Mike & Linda Waal’s Grand Touring (GT) 1980 Corvette

See the USA in a Chevrolet, CORVETTE!

Dateline: 4-5-22 (this story was first published in the April 2018 issue of Vette Vues Magazine) – The term “GT” is arguably one of the most misused automotive designations. The term dates back to the 1930s in Europe and is an abbreviation for the words “grand touring,” or as they say in Italian, “Grand Turismo.” In the classic sense, a GT car was a road-going, lightweight, semi-luxurious coupe, built on a high-performance chassis. In the 1960s, American carmakers started to apply the GT term to many of their new pony and intermediate-size cars. Continue reading “Mike & Linda Waal’s Grand Touring (GT) 1980 Corvette”

Bench Racing with John Greenwood, Free PDF Booklet & Video

Inside the Mind of John Greenwood

Dateline: 10.8.21  To download the free PDF, CLICK HERE. NOTE: When your PDF Reader opens, change the “View” setting to 100% to more easily read the article pages. 

John Greenwood is a legend in the world of Corvettes. Through the ’70s, while production Corvettes struggled to maintain as much performance as possible, John and his brother Burt built a series of stunning C3 Corvette race cars. Arguably, the most famous of the Greenwood Brothers Corvettes was their famous “Batmobile” very wide-body Corvette that was more aerodynamic and produced lots of down-force on the car’s huge racing slicks. Greenwood needed as much traction as he could get to better work his ZL-1 427 engines, rumored to be making upwards of 700-hp, perhaps more. Continue reading “Bench Racing with John Greenwood, Free PDF Booklet & Video”

What Happened to the Side Pipes?

A Look Back At An Inexpensive Option That Delivered a Little Extra Grunt and A Lot of BARK

Note: This article was first published in the December 2013 issue of Vette Vues. Subscribe to Vette Vues HERE!  Corvettes enjoyed a banner year in ‘08. When no one was looking, GM unleashed the latest variation of the LS generation small-block Chevrolet engine, the LS3. This latest edition of the highly successful LS series of GM engines is only 12-cubic-inches larger than the LS2, but uses the Z06-style valves and port design that features larger and straighter intake ports, nine-percent larger valves, and a five-percent higher cam lift. For what wasn’t much of a stretch, the LS3 netted out an extra 30-horsepower for the base model Corvette, which added up to a whopping 430-horsepower for the base Corvette! But a close look down the ‘08 Corvette option list shows a little item called, “Dual Mode Exhaust System” (RPO NPP) for $1,195. This was the first time since 1969 that Corvette buyers had a factory exhaust system option.

This version of Corvette factory side pipes were available from 1965 to 1967

You could call it the Trickle-Down Horsepower Theory from the high-performance Z06. The Dual Mode option functions the same as the Z06 version. The outlet valves are vacuum-actuated to open during what Chevrolet calls, “high-load operation.” (That’s GM-speak for “get’n on it!”) While the Z06 version has 3-inch diameter exhaust pipes, the LS3 version uses 2-1/2-inch pipes. So, how much extra grunt do you get for your $1,195? The system adds 6-horsepower and 4-ft/lb of torque. While those numbers aren’t terribly impressive, the exhaust note certainly is. Of the 35,301 Corvettes sold in ‘08, 13,454 (38.1%) were equipped with the new system. That’s pretty cool, considering that’s only $199.16 per horsepower unit and $298.75 per torque unit, but we won’t quibble over numbers. After all, the system sounds great!

As these side pipes got older, they got louder.

It all got me to thinking about those infamous, barking side-pipes that were offered from ‘65 to ‘67, and slightly milder ‘69 side-pipes that made even the 300-HP small-block sound as ominous as a junkyard dog. Two unique designs were offered back then. Beginning in ‘63, as part of the overall Z06 package, was the $37.70 N11 option, the Off-Road Exhaust System, which included low-restriction, under the car mufflers and 2-1/2-inch exhaust pipes. This option was available through to ‘68 and was officially listed as “off-road.” (That’s GM-speak for “race track”, is in, racing.) The N14 Side-mount Exhaust System was another animal altogether. The system begins at the end of the exhaust manifold flange with the typical 90-degree bend.

Side pipes were not available on the new 1968 Corvette but were brought back for 1969 only. The side pipe setup was available through Chevrolet Parts Department for many years after 1969.

But instead of bending towards the back of the car, the bends were directed towards the sides of the car. After a short distance of about 12-inches or so, there was a gentle bend of approximately 118-degrees that leads to a long, straight tube that passed as a “muffler.” The “muffler” portion that ran along the side rocker panel had small crimps that created little internal baffles – and not much baffle at that.

Since Chevrolet didn’t want to burn the ankles of their Corvette customers and passengers, a set of beautifully styled, aluminum covers were designed. Each cover featured five horizontal ribs, with five sets of vertical blacked-out indentations between the ribs. The standard side rocker panel was replaced with a narrow polished aluminum rib that was mounted over the top of the covers. These hid the attachment screws that held the side covers. At the end of the piece of long, chambered tube was a downward-pointing chrome exhaust tip. And here’s the kicker… the Side-Mounted Exhaust System cost was only $131.65 in 1965! Plus, the system looked fantastic! Talk about “muscle.” Side pipes not only made ‘65 to ‘67 Corvettes look serious, they sounded serious!

The C3 side pipes look great on this black 1980-1982 model. Owners could not do this until the car reached “antique” status and was no longer subjected to emissions testing. In the side pipe system, there was no capacity for catalytic converters.

But as good-looking and inexpensive as they were, by the numbers, it wasn’t a terribly popular option. Only around 10-percent of all ‘65 to ‘67 Corvettes were optioned with the system. When the new Mako Shark II-inspired C3 Corvette came out in ‘68, the side-pipes weren’t on the options list. It was said that GM’s VP of Styling, Bill Mitchell, didn’t want to distract from the new shape with side-mounted exhausts. That may or may not be correct. It wasn’t that Mitchell was opposed to loud, side-mounted exhausts – nearly every concept and show car that came out of his studio had side-pipes as standard equipment. Considering what a nightmare it was getting the new Mako Shark II design out as a ‘68 model, perhaps there just wasn’t time for side-pipes.

This is Kevin Mackay’s “see-through” 1969 427 L88 Corvette. These mufflers were more like real mufflers, as they were not chambered pipe, like the 1965-1967 side pipes.

When the ‘69 Corvettes came out, side-pipe fans rejoiced over the return of the barking pipes. Only the new version didn’t bark as much. While the new pipes bolted on and functioned like their predecessors, the minimalist chambered pipe was replaced with a for-real muffler. However, the covers were beautifully styled to fit the unique shape of the Corvette’s side rocker panel.

A few specialty performance builders, such as Joel Rosen of Baldwin-Motion fame, installed the ‘65 – ‘67 units on his ‘68 and a few ‘69 Phase III Corvettes. While they didn’t fit exactly right, they still looked great. Rosen also added the first generation side-pipes and covers to his Phase III Camaros, Novas, Chevelles, and Biscayne supercars, although due to the short Corvette wheelbase, the system was less aesthetically successful than the C3 Corvette application.

