Corvette Timeline Tales
Obviously there’s a first-and-last of C1 through C6 Corvettes and a “first” C7. But up until the last C3 rolled off the St. Louis assembly line, no one paid attention to these cars. The VIN number indicates that this was the last C2 Sting Ray to ever be built, Terry Michaelis, owner of ProTeam Corvette, in Napoleon, Illinois bought the rough Corvette and gave it what it deserved – the full resto treatment. When completed, the “Silver Bullet” sold for $660,000 at the Barrett-Jackson 2007 Scottsdale, Arizona Auction. Continue reading
July 8, 1955 – Norm Brown Helps Destroy One of Five 1954 Corvette Nomad Show Cars on His First Day at Chevrolet!
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 no known. Continue reading
Roger Judski’s SUPER RARE 1969 ZL-1 Corvette
Dateline: 10.11.14 – Twenty-three years ago today, October 11, 1991, at of all places, The Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Roger Judski, owner of Judski’s Corvette Center in Maitland, Florida became the owner of what is arguably the rarest of all high performance Corvettes, a 1969 ZL-1 Corvette. When this car was announced to the world in the fall of 1968 as an option on the ’69 Corvette, it became an instant legend for numerous reasons. Judski paid what was then considered a stunningly HUGE amount of money for the ZL-1, $300,000! Roger had been trying to buy the ZL-1 for 12 years. Continue reading
The 4-Rotor Experimental Corvette Makes It’s Grand Debut 41 Years Ago In Paris!
Oui! Oui! Thanks to Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette fans were treated to a series of mid-engine Corvette through the ‘60s and ‘70s. But XP-882 was no “ordinary” experimental mid-engine Corvette. Behind the driver was a honk’n 390 cubic-inch Wankel rotary engine. Ed Cole was President of General Motors at the time and was hot on the smooth-running rotary engine design. So what better a hallo car to present the then-exotic engine that under a stunning Corvette.
Although VP of Design Bill Mitchell was the official “designer” of the body shape, Chuck Jordan supervised the project. The car had wrap-around glass and hidden A-pillars. The doors weren’t just gull-wing, they were bi-fold gull wings. The look was fresh, edgy, exciting, and definitely CORVETTE. Continue reading
Dave MacDonald: Corvette Racer… Corvette Man… Family Man
You can catch Part 1 of this story HERE.
Being hired by Shelby made the MacDonald’s life almost as fast as the cars he drove. In the 17 months between the beginning of ‘63 through to the ‘64 Indy race, MacDonald raced in 44 events. The ‘64 Indy crash was the first time the 500 had ever been stopped because of an accident. The media at the time, would regularly make big headlines over any auto racing mishap, and were all over the crash. While Indy officials quickly concluded that there was no driver error, the race was hotly debated for decades.
“After Indy, I was hurting so, I needed to change my life, so I moved a few miles away, but stayed close to my in-laws. From Indy on, I didn’t follow racing. My interest in racing was basically ONE RACE DRIVER.” It wouldn’t be until the early ‘90s when Corvette fans started recovering and restoring old Corvette race cars that MacDonald’s all too short racing career began to get attention. “It is so gratifying and nice to meet people that raced with Dave and hear how much they admired him, not only for his skill as a driver, but for being a really nice guy.” Today Sherry MacDonald is retired and as busy as ever with volunteer projects and her large family. Continue reading
The next time you see a mid-year Sting Ray or Shark Corvette, think of Larry Shinoda.
He was born “Lawrence Kiyoshi Shinoda” but the automotive and Corvette world knew him as Larry Shinoda – Corvette designer and all-around carguy! Growing up in Southern California, Larry was steeped in the car culture and like many SoCal young men, was into the burgeoning sport of drag racing. In addition to his Corvette accomplishments, Larry also participated in an won his class at the very first NHRA national event in Great Bend, Kansas in 1955.
Larry was only 25-years old when after not completing his studies at Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, he landed his first job with Ford in 1955. A year later, he briefly went to work at Studebaker/Packard, then went to General Motors late in 1956. Larry not only had an impressive portfolio, he had an intuitive sense of styling. If didn’t take long before his talent caught the keen eye of GM’s Bill Mitchell. But it wasn’t just Larry’s skill at wielding a pen and airbrush that helped acquaint him with Mitchell – it was drag racing.
The story goes that one day Shinoda and Mitchell had a chance encounter at a traffic light. Since both men had what Mitchell called, “gasoline in their veins,” neither man needed much goading to initiate a little stoplight grand prix. The light turned green and Larry put a whoop’n Bill, which may have been one of his best career moves. Mitchell drafted Shinoda into his special forces of car design, headquartered deep inside GM’s guarded facilities in a place called, “Studio X.” (sounds like a ‘50s sci-fi b-grade movie, doesn’t it”?) Continue reading
Where the Corvette Got Its Mojo From!
Corvettes are all about passion and that passion shows up in two powerful ways – visually and from performance. The two are so intrinsically connected that they seem one and the same, but a closer examination reveals that is not the case. Of course, the first thing one notices about the Corvette is its looks. The car’s appearance is totally unique, even though it did borrow a little here and there from other designs. But at the end of the day, the completed design only looks like a Corvette.
But looks will only get you so far. What completes the Corvette addiction is the visceral experience of driving one. To “get” the Corvette, you must drive the car. And if the driving experience was now much different from a mushy sedan, what’s the point? No, if the Corvette didn’t deliver responsive performance with gobs of sensory input for the driver, the car surely would have gone quietly into the night, fading into automotive obscurity, along with a long list of once interesting cars.
