Corvette News & Opinions
Retired Corvette R&D engineer Bill Tower shares some of his insights into the background of the 1963 Grand Sport Program
The 57-Year Saga to the C8 Mid-Engine Corvette – The Old Mid-Engine Advantage & the 1960 CERV I
Dateline: 8.13.17 – Images: GM Archives & Mecum.com – Introduction: Honestly, I didn’t believe it at first. It seemed like the floodlights from the debut of the C7 Corvette weren’t even cool yet when the automotive press and the Internet started chattering about the C8 Corvette being a mid-engine design. GM then added fuel to the fire when it was announced that they had trademarked the word “Zora” which ignited the speculation of a mid-engine Corvettes.
Part of Corvette-lore is that Zora Arkus-Duntov unsuccessfully tried many times to make the Corvette a mid-engine car, because in Zora’s day, it made perfect sense. The trouble was that Chevrolet was selling enough Corvettes to make the argument that, “the Corvette wasn’t broken, so don’t fit it!” The mid-engine Corvette concept lost its champion after Duntov retired in 1975. Dave McLellan’s team tried to recycle the body design of the mid-engine Four-Rotor Corvette, powered by a transverse-mounted small-block Chevy engine. That idea was actually “approved” briefly, but died a quick death. The mid-engine Corvette concept came back again as a development program that started with the Corvette Indy (a full-size static model), the Running Corvette Indy (a functional, drivable version), and finally the CERV III. This CERV III was an almost completely flushed out car, meaning that it “could” have been put into production, had GM not been embroiled in a financial crisis in the early ‘90s. The crisis was so bad that once again, the Corvette was on the chopping block!
Perhaps by sheer luck, the C5 plan eked through and turned out so good, that the mid-engine concept then seemed antiquated. Then suddenly, shortly after the C7 came out, the Mighty Wurlitzer Rumor Organ got cranked up and once again, we are in mid-engine mania. But does the mid-engine make sense? Is this what the Corvette community really wants? I’ve had my head plugged into the world of Corvettes since 1965 and followed all of the mid-engine Corvette concept cars. Most were engineering studies and not real, drivable, serviceable, safe cars – a few were close to production-ready.
The “story” of the Corvette is long and rich with colorful characters, loud and awesome machines, and two, BIG, “Could’a been so cool!” chapters – The Grand Sport and the mid-engine Corvette. While it was wonderful that Chevrolet used the Grand Sport moniker for one of the two special-edition 1996 C4 swan song Corvettes, and then as a separate model Corvette starting in 2010, these were not Duntov’s original vision. Continue reading
Dateline: 8.11.17 – Photos: GM Archives, Michael Beal, Illustrations: K. Scott Teeters – There’s an unwritten, unofficial “Law of the Jungle” that basically states, “If you are at the top of the food chain, you might not be there for long.” Such was the case for the C4 ZR-1 Corvette, for a little while. The C4 ZR-1 had a six-year production run with only 7,018 units produced. The ZR-1’s head-exploding price was the biggest limiting factor. The crummy economy in the early ‘90s didn’t help, and the much-rumored, all-new C5 no doubt was a drag on the ZR-1’s sales. And then there was also that pesky Dodge Viper. The 427 Cobra’s “Marley’s Ghost” was obvious, only this time disguised as a Dodge,
While armchair quarterbacking is easy and hindsight is 20/20, it is worth asking the question, why wasn’t such an awesome car more successful? “Timing” aside, the ZR-1’s aesthetics was a big factor. Stated simply: When viewed by itself, the C4 ZR-1s look like “regular” Corvettes. As an illustrator and stylist, I find it astonishing that Chevrolet would have done this, after all the engineering work that went into the ZR-1. The body panels from the doors all the way back to the rear bumper cover, are unique to the ZR-1 – made wider to cover the widest tires put under a factory-built Corvette body, to that point. This means that the panels had to be redesigned. But rather than make them visually unique, the Corvette stylists were commanded to imitate the basic design of the standard Corvette, with one exception Continue reading
An Intimate Conversation With Martyn “Marty” L. Schorr and Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen – Co-Founders of the Baldwin-Motion Supercars
Dateline: 8.10.17 / Photos: Martyn L. Schorr & K. Scott Teeters’ Baldwin Motion Magazine Archives, Mecum Auctions, Dan McMichaels, & Google Maps – Part one of my 2013 Far Out Radio conversation with Marty Schorr and Joel Rosen is in the July 2017 issue of Vette Vues can be enjoyed HERE. The year 2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Baldwin Motion Experience. Before we get into the rest of my 2013 conversation with Marty and Joel I’d like to share an anecdotal story about setting up the interview.
