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"Duntov's Toys"
Corvette Art Prints

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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 139
1956 265 V-8 Corvette
"Duntov's 150.583-MPH Daytona Flyer"
To read the story, CLICK HERE.

Illustrated Corvette Series No. 147
Zora Arkus-Duntov's
Mule Corvettes - Pt. I
To read the story, CLICK HERE.
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Illustrated Corvette Series II No. 139
1956 265 V-8 Corvette
"Duntov's 150.583-MPH Daytona Flyer"

Illustrated Corvette Series No. 145
1957 RPO 684 Corvette
"The First Corvette Racer Kit"
To read the story, CLICK HERE.
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11x17 Parchment Paper Print
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1956 265 V-8 Corvette
Duntov's 150.583-MPH Daytona Flyer
Profile

Illustrated Corvette Series No. 145
1957 RPO 684 Corvette
The First Corvette Racer Kit
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 7
1957 SS Corvette Racer
To read the story, CLICK HERE.

Illustrated Corvette Series No. 16
1960 Experimental Mid-Engine CERV I
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 128
1963 Z06 Corvette
To read the story, CLICK HERE.

lllustrated Corvette Series No. 19
1963 Grand Sport Corvette Coupe
To read the story, CLICK HERE.

For MUCH MORE Grand Sport art,
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lIlustrated Corvette Series No. 20
1963 Grand Sport
Corvette Roadster
To read the story, CLICK HERE.
For MUCH MORE Grand Sport art,
CLICK HERE.

Illustrated Corvette Series No. 144
Penske ‘66 L88 Corvette
“The First L88 Racer”

To read the story, CLICK HERE.
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 30
1967 L-88 Corvette
To read the story, CLICK HERE.

Illustrated Corvette Series No. 131
'67 - '69 L-88 Corvette Racers
"Bringing Back Racing Respect"
To read the story, CLICK HERE.
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 33
1969 ZL-1 Corvette
To read the story, CLICK HERE.

lIlustrated Corvette Series No. 34
Zora Arkus-Duntov's
1969 ZL-1 Corvette
To read the story, CLICK HERE.
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lllustrated Corvette Series II - No. 33
1969 ZL-1 Corvette

lIlustrated Corvette Series II No. 34
Zora Arkus-Duntov's
1969 ZL-1 Corvette
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 40
1970 XP-882
Corvette Show Car
To read the story, CLICK HERE.

Zora Arkus-Duntov's 1975
Silhouette Corvette Racer
IMSA Wide-Body
Development Mule Corvette
- C3-3
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283 Fuelie Engine Art
ENG-1

327 Fuelie Corvette Engine
ENG-2

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1967 - 1969 L71 427/435
Big-Block Engine Art ENG-4

427 ZL-1 All-Aluminum
Big-Block Engine Art - ENG-5
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1970 - 1972 LT-1 350 Small-Block
Engine Art - ENG-6

LS6 454 Big-Block
Engine Art - ENG-7
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RPO 684 Fuel Injected Corvette - C1-12
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We have an EXCELLENT line of die-cast Corvette engines HERE.


Here's the story:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 139 1956 265 V-8 Corvette
"Duntov's Daytona Flyer"

Now that the ’09 ZR1 is finally in the hands of customers, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the first factory-supported racing Corvette. The ZR1 is a wonder of aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber, and computers. By contrast, the ‘56 Daytona Speed Weeks Corvette was born of cast iron, steel, fiberglass, and pure guts.

Appearance aside, the first-generation Vette was far from a true sports car. The car’s steel perimeter frame was essentially the same as that of a regular Chevy sedan. What wasn’t obvious before Duntov started pushing the car’s performance was that without a steel body, the Corvette was rather flexible. When pushed hard in corners, the car understeered heavily and was challenging to control. Thanks to friends in high places in GM—namely, Ed Cole and Harley Earl—and the arrival of the ‘55 Thunderbird, the Corvette was given a second chance for ’56 with a completely restyled body. Clearly, the stylists were influenced by the stunning ‘54 Mercedes 300SL. The new design had forward-leaning front fenders, regular headlights, a cleaned-up tail section, and Mercedes-like hood bulges. Chevy’s 265ci V-8, new in ‘55, gave the Corvette a much-needed power boost.