So who was responsible for infusing the Corvette with it’s Mojo? Zora Arkus-Duntov. Zora was, without a doubt, the ultimate automotive corporate misfit to ever work in Detroit. By the time he saw the very first Corvette at the 1953 Motorama, he was 44 years old, a seasoned mechanical engineer, race car driver and builder. he was quoted as saying, “When I saw the Corvette at the Motorama, I thought it was the most beautiful car I’d ever seen.” And Duntov appreciated beauty. Just look at his stunning blond beauty wife and former Bluebell Girls dancer, Elfie Duntov. yes, Zora new a good-looking dame when he saw one and one look at the Corvette and he knew where he wanted to be – in the engineering department of Chevrolet, working on the Corvette. Continue reading
It was Harley Earl that decided that General Motors needed to make a sports car.
Harley Earl is arguably the greatest designer in American automobile history. And not just because of the Corvette. Some of Earl’s classic designs include the Buick Y-Job, the 1928 LaSalle Phantom, the Firebird Series, the Cadillac Cyclone, and others. He was also credited for inventing concepts that are today, simply taken for granted. From the website, www.CarOfTheCentury.com, here’s a list of 13 concepts that Harley Earl invented:
1. Founder of the Automobile Design Profession in America
2. Inventor of the Concept car, also know as the Dream Car
3. The introduction of the Annual Styling Model Change
4. The Father of Modern Design Change in Mass production
5. The Dean of America’s Auto Design Protégés
6. The Motorama Show (where the Corvette had it’s first outing)
7. First to introduce the concept of clad modeling to Detroit
8. The Father of the Corvette
9. Opened “Harley Earl Corporation” outside of General Motors in 1945
10. Father of the Modern Car & Creator of America’s Small Car Trend
11. Harley Earl was a Giant “Advocate of Women’s Rights in the Auto Industry”
12. Invented the “Graphic Engineering” profession
13. First to introduce “Color Revolution” to Detroit’s auto world
I’m sure that the above list of 13 accomplishments should be considered a “starter list.” For fans of the olden days of automobile design, this site is a delight… http://www.carofthecentury.com Without a doubt, Harley Earl cast an enormous shadow upon General Motors.
A close second was Earl’s successor, Bill Mitchell. When Mitchell resigned in 1977, GM’s top management decided that NEVER AGAIN would “Design” have as much power as Mitchell and Earl wielded. When Mitchell left, the “focus group” model took over. Continue reading
Dick Smothers – The 200-MPH Comedian
(Check out the fun videos at the bottom of this post!)
How many comedians can claim that they drove a 427 Corvette over 200-MPH at Le Mans? Probably none, except for Dick Smothers. If you are a baby boomer and were watching TV in the ‘60s, hardly a week went by when you didn’t see Tom and Dick Smothers on the tube. In the early ‘60s with the advent of 33-1/3 LP records (long-play vinyl records with five or six tracks on each side) nearly all comedians had comedy records. Some people (myself included) had collections of comedy albums that were fun to play at parties.
But the Smothers Brothers were a little different. While the comedy team format was common (Hope & Crosby, Burns & Allen, Martin & Lewis, Burns & Carlin (George), what made The Smothers Brothers different was that they were also folk singers, aka ‘Folkies.” Tom played guitar, Dick played a full-size bass, and they were dressed in matching suits with skinny ties. And when they weren’t jabbing at one another and just sang, that were quite nice and covered the standard folkie songs of the day. Their 1962 album “The Two Sides of the Smothers brothers” featured sweet songs, such as “Stella’s Got a New Dress Today” (see below video) on one side and comedy bits including as “I Fell In A Vat of Chocolate.” (see below video)
But it was their late ‘60s TV show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” that polarized them to mainstream Americans because of their jabs and pokes at President Nixon and the Vietnam War. Their comedy program is available on NetFlix and in retrospect, compared to modern comics, such as Jon Steward and Bill Maher, Tommy and Dicky were VERY tame.
Chuck Jordan – the last of the old guard GM designers.
When car designer Chuck Jordan passed on December 9, 2010, it was the end of an era in automotive design. Jordan started working for GM in 1949 as a junior engineer and retired in 1992. During that time, he worked with all of the greats of GM design; Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell, Ed Cole, Zora Arkus-Duntov, Larry Shinoda, and more.
Jordan’s nickname was “the Chrome Cobra.” He was steeped in a time of very strong personalities. Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell had strong personalities with flash-like tempers – quick to anger, quick to let it go. When Mitchell retired in ‘77, his replacement, Irv Rybicki, was specifically chosen because upper management said, “No more strong opinionated design chiefs!” They were glad to see old Bill go. Irv was an excellent designer, but to Jordan, Rybicki seemed to play it safe too much. The automotive press noticed too and began to wonder what happened to GM’s sense of style.
But Jordan got his shot in ‘86 when Rybicki retired and was promoted to vice president of design, serving from ‘86 to ‘92. Below is a brief slide show of some of the cars Jordan styled, designed, and managed through the development process. Design styling is one thing and designing for mass production is another. Some designs translate into production better than others. What’s obvious is that over his 40-plus year career as a car designer, he consistently followed the advanced trends of the day. Chuck loved design so much that after he retired, he taught design at ??? He could have stayed home and enjoyed his many Ferrari sports cars. But Jordan loved the high school art design in Southern California. Continue reading