“Corvettes and Racing” A Wonderful Marriage!
“Corvettes and racing” have been perfect together since 1956. Without the influence of racing, I’m sure that the Corvette would have morphed into something else and been gone long ago. The other day CorvetteBlogger.com posted a story about a 2011 C6.R Le Mans Winning tribute Corvette that’s For Sale. The car looks as if it was just rolled out of the transport and is ready for a few hot laps, but this is a street machine sporting a brand new LS7 crate engine and a host of delicious racing goodies. The car has 52,000 miles on the odometer and the asking price is just $55,000. Almost begs the question, “So what’s wrong with the car???”
Seeing the car got me to thinking about earlier Corvette street machines with a powerful visual racing reference. Arguably the most over-the-top race track-influenced Corvettes were the ‘70s wide-body IMSA Corvettes. The wide body design was the last of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s “racer kit” Corvette parts program and first showed up on John Greenwood’s Corvettes around 1974-1975.
Previous Corvette racer body parts were limited to the functional L88 hood and fender flares. The fender flares were pretty big, but as tires got wider and wider, something else had to be done. Corvette stylists came up with a wild-looking and functionally aerodynamic full body kit that not only cover up the Can-Am-size racing tires, but improved the car’s aerodynamics. In full battle regalia, Greenwood’s IMSA Corvette looked like “the future” and was quickly nick named, “The Batmobile.” Continue reading
Feast your eyes on the lines and shapes of this classic Bill Mitchell Shark Corvette
For shark Corvette fans, this is a MUST-SEE Corvette video. The video looks to have been shot inside a long, lighted roadway tunnel because the light reflections is what creates this artistic, dreamy video.
As you are watching, keep in mind that the shape of the car was worked out almost 50 years ago! And it still is dripping with sexitude. Continue reading
Bill Mitchell’s longer, lower, louder, sleeker Mako Shark
Bill Mitchell and his design team cranked out an amazing number of concept and show cars through the ‘60s. The ‘69 Manta Ray was the end of the line for Mitchell’s shark theme that started in ‘61, and was somewhat overlooked for a time. Those were heady days between the new production Corvette, Chevy and other exciting muscle cars, and tremendous advances in all kinds of race cars. The Mako Shark-II-based Manta Ray was kind of, “been there, done that” by 1969. Designers often have concept ideas that they just want to try out in full size, and it seems that the Manta Ray was such a car.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the whole Mako Shark-II story is the fact that the configuration of the the running Mako Shark-II is gone! When Mitchell decided to try out a few more design elements for the Shark Corvette, the quickest way to get there was to start with the ‘66 running Mako Shark-II. The running Mako Shark-II was a stunningly beautiful car, so can you imagine what it might have been like for the designers and builders that were tasked with the job of CUTTING THE CAR UP to make the Manta Ray? Oh, that first cut must have been painful! It must have felt like sacrilege taking a zip saw to such a beauty. Continue reading
Here’s the latest installment from the Illustrated Corvette Series VETTE Magazine Column
It was early last July that Kevin Mackay of Corvette Repair sent me a link to the RM Auctions online version of their Monterey Auction Catalog. Kevin and I have had many conversations about early Corvette race cars, so he knows that I’m a big fan. Any time a Greenwood Corvette goes on the block it’s big news, so I posted a story about the auction right away. For the next 6 weeks or so, the car magazine and Corvette blogs were on fire in anticipation of the auction. RM Auctions broadcasts their auctions online, so I stayed up and watched the coverage and sale of the Greenwood ZL-1. I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. Here’s the post of the auction coverage.
Since the car has so much historical importance, I decided to cover the car in my VETTE Magazine monthly column, “The Illustrated Corvette Series.” The January 2012 issue of VETTE just came out, so I’m sharing the story and art with you below. Enjoy! – Scott
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 175: #49 Greenwood ‘69 427 ZL-1 Racer
“Stars and Stripes On The Block!”
Expectations were high when it was announced that the No. 49 Greenwood BF Goodrich “Stars and Stripes” Corvette was going on the block at the 2011 RM Auction Monterey event. Some estimated that the car would sell for $750,000 to $950,000. In ‘09 the Gulf One ‘63 Z06 Corvette racer went for an astonishing $1.113 Million! So there was quite a buzz in the Corvette community.