During the 1970s, Hooker Header side pipes on Corvettes were quite common and helped un-cork whatever engine they were put on. This is Craig Cardwell’s 1970 LT-1 and was a LOUD beast!

So aside from the barking exhaust note and added bragging rights, what did the side-pipe exhaust system do for the car’s performance? Unlike the C6 Dual Mode Exhaust system, the old side pipes were never promoted to increase horsepower at all, or at least, they were never officially tested and certified. Of course, the only way to really answer that question would be to rear-wheel horsepower test, say a 427/435 427 ‘67 Corvette with and without the side-mounted exhausts. A lot of work just to find some numbers.

Craig Cardwell bought his 1970 LT-1 new and had the dealer install the side pipes.

So, I took the question to two genuine experts – veteran Corvette racer, Dick Guldstrand and Mike Cederstrom, owner of Sweet Thunder Chambered Exhaust Systems, in Cadillac, Michigan. Since Guldstrand has spent thousands of hours building and racing Corvettes for over 50 years, I thought Goldie might know how much horsepower the side-pipes were worth. Dick’s answer was somewhat surprising. “Those old chambered pipes did improve the engine’s performance, but not much. But then again, almost anything you did was an improvement over the stock system. The ram horn manifolds were pretty good, but nothing like big tube headers with proper phasing and the scavenger effect. But they sure sounded good!”

My conversation with Guldstrand was very historical. According to Mike, GM first started using the low-restriction chambered pipes as part of the ‘61 Oldsmobile Starfire performance package and standard equipment on the ‘64 – ‘65 models. But since the pipes were mounted under the cars and not on the sides, hardly anyone took notice. Meanwhile, over at Chevrolet, with the new big-block 396 engine coming out in ‘65 and the L84 Fuelies were making their last appearance, the Corvette designers wanted a little something extra and got approval to offer the chambered-pipe Off-Road Exhausts optional on all model Corvettes.

The chambered pipes have distinctive “crimps” on the exterior. Inside of each side-pipe is an inner 1-3/4” inner baffle tube with hundreds of small perforations. The crimps on the exterior are there to create the chambered sections, these are specific sizes that combined with the special perforations on the inner baffle tube. These two factors are what they used to help control different exhaust sounds. The “muffling” effect comes from all of those tiny perforations, which burn off after a few years of regular use. With only a 1-3/4” inner baffle tube, you can see why some call the side-pipes “chokers” and why Guldstrand commented that they helped a little, but not much.

The Sweet Thunder Company started making true factory-style, replacement chambered side pipes for Corvettes in the late 1990s. Not the crimps on the outer shell of the side pipes. All the crimps do is hold the inner pipe.

An educated guess might be close to what the new Dual Mode Exhaust System is worth – around 6-horsepower. Had the inner perforated tubes been in the neighborhood of 2-1/2-inches, horsepower increases would have been more substantial. “Why” the 1-3/4-inch inner tubes were chosen is anyone’s guess. Design engineers may have felt that was “enough.” Or perhaps larger diameter inner pipes were experimented with and were determined to be excessively loud. Within my extensive library of Corvette history books, I have never read of an accounting of side-pipe development. It is widely believed that mid-year Corvettes equipped with factory RPO N11 – the “Off-Road Exhaust System” consisting of a pair of GM “Hi-Flow” mufflers in the stock 2-1/2-inch exhaust system would out-perform side-pipes.

See the small perforations? They act like little sound scoops. That’s all that does any kind of muffling. The little perforation burn off after a few years, leaving an owner with an extra loud Corvette! I know, I had one that everyone complained about. “Your car is SO LOUD!”

Of course, side-pipes of one kind or another had been showing up on racing, experimental, and show car Corvettes since earliest Fuelie racers in ‘57 and the stunning Corvette SS racer. Many of Bill Mitchell’s important show and concept cars wore their exhausts on the sides from the ‘59 XP-700 dream car to numerous modified production-based show cars, as well as his Mako Shark I and Manta Ray cars. The Mako Shark I had exposed header pipes protruding from the sides of the fenders that blended into a collector fitted to a decorative, finned muffled cover. While these setups looked dreamy as show cars, exposed header pipes on a production car would never happen. But they did help pave the way for the tamer but deliciously loud chambered side pipes. Until steel tube headers became common, most racing Corvettes used the stock ram horn cast-iron manifolds and would either have a 2-1/2-inch diameter open pipe that exited just in front of the rear wheel or ran along the side rocker. This setup was obviously considered “open” exhaust and was completely illegal for the street.

Not that the factory optional chambered exhaust didn’t create a few problems with young Corvette owners, such as myself. Several inspection officers at my local DMV threatened to not pass my ‘65 Coupe with factory side-pipes because they didn’t like loud cars. I always passed… barely. Once I was told that if I came back next year with THAT CAR, it would DEFINITELY not pass! It wasn’t until my conversation with Sweet Thunder Mike that I learned why my ‘65 Coupe was so loud. Mike asked, “Were those original pipes?” To the best of my knowledge, my car came from the factory that way. They certainly weren’t “header” side-pipes. When I owned the car, it was 10 years old. Mike said, “That’s why. Those little perforations that were stamped into the very thin aluminized steel, didn’t last that long. The whole inner tube would just rot away. You were running nearly straight open exhausts!” he laughed.

I shared with Mike that my girlfriend at the time once said to me, “Your car is really cool, but it’s deafening!” Of course, it didn’t keep her from wanting to drive it from time to time. Once I thundered by a fellow in a 356 Porsche. As we were approaching a traffic light, I could see that he was quite agitated and was yelling at me, “I only got FOUR CYLINDERS, MAN! Four cylinders!!!” I thought, “Well, don’t complain to me!” So I pushed the clutch in and barked the side-pipes for good measure. Another time I passed a coworker friend on the way to work in a, shall we say, ‘spirited fashion” at around 6,000 rpm in second gear. Later in the office, my friend came over to my drawing board and said, “That car of yours is SO FRICK’N LOUD, I could feel the side windows in my Camaro rattling!”

Chambered exhaust systems eventually found their way into Camaro, Chevelle, and dealer-installed AMX cars. Usually, these systems ran under the cars to not draw too much attention. Former VETTE editor and founder Marty Schorr had a tricked out, black 390 Javelin with a set of ‘65-’67 Corvette side-pipes and covers. And what can only be considered a true anomaly was that a small handful of new Corvette buyers opted to have their new Corvettes equipped with dealer-installed Hooker Header side-pipes.

While repro side-pipes have been available for some time now, the guys at Sweet Thunder have invested a lot of time and energy into the reproduction of these new side-pipes with the correct sound. For more information and photos, visit Sweet-Thunder.com. Mike and his team also make chambered exhaust systems for the new 2010 Berger Chevrolet Super Camaros, as well as chambered exhaust systems for several other cars.

