The 1964 Corvette GS-II – Frank Winchell’s Mid-Engine Engineering (Racing) Study with Jim “Mr. Chaparral” Hall
Dateline: 3.6.18 – Images GM Archives – This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of Vette Vues Magazine
While Duntov lead the charge when it came to racing Corvettes, he wasn’t the only power player inside Chevrolet with a vision for a mid-engine Corvette. Frank Winchell was a low-profile company man who, unlike Duntov, did not like or seek out fame and attention. He was comfortable in his role as a corporate man. Winchell ran the Chevrolet R&D group from 1959 through 1966 and was a “take no prisoners,” “lets try it” kind of guy. While not a degreed engineer, he had a natural sense of how things worked and specialized in the design and development of automatic transmissions.
In Chapter 35 of Karl Ludvigsen’s 2014 edition of “CORVETTE – America’s Star Spangled Sports Car”, in Chapter 35, titled, “Winchell’s Raiders”, Karl shares that one of Winchell’s nicknames was, “General Bullmoose” after Al Capp’s Li’l Abner character, General Brashington T. Bullmoose, the cold-blooded capitalist tyrant tycoon. (This was obviously NOT a compliment) Chevrolet engineer and author of the book, “Chevrolet = Racing…? Fourteen Years of Raucous Silence!!, Paul Valkenburgh, said, “Winchell hated the phrase, ‘That can’t be done.’ Upon hearing that, there would be an inner explosion like a mine blast. He might grab an engineer by the lapels to bellow, ‘What that means is that you can’t do it. So, by God, I’ll find someone who can!’ And he usually did.”
It has been said that Duntov managed with love and enthusiasm, where as nobody worked “with” Frank Winchell – they worked “for” him. Frank was a tough “take no prisoners” kind of guy. So, it is no surprise that the two strong willed men had different ideas of what the Corvette should be. Duntov and Winchell respected each other, but they often locked horns. Continue reading
The 1962 Monza GT – Corvair-based, Mid-Engine Sports Car – Think Porsche 550/1500 RS Spyder and you’re close!
By the early 1960s the Fuelie Corvette, equipped with Duntov’s “Racer Kit” suspension and brake packages, established itself as a solid, dependable platform for a B/Production or A/Production SCCA racer. Several cars had killer reputations on the track, including; the Nickey Chevrolet-sponsored 1959 “Purple People Eater” driven by Jim Jeffords, Dave MacDonald’s “Don Steves Chevrolet” C1 Corvettes, C1s raced by Dick Thompson and Dick Guldstrand, as well as Grady Davis’ 1961 B/Production and 1962 A/Production “Gulf Oil” Corvettes, and others. Setup right, these cars could be unbeatable.
Yet, despite their track success, the European sports car community did not accept the early Corvettes. Why? Because Corvettes were big and heavy, compared to European sports cars. Traditionalists considered Corvettes to be crude, with more in common with a Chevy Bel Air than anything from Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, Aston Martin and other low-volume European exotics. Corvettes were “mass produced” while European sports cars were “hand-crafted.” This perception did not go unnoticed inside Chevrolet, and some were thinking of a “Plan B” for the Corvette.
The Monza GT and the Monza SS roadster were never intended to be replacements for the Corvette. After all, the basic platform was the rear-engine Corvair. Now before you go, “Puke! Puke!” lets go back to 1957 for a brief look at where the Corvair came from, Chevrolet General Manager, Ed Cole’s aggressive and innovative, “Q-Chevrolet” line of cars. Continue reading