John and Burt Greenwood knew all about Duntov’s “racer kits” and like many others, took maximum advantage of the special hardware. The Greenwood boys had another advantage. Sr. Greenwood had been a WW II fighter pilot and worked at the GM Tech Center. Their Dad would sometimes take young John and Burt to work on Saturdays, to let the lads see the experimentals and prototypes. It was better than an invitation to Elvis’ house! Continue reading
The last of Joel Rosen’s Shark Corvettes – The Moray Eel
As cool as the Mako Shark-styled production 1968 Corvette was, there were a few that were… disappointed. Why, you wonder? Because the ‘68 Corvette WASN’T the ‘65-’66 Mako Shark II show car. Making a show car is one thing, designing a car to be mass produced is another. While the Mako Shark II show car looked large on the stage, it was actually about 7/8s the size of the production Corvette. In other words, a VERY tight little package that could not directly translate into a production car.
But it was fiberglass man, John Silva that took it upon himself to make his own Mako Shark. “Kit cars” were all the rage in the mid-to-late ‘60s. Meanwhile, on Long Island, New York, Joel Rosen was building ground-pounding big-block Phase III Chevys and was looking for something really exotic to offer his Corvette customers. Rosen bought two complete Silva Maco cars and got permission from Silva to make molds off of the Silva parts to make his Motion Maco kits. The Maco kits were kind of a “love it, or hate it” thing. It wasn’t quite as svelte as the Mako Shark, but for many, it was close enough.
For creative types, such as Rosen, the mind never stops. In the early ‘70s Joel was on a roll with his “shark-thing.” His Motion Maco Shark burst on the street scene in ‘71, quickly followed by two interesting variations. The Manta Ray featured the front end of the Phase III GT with its distinctive tunneled headlights and Continue reading
Dateline: 8.28.11 (Our 150th post!)
All you’ll need is a knockwurst with mustard on a bun and a tall, frosty root beer!
Perhaps you are simply too far away from southeastern Pennsylvania to attend. Fret not, we’ll bring the show to you. Unless you have been holed up in your Corvette or in your man-cave, you may have missed the news that a hurricane zipped up the East Coast. Hurricane Irene made a mess here and there. While the southeastern part of Pennsylvania only caught the western edges of Irene, Saturday was a yucky day and Sunday was only better in that it was not raining like it was Saturday night. While Irene didn’t deliver a washout, it didn’t help.
I can only describe the Corvettes at Carlisle experience as a “happening.” Pardon the 60s expression, but I AM a baby boomer. There’s so much to see, look at, oggle, take in, sounds, smells, talking, laughing, smiling. Plus, the Corvettes! (12 more videos below) Continue reading
Former Hot Rod Magazine editor and publisher, Jim McFarland interviews Zora Arkus-Duntov in 1991
So, if you happened to have an extra $580,000, one of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s most famous “racer kit” cars could have been yours! The 1969 John Greenwood 427 ZL-1 BF Goodrich Corvette racer WOWed the crowd, but the bidders were tight with their bids. Very few people know how much the seller paid for the car in ‘06 when it was purchased from the Chip Miller Estate, or how much the restoration work by Corvette Repair cost. Suffice to say that the car was “well bought.” That’s auction-speak for “someone get a GREAT deal!”
Restored old Corvette race cars have become quite the prized possession for Corvette collectors. In early ‘09 the ‘63 Gulf One Z06 Corvette sold for an astonishing $1.113 Million. With the depressed economy as it is, it’s hard to say if the same car would fetch the same price today. No one knows for sure, but, ah, it’s not likely. What IS likely is that restored old “racer kit” Corvettes will continue to be high-profile machines at the auction, regardless of their sale price. From 1957 to the end of his working career, Mr. Duntov always made sure his beloved racers had “the good stuff” readily available from any Chevrolet Parts Department catalog. No one worked the corporate manufacturing system like Zora did and Continue reading
Take a trip in the CorvetteReport Time Machine back to 1973 for a look-see at what could have been the first mid-engine production Corvette!
With all the chitter-chatter in the C7 Corvette rumor mill about a possible mid-engine Corvette, we thought it would be fun to take a trip back to 1973 for a look at what many thought would be the replacement for the C3 Mako Shark-styled Corvette. Corvette chief of engineering, Zora Arkus-Duntov had been pitching the mid-engine layout since the 1960 CERV I car. Not only was the AeroVette a mid-engine layout, it was to be powered by a 420-horsepower, 4-rotor Wankel rotor-motor engine. GM had licensing rights to develop the radical rotary engine that seemed to have a lot of potential.