So, will side pipes ever come back as a production option for Corvettes? The short answer is, “No!” And many would ask, “Why would anyone want them?” After all, strictly “by the numbers” when offered, side-pipe-equipped Corvettes only accounted for 10-to-11-percent of new Corvettes. However, the side-pipe systems were available for many years through your local Chevrolet Parts Department, to be self-installed by owners. For several decades, ‘75 and newer C3 Corvettes that were equipped with catalytic converters could not have side-pipes and pass inspection. However, now that all of the C3 Corvettes are well over 25 years old and are considered “historic” cars, there’s a lot more leeway.

And what about C4 Corvettes you ask? The folks from Power Effects® obviously have a passion for side-pipes. What’s surprising about their Side Effects® system is that it’s actually a Cat-Back design. The factory catalytic converters remain in place. Just south of the catalytic converter is an aluminum splitter that makes a 90-degree bend to the right and left sides. The splitter is located in alignment with the final exhaust exit. The exhaust weldments bolt to the splitter, then make a 90-degree bend forward and bolt to the sound chamber that captures excess sound. Exhaust gas is then allowed to escape out the exhaust tips in front of the rear wheels.

There is a built-in heat shield attached to the weldment which keeps the composite side panels cool to the touch.

These panels can be painted to match the car’s body color or even custom painted, as seen in our photo sample. The system is available in two sound modes; “Sport” has a deep, throaty tone while “Touring” is a little quieter. Unlike the old factory side-pipes, this system has been dyno tested. L98-powered C4 cars can expect an additional 23-HP while LT1 and LT4 cars can expect a 10-HP gain. For C4 owners, this is an attractive way to personalize your machine. You can review their entire line of performance exhaust systems at PowerEffects.com.

With the introduction of the C5 Corvettes, design parameters were changed to make the new Corvette more of a GT, or Grand Touring machine. Then Corvette chief engineer, Dave Hill, brought his considerable experience working on Cadillacs to the Corvette line. Corvettes had a long history of quality issues and Hill wanted to make sure that owning a new Corvette wouldn’t be a headache. After the C5 was introduced, Hill’s team went on a hunt to eliminate as much excess noise from the cars as they could afford, but at the same time, not lose the car’s performance character. Hill explained that the C5 was the kind of car you could drive for 500 miles and feel good when you arrived at your destination. When he was outlining the parameters for the C6, he determined that after driving 500 miles in a C6 Corvette, the driver would feel GREAT! Obviously, droning side pipes wouldn’t fit into the equation.

The other factor in the demise of side-mounted exhausts was advances in exhaust systems in general. The biggest being the introduction of crossover and H-pipes. Besides emissions, the biggest factor has been noise restrictions on new cars. In order to be certified for production, carmakers must design the cars so that they pass decibel standards in a variety of conditions from various distances. The Corvette’s Dual Mode option is an interesting way to get around those standards because the solenoids only open the flaps during “high load” conditions. You could call the new system, “Bark On-Demand.” Considering that the C6 Corvette is more GT car than ever, the new setup is truly having your cake and eating it too. Well done, C

Chevrolet. – Scott

Note: This article was first published in the December 2013 issue of Vette Vues. Subscribe to Vette Vues HERE!

Vintage 1969 Baldwin-Motion Phase-III SS-427 Supercars PDF Catalog Booklet

SUDDENLY It’s 1969! A Blast From the Past Baldwin-Motion Supercar Catalog

You can download your PDF booklet HERE.

My automotive coming-of-age started in 1965 when I saw a 1965 Sting Ray in a local Chevrolet dealer’s showroom. By the time the Mako-Shark-inspired 1968 Corvette came out, I was a full-blown motorhead. I thought the Mako Shark-II was the most beautiful car ever made. Although the 1968 Corvette wasn’t exactly the Shark show car, I loved it!

I was just in junior high school and was the only one in my family with an interest in performance cars. My way of keeping up with the burgeoning muscle car scene was through “Hi-Performance CARS Magazine”. My local small-town pharmacy had a huge newsstand rack with almost every car magazine published. And I knew what week the various titles came out.

One day in early 1969 on the newsstand, I spotted the screaming yellow Corvette on the cover with the cover copy saying something like, “Baldwin-Motion Phase III SS-427 Corvette Supercar!” As much as I loved the new Corvette, I loved the Phase III Corvette better! It had flared wheel wells and deep-dish Cragar Mags shod with FAT L60-15 tires. Atop of the stock 427 hood bulge was a ’67 Stinger hood scoop and a Pontiac hood-mounted tach. Finishing the setup was a set of 1965-1967 Corvette side pipes. WOW!

In the back of the magazine, there was an ad for a Baldwin-Motion catalog, for one dollar! I sent away for it and a few weeks later, my carpals and I were pouring over the catalog and bench racing how we would order our own personal Baldwin-Motion Supercar!

I still have that catalog today. So, before it gets lost or fades and falls apart, I thought I should make a PDF version to share. The 1969 Phase III SS-427 Corvette started at around $7,000, or around $51,000 in 2021 dollars. Today these cars are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. As Marty Schorr told me once, “Joel and I had no idea these cars would be worth this much, and over 50 years later, people still love them!”

As Marty used to say in his editorials in CARS Magazine, “Nuff said!” – Scott

PS – You can access the entire collection of Corvette E-Booklets and the Duntov Files HERE.

Duntov Files, Part 5 E-Book: Car Life July 1969 Wildest Corvette Test Yet, Big-Blocks



Dateline: 3-19-21 – You can download the PDF E-Booklet HERE I have a good-sized collection of Corvette books, sales brochures, magazines, and saved Corvette articles. I also have a set of fourteen reprinted Corvette road tests by Road & Track that run from June 1954-to-June 1969. I am scanning these old articles and making e-booklets out of them, free of charge. It is the easiest, simplest way of sharing this timeless Corvette information. You can access the collection by going to… http://www.corvettereport.com/corvette-e-booklettes/

There will be many more to come.

Back in the days of the Old Republic, there were no “Corvette-only” magazines, except for “Corvette News”, but you have to buy a Corvette to get those. The best we could get was occasional road tests and feature stories highlighting the latest custom Corvettes, some Corvette race cars, Corvette Styling Department, and Engineering Department cars. When it came to showing off Chevrolet’s latest, greatest “go-fast” hardware, Zora Arkus-Duntov was always the ring-leader; a genuine PT Barnum, with a thick Russian accent. Zora loved the attention and the magazine and racer guys loved him, too.

Car Life” magazine went out of publication by the end of the 1960s. The July 1969 issue screamed “CORVETTE!” with the cover story, “Wildest CORVETTE Test Yet – Every Body Style, Every Engine, Every Transmission, Every Rear Ratio, Every Major Accessory”. The cover story was a 16-page; mother-load of 1969 Corvette information covering everything from the ZQ3 350/300 small-block to the mighty ZL-1 all-aluminum 427 that powered Zora’s latest mule Corvette for suspension, drive-train, and brakes “testing”.

I was in the 9th grade then and this was an absolute feast for me! Enjoy a heap’n, help’n! – Scott

You can download the PDF E-Booklet HERE.

Check out the entire E-Booklet Collection, HERE.