To demonstrate the new V-8’s capabilities, Duntov drove a specially prepared ‘56 Chevy in the Pikes Peak hillclimb event. The car turned in a record time of 17 minutes, 24.05 seconds. During a party after the event, Duntov suggested to Cole that they show the world how fast a ’57 Corvette could go. When Cole inquired as to how just how fast that was, Duntov replied that the car could perhaps touch 150 mph. Although stock examples could only hit 135 mph at the time, Cole liked the challenge and made Duntov his Corvette-racing field commander.

Duntov started off with a ‘54 Corvette as his test mule. He knew that accomplishing his goal would require two things: more power and improved aerodynamics. First, he removed the stock windshield and built a small windscreen. A tonneau cover was then added to the passenger side, and a fairing with a long fin was added to the rear deck behind the driver’s head. Calculating that the car needed an additional 30 hp, Duntov revised the V-8’s camshaft to provide the required performance boost. This was the beginning of the famous “Duntov Cam” option. All of Duntov’s tricks worked beautifully. At GM’s Phoenix test track, Duntov personally drove the mule to a top speed of 163 mph. The green light for the upcoming Daytona race was on.

A month before the big event, in January 1956, Duntov took his mule car, fitted it with ’56 body panels, and blasted the Daytona beach with a 150.583-mph run. In February, he arrived with three race-prepared Corvettes—the mule car and two slightly modified stockers—all painted white with blue stripes and side coves. The mule now had cone fairings over the headlights and taping over almost the entire front grille opening and fender vents. The other two cars were similarly equipped, with tonneau covers and taped-up fender vents. Each Vette was powered by a 265 small-block with the experimental Duntov Cam, special 10.3:1-compression heads, and an output of 255 hp. But here’s the kicker: Because they were running on packed beach sand, the cars were equipped with snow tires!

Duntov drove the mule, while former Mercedes team driver John Fitch and airplane racer Betty Skelton drove the two other cars. There were two parts to the event: standing-mile acceleration and top speed. Ford and Chevy were in the midst of a speed war at the time. The Ford entry was Chuck Dalgh’s modified Thunderbird. In the standing mile, Fitch’s Corvette came in Third behind Dalgh’s 86.872-mph T-Bird. Duntov, meanwhile, was the fastest in the modified class with a 89.753-mph run. But the real bragging rights were reserved for the top-speed event. The Dalgh T-Bird didn’t compete in the top-speed runs, and the Corvettes romped. Fitch won the production-sports-car class with a top speed of 145.543-mph, and Skelton came in Second with a 137.773-mph run. Duntov had the fastest time in the modified class with a 147.300-mph run. It should be noted that there were strong headwinds at Daytona that kept the Corvettes from passing the 150-mph mark.

The event was so successful, GM gave Duntov the go-ahead to build three more cars for the 12-hour Sebring race, just six weeks after Daytona. John Fitch was assigned the unrealistic task of preparing the cars. While the Corvettes performed well under their potential at Sebring, they managed to finish their first sports-car competition and set the stage for bigger things to come. A print ad showed one of the Sebring cars in the pits, dirty and race-worn, with the driver exiting the cockpit. The headline read, “The Real McCoy.” And that’s how the Corvette racing legend began. - K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 147 - Zora Arkus-Duntov's Mule Corvettes - Pt. I

Farmers have been using mules as beasts of burden for grunt work for centuries. They're not pretty or graceful animals, like horses. In the automotive world, development engineers often build “mule” cars for R&D work. These mules start out as preproduction or base cars that have been pulled from the production line. They're typically slated for test duty only and never experience life on a public road. And like their counterparts in the animal world, they're worked hard, very hard.

Zora Arkus-Duntov was so moved by the 1953 GM Motorrama Corvette, he applied for a job at GM. One of Duntov's earliest tasks was eliminating the driveline vibration on a new GMC bus. He quickly solved the problem and positioned himself for bigger projects. Meanwhile, the '53 show-car Corvette was being fitted with a prototype 265 small-block Chevy, for evaluation as an engine option in the upcoming '55 model. When Duntov returned from Europe with a class win at the '54 Le Mans race, where he drove a factory-backed Porsche 550 Spyder, it was clear that he was the only man at GM who could make the V-8 Vette into a credible race car.