I have known Marty Schorr since 1976, just after he started “VETTE Quarterly”, the first Corvette-only, newsstand publication. I’ve had numerous conversations with Joel since around 2000 and always found him to be polite, but very reserved. When I asked Marty if he’s like to me on my radio program he said, “Sure, I’d be happy to.” When I asked Joel, he said, “Well, okay, but I don’t really have that much to say. How long is the interview?” I told him I did a one-hour show and without the commercials and bumper music, we have around 45 minutes to talk. He said, “Oh… I really don’t have that much to say, Scott. Really.” So, I assured him that if he ran out of things to say, Marty would fill in the rest. When the show started, Joel was reserved, as usual, but quickly loosen up. Before I knew it, he was seriously bench racing! As the host of the show I carefully watch the clock. When I said, “Well guys, we’re just about out of time, Joel said, “What! We just got started!” That’s just what happens when car guys get to bench racing.
Published GM U.S. Patent Confirms New “Active” Aero System for the Corvette
Chevrolet has been extremely tight-lipped about the C7 ZR1, such that we have to look for other sources to glean info. Several months ago, published U.S. Patent documents indicated that GM is working on a new DOHC engine called the “LT5.” The conclusion is that the C7 ZR1 will have a double overhead cam version of the Z06’s LT4. Guestimations are that the LT5-powered ZR1 is pushing 750-horsepower – maybe more!
The April issue of Car and Driver showed artist renderings depicting the ZR1 sporting a very aggressive front splitter, big air intakes, an elaborate new hood, and a very angular rear wing with winglettes. Killer-looking stuff! But wait! There’s more!
On March 23, 2017 AutoGuide.com reported that on May 24, 2016, GM Global Technology Operations LLC filed with the US Patent & Trademark Office, Patent Application number 20170080770, titled, “VEHICLE RIDE-HEIGHT DETERMINATION FOR CONTROL OF VEHICLE AERODYNAMICS”. The “Abstract, Claims, and Description” are on the US Patent & Trademark Office – Patent Application Full Text and Image Database website. CLICK HERE to read the actual US Patent.
An intimate conversation with Baldwin-Motion Phase-III Chevy Supercar Creators, Marty Schorr & Joel Rosen – Pt.1
Marty Schorr & Joel Rosen set the story straight and tell how the Baldwin-Motion Phase III Supercar Experience came together. (4 Videos)
Dateline: 7.19.17 – This interview appeared in the July 2017 issue of Vette Vues Magazine. Part 2 coming soon! – Marty Schorr is the former editor of CARS Magazine, the founder of Vette Magazine, and is the current editor and chief of CarGuyChrolicles.com, and PMPR, an automotive public relations form. Joel Rosen is the former owner of Motion Performance, on Long Island, in New York, and currently owns and runs Motion Models, a world-renowned, scale military model company in Florida.
In June 2013 I had the pleasure of interviewing Marty and Joel on my radio program, “Far Out Radio.” And now, you get to read the story from the guys that made it happen – Marty Schorr and Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen. The guys created a legend and we’re still talking about it over 50 years later!
You can enjoy Part 2 of this conversation, HERE.
Scott: Marty, Joel, welcome to the program.
Marty & Joel: Scott, we’re here, we’re here! (laughs)
Scott: Great to have you here all the way from Florida. You never thought it would go this long, did ya? (laughs)
Joel: I never thought I’d live this long!
Marty: (Laughing) We never thought it would go past the 1970s!
Scott: Really? And here you are, my goodness. So, now that I have you both here, I’m curious before we get into the story, have you ever been on a radio program like this together, talking about what you have done?
Joel: Oh yes, we’ve done a few programs and some television shows. A number of television shows.
Marty: Yea, we’ve done it and we’re still not tired of each other, which is amazing. (laughs)
Joel: That’s what he says! (both guys laughing)
Scott: It sounds like you are both soul brothers to me. So, were you guys bench racing over some beers, or which one of you came up with the Baldwin-Motion idea first? How did this all get started? Continue reading
It took seconds for the 1,000,000th Corvette to fall 40 feet and be nearly totally destroyed. I took almost a year to make the car GOOD AS NEW!
Dateline: 7.12.17 – The 1,000,000th Corvette, a white Convertible with a read interior (just like the first 1953 Corvette) rolled off the Bowling Green Assemble Line on July 2, 1992. Zora Arkus-Duntov was there to help celibate the event. Then, on February 9, 2014 the Ground under the National Corvette Museum’s Skydome display area opened up and swallowed 8 precious, special Corvettes.
The Corvettes that went into the 40-foot deep hole included;
1993 ZR-1 Spyder (on loan from General Motors) <– Beyond repair
2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” (on loan from General Motors)<–Restored in late 2014
1962 Black Corvette <– Restored in 2017
1984 PPG Pace Car <– Beyond repair
1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette <– Restored in 2015
1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette <– Beyond repair
2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette <– Beyond repair
2009 White 1.5 Millionth Corvette <– Beyond repair Continue reading
For such a slick shape, how come so many Corvette funny cars ended in disaster?