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 2 of 5 – Dave McLellan

Dave McLellan, Heir to Duntov’s Engineering Throne

(Dateline: 7-3-20 – This story was originally published in the now-defunct Vette magazine, July 2019 issue. Story, Illustrations & Graphics by K. Scott Teeters) – When Dave McLellan took over as Corvette’s new chief engineer on January 1, 1975, it was a whole new world. The prevailing trends went from performance cars to safer cars with reduced emissions. Not even Duntov could have made a difference in the ‘70s. But as performance went down, Corvette sales went way up! The sales department was happy, but the Corvette was really getting old. Dave McLellan was an unknown to the Corvette community and many wondered what he would bring to the brand. It turned out; he brought a lot!

McLellan was a car guy. He rebuilt his family’s Frazer and entered the Fisher Body Craftsmen’s Guild Model Contest. Upon graduation from Wayne State University in Detroit with a degree in mechanical engineering, GM hired Hill on July 1, 1959. Thought the ‘60s Hill worked at the Milford Proving Ground on noise and acoustics issues with GM tank treads, Buick brakes, and tuned resonators for mufflers. Hill was also going to night school to get his Master’s Degree in engineering mechanics. In 1967 Hill was part of the group that planned and operated the 67-acre Black Lake where ride, handling, and crashworthiness tests are performed.

Chevrolet engineering brought in Hill to work on the 1970-1/2 Camaro and Z28. Hill wanted to move into management so he took a yearlong sabbatical and attended MIT Alfred. P. Sloan School of Management. The school emphasizes innovation in practice and research. In July 1974 Hill was Zora Arkus-Duntov’s part-time assistant, training for taking over the position in 1975.

While Hill didn’t have Duntov’s racing experience, he owned several Porsches and understood racing sports cars. As Duntov was leaving, he told Hill, “Dave, you must do mid-engine Corvette.” Little did they know that it would finally happen forty-five years later.

When Duntov took control of Corvette engineering in 1956, he had to boost sales and make the Corvette a performance car and a capable racecar. When Hill took control, Corvettes were never selling better, but the platform design was nearly fifteen-years-old. Hill had to keep the car fresh, hit the new requirements, and maintain performance; all with a limited budget.

Management figured that the Corvette had a captive audience, so they didn’t have to spend money to change anything. Fortunately, that lame notion was overruled. The 1978 glass fastback and the 1980 front and rear bumper covers were excellent updates. Another major issue was quality control. The St. Louis assembly plant made three other cars and often workers were unfamiliar with the specialties of the Corvette. This issue didn’t get fixed until the plant was moved to the Corvette-only Bowling Green facility.

McLellan knew that the C3 needed to be replaced, as the chassis was designed around 1960! For a brief period, it looked like the mid-engine Aerovette would become the C4, but Chevrolet decided to abandon all mid-engine programs. The all-new C4 began to take shape in Jerry Palmer’s Chevrolet Studio Three in 1978. When the C4 debuted in December 1982, it received rave reviews, despite the fact that suspension engineers later admitted that they over-did-it with the stiff suspension. By 1985 the suspension was softened and the 150-mph Corvette won Car and Driver’s “Fastest Car in America” award and began the total domination of Corvettes in the SCCA Escort Showroom Stock racing series from 1985-to-1987. Porsche bought a Corvette to take apart to find why the car was unbeatable. By the end of 1987, SCCA kicked out all of the Corvettes for being too fast! McLellan followed up with the Corvette Challenge factory-build racecars.

McLellan’s personal style was more suited to the intricacies of modern electronic computer-controlled performance cars than Duntov’s. Where Duntov’s enthusiasm was effervescent, McLellan was laid-back, approachable, but not shy with the automotive press. After the successful rollout of the C4, McLellan took on four very serious performance projects for the Corvette; The Callaway Twin Turbo option, the ZR-1 performance model, the LT-5 Lotus/Mercury Marine performance engine, and the mid-engine CERV-III. Let’s look at all four projects.

“Supercars” were the rage and by 1985 Porsche had their 959 and Ferrari was about to unleash their F40. To have something to offer while McLellan was starting his ZR-1 project, a deal was made with Reeves Callaway to build brand-new Corvettes with a Callaway Twin Turbo package. The cars had 345-horsepower (stock Corvettes had 240) and from 1987-to-1991 RPO B2K was the only non-installed official RPO Corvette option ever offered.

The ZR-1 super-Vette had two components. The first was its Lotus-engineered, all-aluminum, double-overhead-cam engine built by Mercury Marine. McLellan’s engineers set down the size parameters and horsepower objective; Lotus did the rest. McLellan turned to the best manufacturer of all-aluminum, performance marine engines in the country, Mercury marine. The end result was the beautiful jewel-like LT-5, an engine that is still respected today. The second component was the widening of the ZR-1’s body to cover the enormous P315/35ZR17 rear tires and beef up the car’s drivetrain and suspension.

The 1990 CERV-III Corvette was McLellan’s vision of Duntov’s mid-engine Corvette, with electronic steroids. The car had a carbon fiber Lotus-style backbone chassis, four-wheel steering, active suspension, a transverse, 650-horsepower twin-turbocharged LT-5 ZR-1 engine and a dry-sump oil system, and a four-speed transaxle. This was the final design that started out as the Indy Corvette in 1986 and had a top speed of 225-mph. And lastly, the CERV-III was designed to be manufactured.

Photo: GM Archives

When McLellan was part of the 1992 “Decision Makers” three-man internal Chevrolet design group, gathered to evaluate the direction of the C5, McLellan chose the CERV-III concept over the front-engine “Momentum Architecture” and the stiffer/lighter restyled C4. But the CERV-III was deemed too expensive for the market. The “Momentum Architecture” with its backbone structure, a transaxle, and an all-aluminum engine with design elements from the LT-5, lives on today in the C7.

McLellan oversaw the three-year, 1990-to-1992 mid-cycle refresh. The process started in 1990 with an all-new dash; 1991 saw new front and rear bumper covers; and in 1992 the 245-horsepower L98 was replaced with the 300-horsepower LT1.

In 1990 McLellan won the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Edward N. Cole Award for Automotive Engineering Innovation. In 1991 GM was offering early retirement packages, allowing 53-year old employees to receive the same benefits as those retiring at 62. McLellan took the offer and stayed on as a consultant while GM looked for a suitable replacement. McLellan was fortunate enough to be in his consulting position on July 2, 1992, when he was on hand to see the one-millionth Corvette roll off the Bowling Green assembly line. What a thrill for a car that McLellan had given so much to and a car that was so often on the line for its survival.

