April 1965 issue of Hot Rod magazine and snag Zora Arkus-Duntov’s 1955 Corvette test mule for $3,500 or best offer. Continue reading
Photo Credit: St. Louis Art Museum
by Mitch Talley as republished from CorvetteBlogger
A Corvette of any age is considered a work of art by many
Dateline November 2015: That’s why it is no surprise that a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette is being displayed inside the St. Louis Art Museum starting next week. The black Corvette, borrowed from Stephen Brauer, was rolled into place by museum workers on Monday, getting ready for its unveiling to the public on Nov. 8. Continue reading
by Steve Temple as republished from Corvette Online
Dateline October 2015: Back in the 1960s, Corvettes duked it out with Shelby Cobras on road courses across the country. But, there was another battle raging on American asphalt. Supercharged gassers—wild, nearly uncontrollable machines with short wheelbases and ungainly body styles—that dominated the drag strip. They were a challenge to drive and fun to watch—from a safe distance. Early versions ran Oldsmobile or Cadillac power, but as the years progressed, blown Chevy V8s and Chrysler Hemis were the engines of choice. Continue reading
1959 Chevrolet Corvette, the Purple People Eater Mk III. Photos courtesy Barrett-Jackson.
by David Conwill as republished from blog.Hemmings.com
Dateline October 2015: When Nickey Chevrolet of Chicago decided to sponsor a road racing Corvette in 1958, it wanted to make sure its advertising dollars were getting their maximum return. Accordingly, the dealership decided that to make its car stand out in a sea of white, silver, and light-blue ‘Vettes, something special was required in the paint department. Likely inspired by Sheb Wooley’s hit novelty song, the distinctive metallic purple paint job would result in the car and its two successors bearing the nickname “Purple People Eater.” Next January, the last of these cars, the 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Purple People Eater Mk. III, will cross the auction block in Scottsdale, Arizona. Continue reading
by Keith Cornet as republished from CorvetteBlogger
Dateline October 2015: Sometimes when you run across an old Corvette story, it really makes you wonder about your fellow man – like, what the heck were they thinking! We’ve covered the infamous 1954 ‘Entombed’ Corvette” previously in 2013 when it was offered for sale and for those that have never heard how it got its nickname, it makes for a good tellin’ especially around Halloween. Continue reading
by Detroit Steel as republished from CorvetteForum
Dateline October 2015: Talk about striking gold.
I can only imagine the smile on the face of Corvette collector Larry Fisette after getting a call from a man in Illinois saying his brother had not one, but two C1 Corvettes that had been kept in his garage since 1973. Continue reading
Corvette Timeline Tales: 10.18.67 – United Artists premieres Elvis Presley’s new film, “Clambake” featuring Elvis, pretty girls, awful songs, and the 1959 Sting Ray Racer
by Scott Teeters as written for Vette Vues
The King of Rock & Roll drives the 1959 Sting Ray Racer
By 1967 Elvis Presley was totally bored with making movies. Elvis could have been a good actor, but his fans wanted to see him smile and sing. His “serious” movies from the early ‘60s, “Flaming Star” and “Wild In The Country” didn’t do well at the box office and there were no soundtrack records. So, Colonel Parker set up long-term, million dollars-per-picture contracts, plus soundtrack LP records, and publishing rights with movie studios. For a solid five to six years, no one in Hollywood was making more money than Elvis and the Colonel. Continue reading
Words and Art by Scott Teeters as written for Vette Vues.
Zora Arkus-Duntov, the Godfather of the Corvette, proves that the pen is mightier than the sword!
Dateline October 2015: By the end of the production run of the 1954 Corvette, it was obvious – the car was a flop. Only 300 cars were built in 1953 with many given away for promotions. (John Wayne, General Curtis LeMay, ABC News commentator Alex Drier, and movie star Dinah Shore got 1953 Corvettes) For 1954 Chevrolet dropped the price of the Corvette $724, down to $2,774, a 30.1-percent reduction, but it only helped a little, as only 3,640 Corvettes were sold. The same year, Chevrolet sold 248,750 240 Bel Air four-door sedans! When an executive told Duntov that the Corvette was finished, Duntov put pen to paper and proved the pen to be mightier than the sword, or the calculator. Continue reading
BY DREW SINGER as republished from GMAuthority
Dateline October 2015. There’s nothing like a barn find to get the mind wondering about the story behind it, but unfortunately this particular example might just bring a tear to the eye of C1 Corvette enthusiasts.
Here we have a 1954 Corvette C1 that was recently discovered and then sold in May 2015 by Cabin Fever Auctions in Douglassville, PA, where a buyer picked it up for a cool $52,000, according to Corvette Blogger. Continue reading