At this point, the Corvette was still little more than a ‘53 Chevy with a lightweight body and a souped-up six-banger engine. Fortunately, the new V-8 engine was a gem in its day. Weighing in at 531 pounds, it was 41 pounds lighter than the Blue Flame Six, and at 195 hp, it boasted 40 more horses. Meanwhile, at Pike’s Peak, Colorado, Duntov had just set a new record in a modified V-8–powered ‘56 Chevy. During a post-event celebration with Chevrolet Chief Engineer Ed Cole, Duntov proposed making 150-mph record run in a special V-8-powered Corvette! Cole agreed.

Duntov used a promotion '54 Corvette as his base. With engineering help from Jim Premo, a short windscreen replaced stock the windshield, and a complete belly pan was built. But calculations showed that 30 more hp were needed to hit 150 mph. Duntov designed an experimental camshaft profile with 60 degrees overlap that eventually became known as the “Duntov Cam.” that allowed the engine to run easily to 6,500 rpm with no valve float. Duntov packed up his mule Corvette and headed for GM's test facility in Phoenix, Arizona. Upon arrival, more streamlining was added to the car, in the form of a tonneau cover over the passenger side, blocked-off front grille openings, and a fin behind the driver's head. Driving the streamlined car with 3.27:1 gearing and stock tires, Duntov was clocked at 163 mph. The '54 mule Corvette was immediately re-bodied with the new '56 design and prepped as part of a three-car team to compete at the '56 Daytona Beach Record Runs. The cars performed so well that they were permitted to run in the '56 race at Sebring. Many more race cars would stem from this effort, but the mule car was never seen again.

But Duntov wanted to compete with the big-league Le Mans racers. A work order was issued to build a single race car, and the '57 SS Corvette was born. But Duntov was shrewd enough to get around the one-car limitation by passing off extra hardware as assembly mock-up parts. While Bill Mitchell's styling group worked out a '56-inspired body, Duntov and his crew started work on a mule chassis patterned after the tube-framed Mercedes “birdcage” cars. The body of the racer was to be of lightweight magnesium, but a crude fiberglass version was built and taped together for wind-tunnel testing. The mule had no doors or rear deck, and the firewall was plywood. With such an ambitious design and only six months of development time, everything was bound to go wrong.. As rough as the mule was, it had tremendous potential. Juan Manuel Fangio drove the overweight car and matched his previous year's practice-lap times, which were recorded in a Ferrari. The real SS Corvette looked great but the magnesium body proved to be an excellent heat conductor and turned the car into a virtual oven. Between the extreme heat and a failed rear suspension, the car dropped out after its 23rd lap. After the race, work orders were issued for three more SS cars to race at Le Mans, but the '57 AMA ban on racing killed the project. The mule was reborn in ‘59 under Bill Mitchell's Stingray body, became the SCCA '59 C/Modified champion, and is still around today.

Like a martial artist, Duntov was always flexible to circumstances. His solution to the factory racing ban was to build the parts and let the customers do the racing. For the remainder of the C1 production run, Duntov made sure that his racer-kit options were up to the task. In mid-1962 work began on a race package for the new ‘63 Sting Ray. It was called the Z06 and consisted of suspension and brake upgrades, a 36-gallon fuel tank, the L84 fuel-injected engine, and other racing parts. The mule car used a ‘63 Z06 frame, suspension, Posi rear, and running gear, and was draped with a one-of-a-kind body that was part ‘62 and part ‘63 Corvette. The car made one appearance at Daytona with Duntov behind the wheel and was never seen in public again.

So what happens to old GM mule cars? They go to GM’s equivalent of the glue factory, also known as the crusher. According to Gib Hufstader, the development cars sometimes escape this fate for a time and are stored in various departments throughout GM. But ultimately, they all outlive their usefulness and end up in the crusher. Such is the life of a Corvette mule. - K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 145 - 1957 RPO 684 - "The First Corvette Racer Kit"

I would venture to say that, aside from Corvette racing buffs and historians like me, few Vette fans are aware that from 1957 to 1962, Chevy’s sports car was the dominant force in SCCA racing. So how was it that a car that was all but written off as nothing but a beauty queen in 1955 turned into a brute on the race track? That remarkable transformation came courtesy of Zora Arkus-Duntov. Duntov was arguably the only person in GM’s corporate culture with any real seat-of-the-pants experience in a race car. You’ll recall that Duntov entered the Indy 500 in 1946 and ’47 with a Talbot-Lago. He also raced Allards at Le Mans in 1952 and ’53. Then, in 1955, while employed as a Chevrolet engineer, he drove a Porsche 550 Spyder to a Le Mans class win. Who better to spearhead the effort to transform Chevy’s start-up sports car into a track-proven champ?

The 265-cid small-block engine arrived just in time for the Corvette. Of the 700 ‘55 Vettes, only seven had the old “Blue Flame” six-cylinder. Then, in 1956, the Corvette got an extensive face-lift. Duntov was already at work on a souped-up, topless ‘56 that would go on to blast the beach at Daytona with a 147.300-mph run. The team followed that effort by finishing their first sports-car competition at the 12-hour Sebring race. Chevy’s ad men took maximum advantage of Duntov’s racing exploits by running a full-page print ad showing the ‘56 racer in the pits of Sebring, in full race trim with track dirt and an exiting driver. The headline said simply, “THE REAL McCOY.” At the time, Chevy didn’t have a racing reputation and was considered “the new kid on the block,” gunning for the dominant Fords. What better way to stoke potential Corvette buyers than with a hot-looking new car in full battle regalia? Meanwhile, Duntov and his team were taking all the lessons they learned at the race track and creating special “heavy duty” parts that were readily available at any Chevrolet dealer. These parts made it possible for anyone to buy a Corvette racer; you just had to know what to look for.

In order to qualify as a “production car” for racing purposes, all of the parts on the vehicle had to be available from the factory. If you were ordering a Corvette race car from your local Chevy dealer, there were four essential options to get. For $726, RPO 579E got you the racing version of the new “Ram Jet” 283 FI engine. This engine also known as the “Air Box” version, because of the fiberglass air box that was mounted inside the left front fender. The box was connected to the fuel-injection unit’s air intake and ducted to the front grille. Sales literature described this option as “not intended for pleasure driving.”
The second essential option was RPO 684, the new, $188 Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed transmission. This was a fully synchronized gearbox that required no double clutching. For $15, RPO 276 got you the new “wide” 15 x 5.5-inch steel wheels. The final essential option was RPO 684, the Heavy Duty Racing Suspension. This was the setup that pulled it all together and laid the foundation for the Corvette’s dominance in SCCA racing in those days. The $780 package included heavy-duty front coil springs; five-leaf rear springs; a larger front anti-sway bar; larger, stiffer shocks on all four corners; quicker, 16.3:1-ratio steering; and heavy-duty brakes with finned aluminum drums and Bendix Cerametallix pads. The rear-brake-cooling system had ducts running from behind the headlights, down the inside of the rocker panels, and into scoops on the inboard side of each brake’s backing plate. Inside each drum was a small metal turbine that pulled hot air out of the drums. Like the infamous L88 that followed it, RPO 684 also deleted the radio and heater. The option was available from ‘57 to ’59. Then, from ‘60 to ’75, there were various other “racer” packages available.

It was all pretty amazing stuff in ‘57, but it wasn’t inexpensive. The base price of the ‘57 Corvette was $3,176, and when you added on $1,727 of racing options, you were looking at a nearly $5,000 car. Keep in mind that a ’57 Bel Air Sport Coupe hardtop cost a mere $2,299. Only 43 ‘57 Corvettes were outfitted with the three main options. RPO 684 would be the first of many racer kits. As for how many of these cars remain, no one knows for sure. - K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 7 - 1957 SS Corvette Racer

The Corvette SS was the first in a long line of great "what if" cars from Chevrolet. The idea of using racing to inspire sales was relatively new to Detroit in the '50s. After great press with the SR-2, it was time to take on Europe's finest and race at Le Mans.


The D-type Jaguar was "the" car to beat in '56. Harley Earl shook up everyone by bringing in the No. 3 '56 Sebring winner, a D-type Jaguar, with the intention of fitting it with a Chevy engine and a modified body, and calling it a Corvette!

Zora Arkus-Duntov was outraged and began his own plan for a Le Mans racer. Duntov's plan was quickly approved and the Corvette SS racer was born. But time was not on their side.
It was summer of '56 and a Sebring debut was only nine months away. Duntov hand picked his crew and began working day and night. Since his crew had never built such a car, Duntov bought a Mercedes 300SL tube frame to use as a model for the chassis.
When the car arrived at Sebring it was still being worked on in the transporter. Although not as refined as it looked due to little track development time, the car was stunning.

The steel blue racer looked like an exotic European. Although most of the parts were off the shelf or bought, the entire car was handmade. Parts were cast in aluminum where possible. The body was even made out of ultralight magnesium! The Corvette SS weighed in at 1850, 100 pounds less that the D-type Jag. Things went badly on the track due to a lack of time. Duntov had a sister "mule" car that was used for testing. The mule actually ran better than the finished car. The new braking system never got sorted out and the magnesium body made the interior very hot.

The untested car had many problems and only ran 23 laps before it had to retire. In June of '57 GM decided to adhere to the AMA ban on factory-supported racing, thus ending the Corvette SS project. As a last hurrah in December of '58 at the Phoenix test track, the car ran 183 mph! If only...

The Corvette SS was the first in a long line of great "what if" cars from Chevrolet. The idea of using racing to inspire sales was relatively new to Detroit in the '50s. After great press with the SR-2, it was time to take on Europe's finest and race at Le Mans.

The D-type Jaguar was "the" car to beat in '56. Harley Earl shook up everyone by bringing in the No. 3 '56 Sebring winner, a D-type Jaguar, with the intention of fitting it with a Chevy engine and a modified body, and calling it a Corvette! Zora Arkus-Duntov was outraged and began his own plan for a Le Mans racer. Duntov's plan was quickly approved and the Corvette SS racer was born. But time was not on their side. It was summer of '56 and a Sebring debut was only nine months away. Duntov hand picked his crew and began working day and night. Since his crew had never built such a car, Duntov bought a Mercedes 300SL tube frame to use as a model for the chassis. When the car arrived at Sebring it was still being worked on in the transporter. Although not as refined as it looked due to little track development time, the car was stunning.

The steel blue racer looked like an exotic European. Although most of the parts were off the shelf or bought, the entire car was handmade. Parts were cast in aluminum where possible. The body was even made out of ultralight magnesium! The Corvette SS weighed in at 1850, 100 pounds less that the D-type Jag. Things went badly on the track due to a lack of time. Duntov had a sister "mule" car that was used for testing. The mule actually ran better than the finished car. The new braking system never got sorted out and the magnesium body made the interior very hot.

The untested car had many problems and only ran 23 laps before it had to retire. In June of '57 GM decided to adhere to the AMA ban on factory-supported racing, thus ending the Corvette SS project. As a last hurrah in December of '58 at the Phoenix test track, the car ran 183 mph! If only... - K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
lllustrated Corvette Series No. 128 - 1963 Z06 Corvette
"The Original Z06"

Corvette racers never had a better friend than Zora Arkus-Duntov. For the most part, Zora was good at sidestepping GM’s “we don’t race” edict. For those who knew what to look for, there were always plenty of “heavy-duty” and “off-road” options for Corvettes. As the new Sting Ray was being prepared for the ’63 launch, Duntov assembled the most advanced Corvette box racer to that date - the Z06.

By the late ‘50s, the solid-axle Corvettes had established themselves as competitive race cars. Underneath the all-new Sting Ray body was the real breakthrough: a four-wheel, independent suspension. The fuel-injected small-block engine had been opened up to 327-cid in ’62 and now packed 360-horsepower. The all-new suspension of the Sting Ray was essential to better use the extra power on the race track.

Racing packages have never been cheap. The Z06 package was the most expensive Corvette offered to that date. Costing $1,818, the Z06 option was very pricey. But there were other options that were mandatory for the Z06. Those options included the L84 Fuel-Injected 327, the close-ratio 4-speed transmission, and the positraction rear axle. These goodies added an extra $661, for a complete price of $2,479, on top of the $4,252 base price of the car. Then, with a few other extras, tax, tags, registration, etc,. buyers were looking at a $7,000 Corvette in 1963! You could buy a loaded ‘63 SS Impala for just over $3,000.

The hardware included in the Z06 package was amazing advanced for its time. With plenty of power on tap, most of the Z06 extras were designed to enhance the suspension and brakes - critical elements for racing. The front suspension had stiffer shocks, beefier springs, and a thicker, .94-inch stabilized bar. The rear suspension had a 7-leaf transverse spring - two more than the stock setup. To fit the larger 7.75 x 15 racing tires, the rear inner wheelwells were wider. The knock-off alloy wheels were an on, and off, and on again part of the Z06 package. Not all Z06 cars had the knockoff wheels. To reduce the number of pit stops, a 36.5-gallon fiberglass gas tank was included. Interestingly, this part of the Z06 would remain an option through to ’67.

But the real advancement could be found in the car’s race-designed braking system. Many of the older Corvette race cars had less than inadequate brakes. The system was completely new, from its vacuum-assisted, dual-circuit master cylinder to its finned brake drums. Each brake had a cooling fan built onto the hub, and the front units were further cooled by external air scoops. To complete the new cooling system, each drum featured five vent holes. The cerametallix brake pads were not for street use and almost useless until heated up. While the ’63 Z06 was theoretically streetable, it was noisy, hard-riding car away from the race track.

For a mass-produced sports car, this was an impressive package that should have propelled the new Sting Ray into the winner’s circle with considerable frequency. Unfortunately, there was another race machine being built at the time by a Texas chicken farmer/racer named Carroll Shelby. Shelby’s little Cobra had as much power as the Corvette and weighed 1,000 pounds less. But because they were both considered “production cars,” the Vette and the Cobra competed in the same class. Mickey Thompson raced one of the first six Z06 cars and won the L.A. Times Three Hour International in October, 1963. It was a default win, however, as the leading Shelby Cobra broke.

The Z06 package had no external markings, so it never developed the kind of performance mystique enjoyed by the L88. Until the arrival of the ’01 Z06, the ‘63 Z06 Vettes were mostly forgotten. But the Cobra problem aside, Z06 equipped Corvettes did rack up wins. The official Z06 production count was 199 units, making the Z06 one of the rarest Vettes ever offered.

Meanwhile, back in his private skunkworks, Duntov was working on a Cobra-killer. It was called the “Grand Sport.” - K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
lllustrated Corvette Series No. 19 - 1963 Grand Sport Corvette
"Chevrolet's Cobra Killer"

The 1963 Grand Sport is undoubtedly the ultimate "could-have-been" Corvette. Had GM not pulled the plug, this 2,100 pound monster could have been a true snake-killer. But it wasn't to be.

Grand Sport's problem wasn't a lack of hardware or technical assistance, it was political. The problem began with the 1957 Automobile Manufactures Association ban on factory supported racing. At first, Ford, GM and Chrysler complied, but by 1960 Ford and Pontiac were developing racing programs despite the AMA ban. In June of '62, Ford and Chrysler announced that they would ignore the AMA ban and openly develop racing programs. At Chevrolet, Duntov was watching.

Zora figured that if Pontiac was developing the Super Duty program and other groups in Chevrolet were developing the Mark II Mystery Motor, he should be working on a real racing version of the 1963 Stingray. This car would be homologated in the FIA as a GT Class production car.

To be "legal" in the FIA, Chevrolet had to make at least 100 cars to qualify as "production cars." Unfortunately, only five coupes were built. Years later, two were made into open roadsters. The target weight was 1,900 pounds with an all-aluminum 377 small block making 550 horsepower! This was a 180 mph Corvette. Everything was strictly racing!

The body was almost stock except for the nose and rear window. After its intial outing in '63 the G.S. grew all sorts of flairs, scoops and bulges. Under the thin fiberglass body was a twin tube chassis with a stock independent rear and hand made front suspension. The interior looked stock, except for the racing bucket seats, roll cage, and 200 mph speedometer! The car's best effort was the 1963 Nassau Speed Week where they stunned the Shelby team and won!

