The Roman philosopher Seneca is credited for saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”When Harley Earl attended his first organized road race at Watkins Glen in September 1951, (the very first Watkins Glen Sports Car Grand Prix was in 1948) two things were glaringly obvious to him; First; “sports cars” were not a fad, there was real passion for the unique European cars he saw racing through the streets of Watkins Glen. And second: General Motors needed to build an American sports car – right away!
By 1951 Harley Earl was entering the twilight years of his long career in design and innovation. He was a true living legend. Earl knew everyone who was anyone in the automotive world and then some. He wielded so much power inside General Motors that he had a button on his desk to get a direct call to GM’s president Alfred P. Sloan. Earl was a personal friend of United States Air Force General Curtis LeMay and one day in the early 1950s the general said to him, “Why don’t you make an American sports car?”
The Strategic Air Command general loved sports cars and owned an Allard J2. GM even built LeMay a special Cadillac-powered Willys Jeep. LeMay was also instrumental in helping start the Sports Car Club of America and in 1954 was the recipient of the Woolf Barnato Award, the SCCA’s highest award for club contributors. Barnato won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1928, 1929, and 1930 and he was the only driver to ever win the Le Mans race every time he entered!Continue reading “Corvette’s Founding Fathers, Pt 1 of 6 – Designer Extraordinaire, Harley J. Earl”→
See the original Grand Sports in action at Sebring 1962 and Nassau 1963!
Dateline: 8.13.18 – Photo: GM ArchivesLast week while finishing up a story about Bill Tower’s Grand Sport #005 Corvette for Vette Magazine, I came across two YouTube videos posted by GM Heritage Center. The videos are silent and were probably shot with an 8mm camera that someone brought along to the events. The film looks like hand-held and amateurish, not at all the same quality of the Jam Handy films from that era. But, you do get to see the Grand Sports in action.
The above film was shot in December 1962 when Zora Arkus-Duntov took Grand Sport #001 to Sebring for testing. Note how “stock” the original batch of Grand Sports, originally called the “Lightweights” looked. Grand Sport Corvettes always suffered from front end lift which was mostly attributed to the shape of the Sting Ray. While the front end design of the Sting Ray indeed let way too much air flow UNDER the car, another big factor in the lift was how the new Corvette’s rear suspension would “squat” down. Continue reading “
Vintage Grand Sport Corvette Films from 1962 and 1963 – 2 VIDEOS” →
The 1964 AWD CERV II – Duntov’s planned Ford GT40-Killer and Le Mans Champion.Dateline: 11.23.17 – For decades the topic of a mid-engine Corvette was simply “pie in the sky.” It was a fanciful piece of Corvette lore going back to the early days when Zora Arkus-Duntov was driving the Corvette brand. Every so many years, the topic would resurface, so when I heard it again for the umpteenth time, just after the C7 arrived, I said, “Oh, sure…” But, it’s going to happen, finally! The mid-engine C8 Corvette will make its grand debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a 2019 model. In the interest of explaining how we got to where we are with the whole, long, mid-engine Corvette story, lets buckle into the Corvette Report Time Machine, set the dials (yes, we still use “dials” here at Corvette Report) and go back to 1963/1964 when that wiley, silver-haired Russian fox, Zora Arkus-Duntov tried once again, to build a “Corvette” to race at Le Mans. Indulge me while I bench race a little here,Continue reading “
The History of Mid-Engine Corvettes, 1960 to C8: Part 3″ →
Former Chevrolet General Manager and all-around car guy, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen’s “Executive Perks.”
Semon Knudsen was the son of former GM president “Big Bill” Knudsen. Although technically a “rich kid” Semon didn’t just have everything handed to him – he had to work his way up through the ranks and pay his dues. For those that are able to climb the corporate ladder into the rarified upper atmosphere of the corporate world, there are perks. And when you work for a car company, there are sometimes special “car perks.”
GM executives were able to have special custom-build versions of production cars, built to their specifications. Not all GM VIPs were offered custom cars, but those that were, got some awesome machines. Bunkie had at least three custom Corvettes built – a ‘63 Roadster and a ‘64 Coupe for himself, and a Mary Kay-like, pink ‘64 Coupe for his wife, Florence. Sweet! For my Illustrated Corvette Series column in the May 2012 issue of VETTE Magazine, I covered Bunkie & Florence’s custom rides. Below is the story copy and the art. Continue reading “Bunkie & Florence Knudsen Had Some NICE Corvettes!”→
Being the general manager of a GM division is hard work, but it sure had its perks!
(Slide show at the bottom of this post)
Back on October 2, 2011 we told you about what would have been Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen’s 99th birthday. I don’t know if the GM Design Center still does customs, but back in the glory days, one of the perks of being an executive was that you could get a GM car built just for you. I don’t know if the executives actually “designed” their cars or if the GM Design Center guys just “had at it.” (Okay Mr. Knudsen, what color would you like?”) It’s an interesting and very overlooked part of GM’s history. What’s not overlooked is when these cars go on the auction block or are on display at shows.
Kundsen’s GM-customized ‘64 Corvette coupe is now part of Mike Yeager’s Mid America Motorworks “MY Garage” collection of cars, and will be on display at the Mid America booth (#24297) at the 2011 SEMA Show, November 1-4, 2011, in Vas Vegas. (Yes, you can sing a little “Viva Las Vegas” if you have to) Mid America is showing the Knudsen Corvette to showcase their ability to expertly replicate parts for specialty cars through their Performance Choice services.
The Knudsen 1964 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe is just drop dead gorgeous and includes the following special custom features: