Mr. Duntov took care of “his customers” that wanted to go racing!
Dateline: 5-27-17 (Download link is at the bottom of this story) – Before the ax fell in 1957 thanks to the AMA Factory Racing Ban, Zora Arkus-Duntov was planning to take a team of his 1957 Corvette SS Racers to Le Mans. The completed SS Racer was an embarrassment at it’s 1957 Sebring debut and in fact, the Corvette SS mule car showed more promise. The car was rushed in its construction and was actually being finished inside the transported on route from Detroit to Sebring, Florida. Management seemed to be more interested in having the car look good than a developed racecar. In retrospect, the car was terribly underdeveloped. Then, right after the race, GM signed on with the AMA Racing Ban and as Duntov liked to say, the program came to, “… a screeching halt!”
But two major elements from the Corvette SS project survived and eventually made a significant impact on Corvette racing. The finished Corvette SS Racer with its magnesium body was converted into a show car and went on tour with a jet age bubble top. The rough mule car was stripped of it’s cobbled together fiberglass body and the chassis went into storage, only later in 1958/59, to be bought for a nominal fee by then-new GM VP of Styling, Bill Mitchell so that Wild Bill could go racing. His racing effort could in no way look like it was a GM-sponsored enterprise. Mitchell’s racing indulgence became the Stingray Racer, which was the public face of what would eventually become the 1963 Sting Ray.
But even more important for Corvette privateers was the continuation of the RPO racing parts program, unofficially known as the “Corvette Racer Kits.” Chevrolet Chief of Engineering, Ed Cole charged Zora Arkus-Duntov and Development Engineer, Mauri Rose with the design and development of Chevrolet-engineered parts, specifically designed for racing. The parts were hiding in plain sight in the RPO Parts Catalog, all Corvette wanna-be racers needed to know was what to look for – and Duntov was happy to point his customers in the right direction!
A fascinating vintage document has surfaced and is available as a free PDF download thanks to the GM Heritage Center. The 23 page document walks the reader through topics that include Body Equipment, Engine and transmission Options, Suspension, Brakes, Wheels and Tires, Steering improvements, Over-sized Fuel Tank, Tuning Tips, Carb Setups, explanation of the Corvette’s Fuel Injection System, Ignition Tuning Settings, Race Preparation, Front End Alignment, Exhaust System, Clutch Setup, Cooling System, Tire Pressure suggestions, and the importance of Seat Belts and a roll bar. There is also information about the importance of watching the tachometer, double-clutching, gear ratio suggestions, and more. There was even information about Sanctioning Organizations, Car Inspection, Licensing, and even Sportsmanship!
Mr. Duntov was famous for many things, but he always considered Corvette buyers to be “his customers” and he wanted his customers to ENJOY their Corvette and race them if they want to. And if racing was their heart’s desire, he was there to help them. – Scott
To get your PDF copy of the 1959 Corvette Sports Car Equipment Guide, CLICK HERE.