GM gave all racing programs the axe in January 1963. The Grand Sports were sold and raced independently. Lacking real factory support, they were quickly obsolete by 1966. All five cars have been fully restored.
- K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
lIlustrated Corvette Series No. 20 - 1963 Grand Sport Corvette Roadster
"Chevrolet's Cobra Killer - Part II"

Road racing in America went through a tremendous growth period during the mid-'60s. A competitive race car could be obsolete in only two years. Duntov and his crew secretly designed and built five Grand Sports early in 1962. The three Grand Sport Coupes got enough attention at their debut race in Nassau, that GM brass ordered the program halted.

The three coupes were sold in 1964 and the two roadsters were supposed to be sent to the crusher. Somehow, Duntov managed to avoid that fate. In 1965 one of the roadsters surfaced at a car show at Notre Dame University. Someone in the press quipped that a Grand Sport with the new 427 NASCAR engine might be an interesting race car. Enter Roger Penske.

Penske was planning to race a 427 Coupe that year and added the two remaining Grand Sport Roadsters to his team. Assisting in the preparations was veteran Corvette racer, Dick Guldstrand. The team knew that the Grand Sport was getting tired, but it was too tempting to pass up. Guldstrand supervised the complete rebuilding of one of the roadsters and the necessary changes required for the Traco Engineering-built, 500-horsepower, 427 engine.

By the time the Grand Sport Roadster made it to Sebring in March 1966, the car was seriously outdated. But it was a valiant effort that might have had a chance with some factory support. The biggest problem was still the suspension and it's infamous front end lift.

Driver Delmo Johnson was quoted as saying, "As far as I'm concerned, if any driver ever says he had complete control of that car, he's lying to you." Between the front end lift and the power from the 427, Roger Penske said, "It was so light in the front end that when you really stood on the gas, the front end would come off the ground like a dragster."

Power was not a problem for the roadster. During practice, Guldstrand reported that he could easily blow off even the Ford Mark II cars. A. J. Foyt got dusted and was quoted as saying, "What's in that damn dinosaur? It went by me like I was stopped." During actual racing, the car was embarrassingly inadequate.

Penske sold roadster 001 to John Mecam and roadster 002 to George Wintersteen who raced the car unsuccessfully and later sold it for $6,700. George still regrets the sale.

The Grand Sports were the ultimate "could have been" racing Corvettes. Completely lost in the '70s, they have all been found and restored.
- K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 144 - Penske 1966 L88 Corvette - "The First L88 Racer"

Roger Penske began his racing career in 1958 at the Marlboro Motor Raceway in Maryland. Just two years later, he won the Sports Illustrated SCCA Driver of the Year award. Penske’s prowess on the track got the attention of Zora Arkus-Duntov, and he was subsequently hired as a driver for the 1963 Grand Sport Nassau assault. This led to a friendship with Duntov and helped pave the way for Penske to become a successful race-team owner. At the time, race cars were becoming brutally fast, and many talented drivers were being injured or killed. In 1965 Penske decided to hang up his helmet and focus on his new Cadillac dealership. Then one day, Duntov called.

The Corvette chief engineer was working on a new secret weapon—called the “L88”—to take on Shelby’s 427 Cobras. Duntov wanted to know if Penske was interested in receiving a pre-production L88 to use for a little “field testing.” Duntov had always been Corvette racer’s best friend, but the L88 was to be a Corvette kit racer like no other.

In 1962, Chevrolet began work on a new, large-displacement version of the 348/409 truck engine. A few prototypes were “let out the back door” to be used in NASCAR competition, and these caused quite a stir. Car magazines called the new engine “Chevy’s Mystery Motor.” The new big-block finally made it into production in 1965 as a 396; a 427 followed a year later. Although these high-performance mills represented a radical step forward, Duntov was already thinking ahead.

Duntov had always made sure there were off-road parts available for the Corvette, but this latest effort was to be the most comprehensive racer package ever offered by Chevrolet. The star attraction was, of course, the L88 engine. Duntov had wanted an all-aluminum engine for the Corvette since the ‘57 “Q” concept, and the alloy-headed L88 was a first step in that direction. The L-88 was essentially an L72 427 on steroids. Packing 12.5:1 compression, solid lifters, a racing camshaft, a big 850 Holley carb with no cloak, an aluminum intake manifold, and a TI ignition, this was not a street-car engine. The rest of the package included J56 heavy-duty brakes, a 36-gallon fuel tank, an F41 heavy-duty suspension, a prototype Positraction differential with 2.73 gearing, an M-22 rock crusher transmission, an off-road exhaust, a teakwood steering wheel with telescoping column, heater and radio deletes, and a prototype cowl-induction hood. Needless to say, Penske accepted Duntov’s offer.