Dateline: 7-8-17 – No, this isn’t a whoo-whoo story that you might hear on Coast to Coast AM. A very interesting story popped up on HotRod.com, titled, “The Funny Car Corvette Curse“. Through the ’60s and ’70s funny car days, cars wearing a Corvette body shape, had unfortunate luck. There’s no metaphysical “curse”, it’s just aerodynamics. There are many variables.
But an honest look back clearly shows that the problem was with the front of the Corvette body. We were all looking at the curvaceous fender humps that looked a lot like Sophia Loren! How could it NOT be aerodynamic?
In the zeal to produce fiberglass Corvette funny car bodies, builders made the body as “stock” as possible, stretching the car from the A-pillar forward. Continue reading
From “Racer Kit,” to World Class Sports Car: Waiting for the C7 ZR1 & Looking Back at Past ZR1s
Dateline: 7/7/17 (This story was first published in the Sept 2016 issue of Vette Vues Magazine)
Suddenly… its 2009 again! Is it “Déjà vu” all over again? It kind’a seems that way. In the summer of 2008, as the presidential election was heating up, Wall Street and the economy was shaking and quaking until finally in October 2008 the stock market crashed so badly that the candidates had to suspend their campaigns for a few days to vote on the big, bank bailout bill.
What followed was another deep recession that hammered the already stressed auto industry. 2009 was pretty ugly and the Mighty Wurlitzer, called “the Internet” was starting to get cranked up over C7 Generation Corvette speculation.
In 2007 Chevrolet sold 40,561 Corvettes – the best sales year since 1984 when 51,547 Corvettes were sold. Then in 2008 they sold 35,310 Corvettes. Yes, sales slipped, but that’s still an impressive sales figure. Then in 2009 the bottom fell out with only 16,956 Corvettes sold – that is a 48-percent drop! Continue reading
Dateline: 7.6.17 (VIDEOS AT THE BOTTOM!) (This story was first published in the January 2016 issue of Vette Vues Magazine).
To understand the importance and uniqueness of George Haddad’s 1969 ZL-1 Corvette, we have to get into the “Vette Vues Time Machine” and go back to late 1968. The December 1968 issue of Hot Rod Magazine hit the newsstands like a thunder clap, with an obviously all-aluminum big-block 427 Corvette engine wearing bright yellow tube headers. It looked like Chevrolet finally had an ace trump card. The 427 ZL-1 was the ultimate “pie-in-the-sky” Corvette setup – big-block horsepower and torque – with the weight of an iron small-block! Duntov was a happy man because his dream of an all-aluminum engine for the Corvette went all the way back to the 1957 Q-Corvette concept that not only called for a fuel-injected all-aluminum small-block engine, but a trans-axle! (Sounds like a C5, doesn’t it?)
Duntov and his team tried casting SBC engines in aluminum, but there was a serious “strength of materials” issue that was never successfully worked out. The SBC was simply not strong enough when made in aluminum. A small batch of all-aluminum 377 engines were developed for the Grand Sport project that were powerful and light, but just wouldn’t hold together in competition. The prospect of an engine lighter than a regular SBC was deliciously tantalizing. So when the replacement for the 348/409/427 W-series (truck) engine, (the Mark IV) was being designed, an aluminum version was an obvious next step because the Mark IV was inherently a more stout structure.
The story of the production ZL-1 Corvettes is a long and complex one that we won’t try unraveling here, except to say that a batch of seven cars were built in early September 1969. The cars that “rolled off the St. Louis assembly line” were full-out RPO-L88 cars. The RPO-ZL-1 aluminum block was an option that was only available on an L88 engine. In other words, the ZL-1 was identical to the L88, except it had an aluminum block – making it 100-pounds lighter than the L88 Corvette, something that only racers would even notice. Continue reading
Rollie Walriven, the single-owner of a Daytona Blue 1963 Split-Window Coupe
Dateline: 7.5.17 (This story was first published in the December 2015 issue of Vette Vues Magazine). We’ve all heard and perhaps have lived this story: Young man buys a Corvette, has a blast with the car, falls in love, marries, it’s time for a house, and the Vette is out’a here! “Life” often gets in the way of Corvettes. This is not one of those stories – no, just the opposite.