Finally, on November 18, 1992, the new chief of Corvette engineering was Dave Hill. Since then, McLellan has been a much sought after automotive consultant, he wrote and illustrated “Corvette From the Inside” and he’s a frequent and revered guest of honor at all of the top Corvette events. In 1999 McLellan was inducted into the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame. McLellan goes down in the Corvette history books as the second of the five great Corvette chief engineers. – Scott

PS – Be sure to catch all 5 parts of my Corvette Chiefs Series

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 1 – Zora Arkus-Duntov

Corvette Chiefs, Pt.2 – Dave McLellan

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 3 – Dave Hill

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 4 – Tom Wallace

Corvette Chiefs, Pt. 5 – Tadge Juechter






Corvette Chassis History Pt. 2: C2/C3 1963-1982

The C2/C3 Corvette Chassis That Zora Built

Dateline: 7.31.19 – As seen in the January 2019 issue of Vette magazine, Illustrations by K. Scott Teeters – When the 1963 Sting Ray made its public debut in September 1962, it was a total, “WOW!” And it wasn’t just the Corvette’s stunning new looks; it was the all-new chassis and suspension. By late 1959 Zora Arkus-Duntov was in charge of Corvette engineering. When Bill Mitchell’s design team started work on project XP-720 (the all-new Sting Ray), Duntov was called in to set the parameters for an all-new chassis. The completed Sting Ray looked like the sportscar from another planet and the chassis had everything except four-wheel disc brakes. Today the running chassis looks like a buggy compared to the stout aluminum, steel, and magnesium chassis’ of the C5, C6, and C7 Corvettes. But in 1963 the top-performing L84 Fuelie engine only had 360 “gross” horsepower and 352-LB/FT of torque putting power-to-the-ground with 6.70×15 bias-ply tires. That’s not much twisting on the chassis, so the chassis was more than adequate.

Even when the high-torque big-blocks arrived in 1965, for street use, the Duntov chassis could handle the job. The design didn’t start to show its limitations until the 1968 L88 racing Corvettes with wide tires started competing in long endurance races. Tony DeLorenzo once commented that after long 12 or 24-hour races, their Corvettes needed new frames. Their solution to this problem was a Logghe Brothers full welded-in roll cage. Greenwood’s wide-body Corvettes were so reinforced many asked, “Is there still a Corvette in there?” But for street use and spirited driving, the Duntov chassis served the Corvette well until 1982. Lets look at the chassis’ basics to see why it lasted so long

The genius of Duntov’s chassis was how much lower the center of gravity was. Chevrolet engineer Maurice Olley was a production car chassis and suspension expert when he designed the C1 chassis. As a racing expert, Duntov knew he had to get the center of gravity much lower. The C1’s chassis had a parameter frame with x-bracing in the center for rigidity. The car’s occupants sat on top of the frame. Everything measured from there; the cowl height, engine height, and everything else.

Duntov’s design eliminated the x-brace so that the occupants could be placed down inside the frame, dramatically lowering every data point from there. For rigidity the new frame had five crossmembers. Duntov then mounted the engine and transmission as low and as far back as possible and routed the exhaust pipes through holes in the second frame crossmember. The passenger compartment was pushed back as far as possible and the spare tire was mounted below the back of the frame and under the fuel tank.

The lowering of the engine/transmission and passenger compartment lowered the center-of-gravity from 19.8-inches to 16.5-inches. Moving major components as far back as possible in the shorter 98-inch wheelbase created a front/rear weight distribution of 47/53-percent. The engine centerline was offset 1-inch towards the passenger side because passenger footwell requirements were less than the driver’s. The extra offset reduced the transmission tunnel width and allowed the crankshaft and rear axle pinion to be on the same centerline. Ground clearance was just five-inches.

The build of the frame used boxed longitudinal sides with five crossmembers that were designed to suit the needs of styling. The new frame actually received computer analysis to determine the thickness needed for the parameters of the overall car. The front crossmember was welded to the sides and not bolted-on like the C1 chassis. The new frame with mounting brackets weighed 260-pounds, the same as the C1’s frame, but torsion rigidity increased from 1,587 lb/ft to 2,374 lb/ft per degree.

The C2/C3 suspension was a parts-bin marvel, although it didn’t seem that way. Duntov wanted an independent rear suspension and was immediately told, “No! It’s too expensive.” To get around this, Duntov used almost 60 full-size passenger car front suspension parts, including pressed-steel wishbones and ball-jointed spindles, and just rearranged them. The parts had already been engineered and proven, thus saving production cost. With a 9-degree slope, the wishbones gave an anti-dive reaction upon heavy braking. Then the inner pivot points were lowered to raise the roll-center to 3.25-inches above the ground. A recirculating-ball steering unit was placed behind the suspension and used a hydraulic damper to reduce kickback. All of these changes were very apparent when combined with the right shocks and anti-roll bars when the cars were first driven and tested. The money saved was more than what went into the rear suspension.

The independent rear suspension started with the differential pumpkin bolted to the 4th crossmember with the driveshaft as a device to control forward thrust from the wheels. Axle half-shafts with universal joints are on each side of the differential. Steel box-section control-arms carry the outer half-shafts and attach to the rear frame kickup assembly. Shims at the forward pivot-points are used to adjust toe-in alignment. Strut rods attach to the strut-rod bracket bolted below the differential and connect to the rear spindle support on the control-arms. The nine-leaf transverse spring with polyethylene liners between each leaf to reduce noise, mounts under the differential and is sprung against the rear portion of the control arm with long bolts. Duntov’s proposal to use a transverse leaf spring was not well received by Chevrolet chief engineer, Harry Barr, but no one could come up with a better plan.

For its time, Duntov’s chassis worked very well, but I’m sure that no one imagined it would be used for 20 years. The design proved to be easy to update. Disc brakes were in development when the Sting Ray came out and arrived on the 1965 model. When the new Mark IV became available in 1965 the suspension got stiffer front springs and larger diameter front and rear stabilizer bars. The new chassis was totally adaptable and could be made near-battle-ready with suspension component changes. During the 20-years of Duntov’s chassis, Racer Kits included; the 1963 Z06, 1967-1969 L88, 1970-1972 LT-1 small-block ZR1, and the 1971 big-block ZR-2. And from 1974-1982 there was the FE7 Gymkhana Suspension for spirited street driving. On the street, Duntov’s chassis could easily handle the 327 Fuelie to the LS6 454.

In the ‘70s chassis changes were made to conform to tightening regulations. Starting in 1973 the chassis had to handle the new 5-mph crash bumpers and steel side-door guard beams. In 1975 catalytic converters helped reduce emissions, but cloaked engines. A steel underbelly had to added to the chassis as a heat shield against the very hot converters. 1980 saw a big weight reduction from 3,503-pounds to 3,336-pounds thanks to an aluminum differential, lighter roof panels, thinner material on the hood and doors, and the use of the aluminum L84 intake manifold on the standard engine. The following year, a fiberglass-composite rear leaf spring helped shed 29-pounds. Early ‘80s Corvettes don’t get much respect because their restricted engines, but their drivetrain and suspension was as good as ever. An early ‘80s Corvette with a classic SBC crate engine would make for a stout performer.

