December 25th, 1909 – Happy Birthday to Corvette Godfather Zora Arkus-Duntov
Dateline 12.25.17: (UPDATE! My monthly column in Vette Magazine, “The Illustrated Corvette Series” is in the middle of a six-part series titled, “Corvette’s Founding Fathers”. Part 4, “Corvette Godfather, Zora Arkus Duntov” will be available soon on Super Chevy .com, and will be in the June 2018 issue of Vette that will be out in March 2018.)
Zora used to joke that he had the “birthday-Christmas curse”, which means you won’t get double the number of gifts – which is funny coming from him because he was Jewish. The man had an awesome sense of humor! Regardless, Zora Arkus-Duntov’s part in the Corvette story is just as important as the original design of the car.
When Zora went to work for GM on May 1, 1953, no one inside GM knew anything about serious sports car racing. If it hadn’t been for this gray-haired, wild Russian with more passion for racing than anyone inside GM had ever seen before, surely the Corvette would have floundered and never made it out of the 1960s.
Along the way, Zora’s antics were legendary; A volcanic clash with VP of Design, Bill Mitchell, numerous Milford Proving Grounds speed records, a series of mid-engine Corvette proposals, his answer to Shelby’s Cobra, the 1963 Grand Sport, car magazine covers, legendary Racer Kit options, such as the RPO 684 “Big Brake” option, the 1963 RPO Z06, and the fearsome 1967-1969 RPO L88.
Duntov mostly wanted to do two things; 1. Build racing Corvettes, and 2. Make sure HIS customers enjoyed their Corvette. I’d say that Mr. Duntov was a raging success!
So if you own a Corvette, this Christmas Day or any day, go out to your Vette and raise a glass for a birthday toast to Zora, then go BURN SOME RUBBER! – Scott
PS – Remember the funny routine that Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd used to do, “The Wild and a’CRAZY GUYS!!!”? In one of the bits, Aykroyd made reverence to “Zora Arkus-Duntov”. I’m sure that most of the viewers didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but I sure didn’t miss it!
So, Duntov is also part of the history of the original Saturday Night Live! (by far the best of the many SNL groups!) Thanks Dan!