When Rollie Walriven took delivery of his brand new, Daytona Blue 1963 Corvette Coupe in November 1962, he was already a serious car guy. He had owned a daily driver 1959 4-speed Corvette with a mildly worked engine. He also had a basket case ’57 Corvette that he eventually built into a B/Production racecar that he started racing in 1964.Rollie was a typical post WW II car crazy kid. Of course his uncle’s dirt track racing in the Ohio region helped stoke Rollie’s interest in cars and racing. Rollie got his first car in high school, a 1939 Ford. Then he got a Model A Coupe that had been made into a hot rod. 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
Performance Bookends of the Shortest Generation Corvette, the C2 Mid-Year
Dateline: 6.23.17 – The difference between a 1962 and 1963 Corvette is staggering. In 1963, the new Sting Ray looks like the sports car from another planet! The only carryover components used for the new Corvette were the base and optional engines. Everything else (body, interior, suspension, and frame) was all-new. The C1’s basic structure was created in 1952, and over the years was given slight tweaks, such that by the late 1950s, the Corvette was holding on against the European cars. But the new Sting Ray was a game-changer.
We’re going to look back at the first and last “performance” Corvettes – the 1963 Fuelie and the 1967 L71 427/435. The Sting Ray had an all-new parameter frame that would ultimately serve as the foundation of the Corvette up to 1982! The new C2 frame allowed the passenger seats to be located “down and inside” the frame rails, unlike the C1’s frame that located the seats “on top” of the frame, thus allowing the overall design to be lower and more slender. Although the shape looked “aerodynamic, it suffered from severe “lift” at high speeds. The lift issue was a combination of the body shape, and the rear suspension “squat” upon hard acceleration – and was never really solved, just dealt with.The independent rear suspension and updated front suspension made the 1963 Corvette the only American car with four-wheel, independent suspension. This was a very BIG deal then. The new interior was just beautiful. The dash had double-arches with a perfectly laid out array of the proper sports car gauges. From 1953 to 1962, the Corvette was a convertible with an optional bolt-on hardtop. The new Sting Ray was a production of Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer – a beautiful car with big aerodynamic problems. Instead of a convertible-only version, there was a coupe version with the now classic “stinger” design. The hidden headlights were show-car-like, and rotated horizontally along the front leading edge when the lights were turned on.
The rear glass had a split down the middle so that the crease that started at the front edge of the roof could run uninterrupted back to the end of the car. This was the infamous “split-window” that was a love-it, or hate-it detail and was Bill Mitchell’s pet design element. The split-window was gone after 1963 – making the 1963 coupes a rarity. 1963 convertibles outsold coupes, 10,919 to 10,594. Some coupe owners replaced their split-window with a 1964-1967-style rear glass! Continue reading
June 21, 1996 – Mike Yager helped build and take delivery of “The Last C4 Corvette”
Dateline: 6.21.17 – “First and Last” Corvettes have become a niche specialty in the Corvette hobby. Year-by-year, the “first and last” Corvette is only marginally interesting. They’re cool to own or set aside, but not nearly as unique as the “first or last” of a generation.
Mike Yager of Mid America Motorworks came up with a novel idea. While most collectors think of ” special editions” and “firsts,” Mike thought of the “last” C4 Corvette off the production line. No one had ever considered that before. When GM announced in mid-’95 that the ’96 model would be the last of the C4 Corvettes, Yager launched his plan. Mike leveraged his relationship with Chevrolet with a unique proposal. Yager’s request was to be permitted to buy the very last Corvette to roll off the production line, on the condition that the he would retain ownership of the car and display it at his “MY Garage” (Mike Yager Garage). GM liked the proposal, had nothing to lose, and a lot of publicity to gain.
Mike decided that the Last C4 should be visually unique. In honor of the first Corvette, he chose polo white as the body color. From there he added the Grand Sport rear fender flares, white ZR-1 wheels, red Grand Sport front fender hash marks, special embroidery for the seats, and special “Last C4” decals for the front fenders and the windshield. Under the hood was a (See Videos) Continue reading
A Corvette That’s Never Not Been a Racer!
Dateline: 6-15-17 – Ken Hazelton’s 1963 Split-Window Coupe Corvette Sting Ray is a unique car. Ken’s Corvette has never been a streetcar. Although born to be a street sports car, this Sting Ray has never been anything but a racecar. Zora Arkus-Duntov was the driving force behind making sure that production Corvettes could be easily turned into competitive racecars. He was famous for saying, “I want my customers to enjoy their Corvette.” Even though he was in the engineering department and not sales and marketing, he thought like a salesman. Duntov’s insistence that Corvette customers had access to Chevrolet engineered parts for racing, created the Corvette’s halo of racing.
Unlike any other American automobile, the Corvette was born to be a racer. In 1951 when Harley Earl went to his first sportscar race at Watkins Glen, he saw the raw enthusiasm for the new breed of small cars from Europe – sports cars. Earl was an automotive genius and pioneer, who often saw possibilities where most did not. For the most part, Americans preferred big cars. But Earl reasoned, “Why should the Europeans have all the fun and racing glory? There should be an America sportscar.” The rest, of course, is history.
Because “racing” was built into the Corvette’s DNA, the car attracted others that saw potential for greatness. Without men such as Ed Cole, Zora Arkus-Duntov, Mauri Rose, Bill Mitchell, and many others, Continue reading