Yes, Duntov’s chassis looks crude by today’s standards. But Corvette development is always empirical. If it weren’t for the C2/C3 chassis, there never would have been a C4 chassis, and so it goes. – Scott

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 1 – C1 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 2 – C2/C3 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 3 – C4 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 4 – C5 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 5 – C6 Chassis – HERE

Corvette Chassis History, Pt 6 – C7 Chassis – HERE


Corvette’s Founding Fathers, Larry Shinoda, Pt 5 of 6: Sting Ray & Mako Shark Designer

Larry Shinoda: Genius Designer/Stylist and Self-Confessed Malcontent

Larry Shinoda was the perfect designer/stylist for GM VP of Styling Bill Mitchell. In the same way that Mitchell fit with Harley Earl, Shinoda clearly understood what Mitchell wanted. As VP of Design, Mitchell’s job was to hold the vision for what he knew would be new and fresh, then lead his designers and stylists to bring his vision into reality. Corvettes were always Mitchell’s pet projects and he was famous for saying, “Don’t get cocky, kid! I design Corvettes around here!” Mitchell’s Corvettes were about design, speed, power, and performance. And for that, he needed a designer/stylist equal to Duntov’s engineering/racing prowess. Larry Shinoda was his man.

Shinoda was a self-confessed malcontent, and proud of it. As a kid, Larry was always drawing cars with pencil stubs he found. At the age of eight, he did a large color painting that years later hung in the Los Angeles Museum of Art. Just after his father died when he was 12-years-old, Larry and his family were swept up and sent to a Japanese internment camp. No doubt that this helped form his surly persona. While in the camp, Larry designed and built a reclining chair for his grandmother from wooden crates. After two years of internment, Larry and his family relocated to Grand Junction, Colorado to help with the family nursery business. But rural life wasn’t for Larry and he quickly relocated back to Los Angeles to finish school.

Late 1940s California was the birthplace of the hot rod car culture and Larry was all-in! He built hot rod Ford coupes and roadsters called “Chopsticks Special” that he street raced, drag raced, and speed raced on the dry lakebeds of California’s Mojave Desert. When he wasn’t racing, Shinoda worked at the Weiland Company to put himself through two years at Pasadena City College. After college Larry had a two year stint with the Air National Guard and spent 16-months in Korea.

Shinoda knew that if he was ever to be a designer, he’d have to go to the Art Center of Design in LA. What seemed like a great idea quickly went sour, and Larry was kicked out! Shinoda only wanted to design cars, and saw no value in watercolor and life drawing classes. One of Larry’s former instructors called him when a rep for Ford was interviewing for designer positions.

Shinoda put together his portfolio and showed up for the interview in his attitudinal car-guy gear; peg-let jeans, and a loud Hawaiian shirt over a Howard Cams t-shirt. The Ford rep was so impressed with his work that Larry was offered a higher-than-normal salary, plus Ford paid to transport his hot rod to Michigan! But before going to Ford, in 1953 Shinoda set the SGTA Bonneville Nations D-Class Speed Record with a two-way average speed of 166-mph in his Chrysler-powered roadster. Then in 1954 Larry won the Fuel Roadster class at the first NHRA Nationals in Great bend, Kansas. Yes, gasoline was in his veins.

Shinoda spent a year with Ford learning the ropes of a big corporation and picking up a lot from fellow designers. Not contented with Ford, Shinoda jumped over to Packard where he befriended John Z. DeLorean. Earlier that same year, Larry was part of the John Zink crew that raced and won the 1956 Indy 500. Naturally, Shinoda designed the body and the car’s paint scheme. Shinoda and DeLorean quickly realized that Packard was a sinking and jumped to GM.

Hired as a senior designer by Harley Earl in late 1956, life inside GM was uninspiring. After his short orientation, Shinoda was transferred to the Chevrolet group where his unique flat rear fin design was incorporated into the 1959 Bel Air. Larry even showed how to manufacture the unique shape by welding the upper and lower parts of the shape and covering the weld with chrome trim. Larry then had a brief stint in the Pontiac design group and worked on the Wide Track Pontiacs and the 1960-1961 Tempests. To counter the doldrums in the Buick and Cadillac groups, Larry rendered the big cars with racing numbers, stripes, and mags. His bosses were not amused!

Sometimes providence has to bring the right people together. One day on the way home from work, Shinoda pulled up to a stoplight next to a supercharged 1958 Pontiac with VP of GM Design, Bill Mitchell behind the wheel. Larry let Bill get ahead of him, then totally smoked the VP! A few days later when Mitchell was in the Chevrolet studio, he asked who owned a white 1956 Ford. The studio boss said, “Hey Larry, don’t you have a white ’56 Ford?” Shinoda confirmed that indeed, he was the guy that dusted off Mitchell. Bill asked Larry to bring his car into the garage so he could check out the designer’s machine. When Mitchell looked under the hood, he nearly had a heart attack! The engine was a Bill Stropp race-prepared 352 with dual quads, headers, NASCAR shocks and a full roll cage. It was essentially a racecar! That was IT! Mitchell had found his go-to design/styling man.

Mitchell’s Studio X was the perfect place for Shinoda and it was there that he did all of the Corvette work he’s loved and admired for. Larry’s first project for Mitchell was to take Peter Brock’s 1957 Q-Corvette design and translate it to fit the mule chassis of the 1957 Corvette SS Racer. The result was the 1959 Stingray Racer. Mitchell erroneously thought the shape would act like an inverted airfoil and push the car down. The front-end lift was terrible and was unfortunately inherited by the C2 Sting Ray. Before the C2 Sting Ray project, since Shinoda had already designed the body of a winning Indy 500 car, he was tasked to create the body for Duntov’s Indy car-like CERV-I R&D vehicle.

Not only did Mitchell’s Stingray Racer win a championship, it was such a hit with the crowds, the design had to be the next Corvette, and Larry Shinoda was the man for the job. Translating a sketch into a racecar body is one thing; making the shape into a real automobile is a whole other thing. The only carryover parts were the engine and transmission, everything else had to be designed and styled. Although the Sting Ray was Mitchell’s vision, Shinoda and his team worked out the visual details.


Shinoda was the perfect man for the time. Design studios all over Detroit were white-hot with secret advanced design projects and a steady flow of concept cars. The following cars all have “Larry Shinoda” baked into their DNA, and they all still look good today; 1959 Stingray Racer, 1960 CERV-I, 1962 Corvair Super Spyder, 1962 Monza GT, 1962 Monza SS, 1962 Mako Shark-I, 1963-1967 Sting Ray, 1964 GS-2b, 1964 CERV-II, 1964 Rear-Engine XP-819, 1965-Mako Shark-II, 1966 Mako Shark-II, 1965-1966 and 2D, 1967 Astro-I, and the 1968-Astro-II.

Larry Shinoda was well rewarded for his contributions. Just before the Mako Shark-II project, Larry was promoted to Chief Designer for Special Vehicles, where he coordinated efforts with Frank Winchell’s Chevy R&D group and Vince Piggins Performance Group. But by 1968, the self-confessed malcontent left GM to work with his friend Semon “Bunkie” Kundsen, the new president of FoMoCo. Larry’s new position at Ford was Executive of All High-Performance and Show Vehicles. Shinoda was responsible for the Boss 302 and 429, the Torino Talladega, Cougar Eliminator, the King Cobra, the Torino Design Study, Cyclone Spoiler II, and the Mustang and Torino pace cars. But life inside Ford was more turbulent than GM, and after 16 months, Knudsen and Shinoda were fired. The Shinoda/Knudsen team then formed RV company RecTrans, which was soon bought by White Motor Company, with Knudsen as president.

