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Corvette Oddball: Did Chevy Ever Build a Drag Racing Corvette?

Dateline: 8.10.2010
Answer: Not for actual drag racing competition. (now THAT would have been interesting) But they did build a dragster Vette, just to show off a little.

69 Corvette Engineering Study

69 454 ZL-1 Corvette Drag Racing Engineering Study

(SPECIAL TREAT AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST!)

The introduction of the four wheel, independent suspension in the ’63 Sting Ray was a major breakthrough for road racers, but left drag racers with tons of rear suspension broken parts. Let’s face it, the production independent rear suspension was never designed for those brutal drag racing starts. Corvette engines, small and big-blocks have never had a problem producing lots of power. Too much power for the Corvette’s rear suspension.

Although there were a few successful drag racing Corvettes that included Bo Laws, Astoria-Chas, and Bernie Agman, most drag racers used the solid-axle Camaros, Novas, and C1 Corvettes.

At the ’70 press introduction in the Summer of ’69, Chevrolet had a specially prepared ’69 Corvette engineering design study set up for drag racing.  Actually, it was the same car used the previous year to show off the ’69 ZL-1 engine. Duntov and his crew wanted to show off the awesome power potential of an even bigger ZL-1.

Chevrolet’s Hib Hufstader and Tom Langdon built the flaming orange, drag race prepared Corvette with a 454 cubic-inch version of the all-aluminum ZL-1 with a modified Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic, open 180-degree headers, and racing slicks for the press to “play with.”The menacing-looking Monaco Orange ZL1 was a press darling. Duntov enjoyed keeping the automotive press happy.

Although Corvettes were never developed for drag racing, many were quite successful, including the Astoria-Chas L88 and several other Vettes built and raced by Bo Laws. The pumpkin-colored beast at the press event was set up with open headers, a Turbo-400 automatic with a high-stall torque converter, and 4.88:1 gearing. Those lucky enough to be on hand couldn’t have been prepared for the awesome power of the uncorked, big-block ZL1. According to Gib Hufstader, who did the transmission work, powertrain engineer Tom Langdon had tuned this particular ZL1 to produce 710 hp!

So how good was the quarter-mile ride? About 30 guys clicked off 11-second-flat runs, with a best time of 10.89 at 130 mph. Trap speeds are an indicator of plenty of power. Several guys even did neutral starts by revving the engine up to 6,000 rpm and dropping it into gear. Proving grounds PR man Bob Clift said, “We all enjoyed driving that car. Zora used to keep us all excited back then. That was back in the good ol’ days.” What’a guy!

How much fun was this drag racing Corvette? All day long the booming orange Corvette clicked off high-10-second quarter-mile times. With extra preparation this monster Vette could have been in the high 9s, EASY! And what became of the 454 ZL-1 Monster Vette? Most likely, it went to the rendering portion of GM called “the crusher.” What’a shame. One can’t help but wonder what the car would go for at auction. – Scott

PS – In a galaxy far away… Oops, sorry, wrong story. Way, way back in the olden days, Motor Trend Magazine published the story “The 10-Second Trip” in the October 1969 issue. After MUCH searching, I located a PDF version of the story from “Rods ‘N’ Sods” website (it’s a British website) with the PDF version of the Motor Trend story. To read the article, CLICK HERE.

ICS 148 by K. Scott Teeters


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2 Responses to Corvette Oddball: Did Chevy Ever Build a Drag Racing Corvette?

  • Scott:
    A very good frend of mine sent me your piece on the 1969 Corvette ZL1 454 big block. He happened to have lunch with Hib Hufstader,Tom Langdon,the owner of Diamond Racing, and another GM engineer, Kevin (something) whom he has purchased two ZL1 engines from. He was able to obtain copies of the original paperwork for the car, along with pertnant build papers/specs of that Corvette. My friend also has a 1961 Corvette drag car that is powered by a 1969 ZL1 equipped with Diamond Racing heads and Hilborn injection, which he purchased torn apart. It is his intention to replicate that very car to very exactiing standards. This is for real, and unless my friend ia aggreeable, I would rather keep him anomamous.

    I am retired, and Showtime Chevys is my old business, which dealt with mainly ’55-’57 Chevy cars, specializing in show interiors. I ocaisionally did a few early Corvettes, not enthusiastically, because they are so time consuming to do right………especially C1 and C2’s. I live in Lompoc, CA, and if you want to converse with me, feel free to do so. I just want to shield my friend, who is very private. That is not to say he will not communicate with you. This Lunch took place two weeks ago in Michigan.

    Thanks, John Sarena (805) 733-3424

  • Hi John. Very sorry for the delay. I will be in touch soon. – Scott

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