In ‘73 there were two, rotary engine-powered Corvette prototypes. The XP-892 used a 2-rotor engine and had a body designed by Pininfarina. While it was a nice-looking car, it really didn’t shout, “CORVETTE!” The 4-rotor car was built on the chassis platform of a previous 1970 experimental Corvette that was simply known as the XP-882. The 4-rotor car definitely screamed, “CORVETTE!” Continue reading
John Greenwood’s 427 ZL-1 BF Goodrich Corvette Race Car
Aluminum engines are so common today that no one even notices. But back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, aluminum engine components were considered trick hardware. All-aluminum high-performance engines were only found in exotic European cars. Having learned his engineering and racing craft in Europe, Zora Arkus Duntov first proposed an all-aluminum engine as part of the 1957 Q-Corvette proposal. Also included in the proposal was an aluminum transaxle. This was actually part of a larger plan called the Q-Chevrolets for 1960. Chevrolet chief engineer, Ed Cole, envisioned the entire line of Chevrolet cars equipped with the transmission mated to the rear axle as a way of vastly improving the interior space of every Chevy.
The plan was eventually scrapped for cost reasons, but Duntov was definitely keyed in on the idea of adding aluminum engine and drive train components into his Corvettes as a way to lighten the car. Through the ‘60s, aluminum parts slowly crept into the Corvette. But it wasn’t until the introduction of the ‘67 L-88 that the automotive press and fans really took notice of the lightweight hardware.
But when Zora and his team unleashed the all-aluminum ZL-1, jaws dropped and eyes popped! The thought of a solid-lifter, 12.5:1 compression, big carb 427 that weighed as much as a small-block was just OUT’A SIGHT! FAR-OUT! GROOVY, MAN!
Hot Rod Magazine splashed the all-aluminum ZL-1 on the cover and caught a lot of heat for spinning the fan on an engine that was obviously not running or attached to anything. The yellow headers or ANY headers for that matter were NOT part of the ZL-1 package. Unfortunately for fans of lightweight Corvettes, the ZL-1 was for all intent and purposes a teaser option. Yes, the ZL-1 was an official option costing $4,718, PLUS $1,032 for the L-88, on top of the $4,781 base price of the ‘69 Vette. Only three ZL-1’s were “officially” built and all are accounted for. However, there may have been 10 or so ZL-1 Corvettes built as demo cars. CARS Magazine editor, Marty Schorr was one of the fortunate few that got to drive a ZL-1 ‘69 Corvette and it was NOT one of the three surviving ZL-1 Corvettes.
Special thanks to http://www.rmauctions.com/
Fortunately, for racers, such as John Greenwood, ZL-1 engines could be purchased as crate engines. While Greenwood wasn’t the only Corvette racer to use a ZL-1, his stars and stripes, BF Goodrich-sponsored Corvette became a legend. One ZL-1 engine even made its way into Jim Butcher’s Top Fuel dragster and actually held the NHRA elapsed-time national record for a few week in 1973. The all-aluminum ZL-1 gave Butcher a 500-pound advantage over the cast iron Hemi dragsters of the day!
It’s too bad that it would take 28-years before a production Corvette would finally be powered by an all-aluminum engine. The LS1 engine powered the ‘01 C5-R Corvette to Corvette’s first big class win at le Mans. Today’s all-aluminum, 638-horsepower LS9 engine is the most powerful production car engine ever produced in Detroit’s history and is ONLY available in a Corvette!
Would a Fuelie ZL-1 work for ya? YIKES!!!
NHRA Gatornationals – Hemi fans COULD NOT BELIEVE that Jim Bucher’s little Chevy Top Fueler set the NHRA Top Fuel ET National Record with a 6.09 ET! Too bad the car didn’t dip into the 5′s!
I covered the 1969 ZL-1 Corvette in VETTE Magazine in July ’09 in ICS No. 149
Here’s one of the early Phase III SS-427 Corvettes that Rosen worked his magic upon. The side-pipes weren’t designed for the C3 but they sure looked “boss.”
Sometimes special “teams” organically seem to come together. You know, duos, such as, Abbot & Costello, Burns & Allen, Martin & Lewis, Lennon & McCartney. The specialty car market has a similar dynamic duo. But because what they created was so brilliant, it mostly took the spotlight off of them and on to the real stars, the Baldwin-Motion Phase III Supercars. “They” happen to be former editor of CARS Magazine, Marty Schorr and owner of Motion Performance, Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen.
Be sure to catch our other Baldwin-Motion Stories,
Part 1 is HERE.
Part 2 is HERE.
Part 3 is HERE.