The last chapter of Shinoda’s career began in 1976 when he created Shinoda Design Associates, Inc, with a staff of designers, clay modelers, technicians, engineers, and fabricators. Shinoda’s team worked to help client’s profitability with excellent design that would be appealing to their client’s; trucks, boats, motorcycles, golf equipments, products. Larry’s last Corvette project was the Shinoda/Mears Corvette body kit.

Larry’s older sister Grace had this to say about her famous brother, “Creative people take risks. They see things in new ways that the establishment doesn’t agree with.” She certainly knew her brother very well.

Larry passed on November 13, 1997, but on January 6, 1997 he completed and signed a color rendering of a C5 Corvette Split-Window Coupe with C2-style front and rear fender humps and rear bumper cover. Clearly, Larry wanted to see more “Sting Ray” in the then-new C5. Unfortunately, Larry health issues got in the way and the project never went past the illustration. The following year, Larry was inducted into the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame. And in 1995 Larry was inducted into the Mustang Club of America’s “Mustang Hall of Fame”. Larry Shinoda was outspoken (often to his own determent), candid, humorous, and firmly believed in whatever he was doing. – Scott






COME ON! Take a Ride in a 1977 Greenwood Wide-Body Corvette at Daytona! – VIDEO

Ride along with Didier Andre in the Spirit of America 1977 Greenwood Corvette

This is as viscous as it gets Corvette fans!

Oh, the sound of a big-block Chevy engine with open headers working through the gears.

And here’s the view from the outside!

Turn it up LOUD, hear and feel the POWER! We love LOUD Corvettes!- Scott

PS – The digital speedometer is in kelometers-per-hour. The car gets up to around 180-mph.

The Duntov Files, Part 2 E-Book: Car Life Magazine July 1969 Wildest Corvette Test Yet, FREE E-Book

Next installment of FREE Corvette E-Books from K. Scott Teeters’ collection of Corvette Reference Material

Dateline: 10.24.18 – To download this free E-Book, CLICK HERE –  – I do not recall when “Car Life Magazine” stopped publishing, (old issues are available on eBay) but in the 1960s it was one of my favorite car magazines.

Back in the day, car magazines typically came out the same month, or the month before the specific month printed on the cover and on the footer of every page. I got my July 1969 issue of ”Car Life” as my summer vacation was beginning. I had just graduated from junior high school and was about to turn 15-years-of-age; almost two years away from when I could get my driver’s license!

Perhaps to smooth over the not so great roll out of the 1968 Corvette the year before, Zora Arkus-Duntov arranged for the ultimate Corvette road test of EIGHT different 1969 Corvettes! Three small-blocks and five big-blocks, plus Zora brought along his development ZL1 toy. I read that long article over, and over, and over that summer. By the time I went back to school in September, I was “Mr. Corvette”!

Enjoy and feel free to share with your Corvette friends. –Scott

Here are the PDF download links to all 4 of the Duntov Files, as of 2.16.21.

Duntov Files, Pt. 1

Duntov Files, Pt. 2

Duntov Files, Pt. 3

Duntov Files. Pt. 4


PS – You can download a low-resolution and high-resolution PDF version of the 1969 Corvette sales brochure from the GM Archives collection, HERE!


Founding Fathers Pt 4 of 6: Corvette Godfather, Zora Arkus-Duntov

Zora Arkus-Duntov: The Performance Godfather of all Corvettes

Dateline: 10.23.18 – One of the definitions of the word, “godfather” is; “one that founds, supports, or inspires”. Of all of the Corvette’s “Founding Fathers” none are more deserving of the term than Zora Arkus-Duntov. It is not an exaggeration to say that were it not for Duntov, the Corvette never would have made it past 1970!

Although the Corvette fit the definition of a “sports car”, when Chevrolet released the car in 1953, they said that the car was, “not a sports car”. But when Zora saw the Corvette at the 1953 GM Motorama in New York City, he said that it was the most beautiful car he had ever seen, and knew instantly that he wanted to be a part of the new Corvette team.

Zora was born on December 25, 1909 and his birth name was “Zachary Arkus”. Both of his parents were Russian Jews living in Belgium. His mother was a medical student and his father was a mining engineer. After the Russian Revolution the family moved back to Leningrad, Russia, but his parents divorced. His mother’s new partner was Josef Duntov. Years later, Zora and his brother, Yura added the surname, “Duntov” to theirs.

Josef Duntov was an engineer for the Soviet government and was transferred to Berlin, Germany. Zora loved Berlin. When he wasn’t attending classes at the Charlottenburg Technological University, he was drawing cars, writing papers, riding motorcycles, roaring around in his Type 30 Bugatti, and chasing girls. When Zora met Elfi Wolff, a beautiful German dancer with the Folies Bergere, it was love at first sight, and the couple married in France in 1939. When WW-II broke out in 1939, Zora and Yura wanted nothing to do with fascism, and joined the French Air Force. But when France surrendered, the entire Duntov family made plans to get out of France and immigrate to America.

All Zora ever wanted to do was build and race cars. After the family settled down in New York, Zora and Yura started the Ardun Mechanical Corporation, a machining company. Quickly, the company became a success, receiving an “A” classification with the Army Air Force Quality Control. Government work for the war effort made Zora and Elfi wealthy. After the war Zora and Yura made their contribution to the burgeoning hot rod industry that set the stage for Duntov’s part of the Corvette story.

Image: http://www.ardun.com/

Ford brought the V8 to the masses and it wasn’t long before guys started hot rodding the Flat-head V8 Ford. The design was cheap and simple, but didn’t breathe very well. Zora designed an aluminum, overhead valve hemi-head bold-on kit for the popular Ford flathead engine. The Ardun OHV Hemi heads took output from 100-hp to 160-hp; a 62-percent increase! They offered a conversion kit, a complete engine, and an all-out, 200-hp racing engine. While terrific as a concept, Zora wasn’t a “development engineer” and didn’t have the patience to sort out details. Through a series of business mistakes, the company eventually folded. Also, in 1946 and 1947 Zora had two failed qualifying attempts at Indy.

Photo: K. Scott Teeters – Duntov wanted to take a team of Corvette SS race cars to the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans race, but the AMA Racing Ban stopped Zora’s Le Mans assault.

By 1948 Zora was looking for a racecar company to work for and took a job working for Allard England. Without a company to run, Duntov was able to stay focused on engineering and development work for Sydney Allard’s sports racing cars. In 1949 Zora raced an Ardun-powered Allard J2 at Watkins Glen, but had braking problems. Then in 1952 Zora drive a new Allard J2X at Le Mans, but broke an axle at the 14-hour mark.

Working for Allard was fun, but Zora knew there was no future there. In 1952 he came back to New York and started looking for employment with an American car company. Duntov applied with Chrysler, Ford, Lincoln-Mercury, Ford, and General Motors. Chrysler suggested that his racing engineering skills would be more suited to much smaller companies. He even tried Jaguar, but was rejected. A letter to GM’s Chief Engineer, Ed Cole in October was responded with an invitation to, “…stop by if you’re ever in Detroit.” But Cole passed Duntov’s letter to his head suspension/chassis engineer, Maurice Olley, who responded to Zora on January 5, 1953 with an invitation for an interview.

Around this time Duntov had his “Oh, WOW!” moment upon seeing the Corvette at the 1953 Motorama. After a long series of letters and interviews, on May 1, 1953, Zora Arkus-Duntov was hired by GM to work in the Chevrolet Engineering Department under Maurice Olley, with a starting salary of $14,000.

Zora and Elfie Duntov didn’t fit into the GM corporate culture, and Olley and Duntov did not get along at all. Zora solved engineering problems with an intuitive sense of mechanics – Olley wanted to see calculations. GM executives socialized at country clubs and played golf – Zora went to races and played around with boats on his weekends. Elfie passed on invitations to social lunches, preferring to spend time with her entertainer friends. Yes, the Duntov’s were misfits in GM’s stuffy gray suit world.

Three weeks into his employment Zora was almost fired by Olley because he announced that he was taking off to drive for Porsche at Le Mans in June. Although Duntov worked for Olley, he reported to Ed Cole, who begrudgingly let him go racing, but without pay.

Fortunately for all of us, Duntov got beyond his issues with Olley and was transferred to the GM Proving Ground. The work was beneath him, but he needed a job and soldered on. It was a speech he gave at a Lancing SAE meeting about how high-performance programs can enhance efficiency and reliability of passenger cars, and that the Corvette would be the perfect platform for such R&D work. While other engineers were more thorough in their development work, Zora had the deep understanding of racing, and the enthusiasm that could make Chevrolet an authority on performance cars.

By the time Duntov got to work on the Corvette, his initial conclusion was, “… the car really stunk.” Zora was coming from a racing perspective and the Corvette was never intended to be a racer. He said, “Since we can not prevent people from racing Corvettes, maybe it is better to help them to do a good job at it.” Thus began the evolutionary transition of a car that was never designed to be a racer. Duntov was the perfect man for the job; truly, there was no one else in Detroit in 1954 that could have made Earl’s beauty queen sports car into a fearsome racer. The super-successful C5-R, C6.R, and C7.R Corvette Racing Team owes it all to Zora Arkus-Duntov – and a ton of work.

Duntov’s serious work began late in 1955, and by February 1956 at Daytona Beach, his trio modified 1956 Corvettes set speed records. From there it was a class win at Sebring and “Bring on the hay bales!” 1957 saw the introduction of the 283 Fuelie and the first of a long series of RPO “Racer Kit” Chevrolet-engineered parts for racing Corvettes. Zora wanted to take a team of Corvette SS Racers to Le Mans in 1957 but the AMA Racing Ban stopped him.

Take a test drive with Zora!

By the late 1950s, thanks to the parts Duntov and engineer Mauri Rose developed for the RPO program, privateer Corvette racers were winning championships. Then, closing out the C1 generation, the Grady Davis Gulf One Corvettes took the 1961 SCCA B/Production and the 1962 A/Production Championships. To jump-start the C2 Sting Ray, Duntov launched the now-legendary RPO Z06 racer kit and the Grand Sport Corvette. Again, Zora wanted to take a team Grand Sports to Le Mans, but GM’s strict AMA Racing Ban got in the way and only five Grand Sports were built.

Duntov was relentless in pushing performance and created numerous mid-engine Corvettes prototypes. “Brakes” had been troublesome for racing Corvettes since 1956. By 1965, all production Corvettes had 4-wheel disc brakes. When the big-block was introduced in 1965, Chevrolet realized that cubic-inches were the easiest way to more horsepower. By 1967 Duntov introduced the fearsome 427 L88. From 1967-to-1969 only 216 L88 Corvettes were built, and are super valuable today. In 1969 427 ZL-1 was an L88 with an aluminum block, offered L88 power, with small-block weight.

In 1970 Zora released the 350 LT1, best small-block Corvette to that date. From 1970-to-1972 RPO ZR1 was the Racer Kit for small-block racers. And lastly, Zora was responsible for the 1974, customer applied, “Greenwood” widebody kit, available from the Chevrolet Performance Parts catalog. When Duntov retied in December 1974 he had a mid-engine Corvette in the works, but management said, “We’re selling all the Corvettes we can, why to we need a mid-engine Corvette?” Sure, “business is business” but it would have been so cool.

Without Duntov supplying raw performance, even Bill Mitchell’s beautiful Sting Ray wouldn’t have saved the Corvette. The Corvette survived because of racing and Corvettes raced because of Duntov. Therefore, Zora Arkus-Duntov ultimately deserves to title as “Godfather of the Corvette”.Scott

PS – You can readpervious installments of my “Corvette’s Founding Father Series from the bleelow links:

Corvette’s Founding Father’s, Pt 1 – Harley Earl, HERE.

Corvette’s Founding Father’s, Pt 2 – Ed Cole, HERE.

Corvette’s Founding Father’s, Pt 3 – Bill Mitchell, HERE.

And coming soon: Larry Shinoda and Peter Brock.

I’ll be offereing a free E-Book with all five of the Corvette’s Founding Fathers, soon!


The Duntov Files, Pt. 1 E-Book: Zora’s 1969 427 ZL1 Racer

New series of FREE Corvette E-Books from K. Scott Teeters’ collection of Corvette Reference Material

Dateline: 10.19.19 – To download this free E-Book, CLICK HERE –  I have a very large collection of Corvette magazines and magazine clippings that date back to the late 1950s. Recently I was talking to a Corvette restoration expert about a project that he wants to take on. George is considering building a replica of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s 1969 427 ZL1 development mule.

Image: SuperChevy.com

This car got a good amount of ink back in 1969 and I have clippings of most of the published stories. So I scanned the pages and sent them to George for his reference. Then it occurred to me that to preserve this material, I should make themed PDF versions of my collection and put them out there to the Corvette community.

I’m calling the first wave of PDFs “The Duntov Files”. Corvette has always been a large group effort, but every successful enterprise has to have an enthusiastic figurehead. The Corvette is what it is today because of Duntov’s single-minded focus on Corvette racing. Were it not for racing, the Corvette wouldn’t have made it out of the 1950s.

This was one of Duntov’s many mule (toy) Corvettes.

Duntov’s built his 427 ZL1 development Corvette as if he was building an A/Production race car. Anything that wouldn’t be on a Corvette race car was removed. The car was outfitted with L88 fender flares to cover the wide American racing mag wheels shod with racing tires. The all-aluminum 427 ZL1 was opened up with racing headers and side exhaust. All Zora needed was numbers on the car and some sponsor decals. This was one cool toy!

Enjoy and feel free to share with your Corvette friends. – Scott

Here are the PDF download links to all 4 of the Duntov Files, as of 2.16.21.

Duntov Files, Pt. 1

Duntov Files, Pt. 2

Duntov Files, Pt. 3

Duntov Files. Pt. 4