Penske worked out a one-race sponsorship deal with Sunoco and assembled a team to run in the 24 Hours at Daytona. At Duntov’s suggestion, he hired California Corvette racer Dick Guldstrand to help prep the L88 and serve as one half of the driving team (along with George Wintersteen). When Guldstrand picked up the car at the St. Louis assembly plant in January, it wouldn’t start. The disgusted workers pushed it off the line and told him, “This is yours, kid. We don’t want anything to do with it. Just get it out of here.” Then Guldstrand drove the car 800 miles to Penske’s Pennsylvania shop, in January, with no heater and just a furniture blanket to keep warm.

Once in the shop, the car was taken apart and prepped for racing. Several hundred pounds were removed, largely through the use of aluminum replacement parts. Magnesium racing wheels with wide tires necessitated small aluminum flares on the wheel wells. The rear fenders were also bulged out, and the trailing arms were notched. Suspension bushings were replaced with aluminum spacers, dual electric pumps and an engine-oil cooler were added, and extra-large header side pipes were installed. The interior got a roll bar, racing gauges, and shut-off switches. Racing headlights with clear covers were also added, and every nut and bolt was safety wired. As is the case with many race cars, the team worked around the clock up to the day of the event.

All long-distance racing is filled with drama, and the Penske L88 effort was no exception. The race’s sponsor, Pure Oil, took issue with the car’s Sunoco 260 gas, and tech inspectors didn’t like its aluminum fender flares. Nevertheless, the Vette ran one of the quickest qualifying times ever at Daytona. While all this was going on, Traco Engineering had a balanced-and-blueprinted 550-horsepower engine in transit. The team would install the fresh engine the night before the race.

It turned out to be a very tough contest. In the middle of the night, the Corvette T-boned a slower competitor, blowing off most of its front end. The team wired the body together and taped flashlights to the front fenders for light, leaving Guldstrand to drive by following the taillights of the leading Ferrari. Despite this handicap, the team won First in the GT class and 11th overall. The L88 hit 168 mph on the Daytona back stretch.

Sunoco was so pleased with Penske’s performance, it extended his sponsorship to cover the 12 Hours at Sebring, where the L88 won the GT class and came in Ninth overall. Roger Penske’s new career as a team owner had officially begun. Penske sold the car after Sebring, and subsequently it was raced in many different forms. It was even converted into a street machine at one point. The car’s current owner, Kevin Mackay, did a total restoration in 2001 and has since earned the NCRS American Heritage Award. Today, the L88 prototype is completely functional and considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Corvette racing history in existence. - K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
lllustrated Corvette Series No. 30 - 1967 L-88 Corvette - "Monster Vette!"

After four years of chasing Cobras, Duntov and his crew knew that they had to do something to put the Corvette back in the winner's circle. Endurance racing was the pinnacle of sports car racing. So the sights of Chevrolet were set on the 1967 24 Hours at Le Mans in France. Thus, the L88 legend was born.

The L88 was so close to being an all-out race car that Duntov deliberately had the engine rated at 430 horsepower at a low 5,200 rpm. The true rating was 460 horsepower at 6,400 rpm. With open headers, 103 octane gas and a few other tricks, the power was over 500. This kept unknowing performance hounds from checking off the option with the highest figure. All creature comforts were missing. There was no heater, defroster, radio, power steering, windows or radiator shroud. A/C was not available either. The J56 brake option was required with competition-only brake pads. Also mandatory was the F41 special suspension, and the M22 "rock crusher" four-speed transmission. From 1967 to 1969 only 216 L88 optioned Corvettes were built.

Details of the L88 were exotic stuff for 1967. Using the same four-bolt main cast iron block as the street Corvette, all sorts of special parts were added. The forged steel crank was cross-drilled and tuftrided. Rods were shot-peened and magnafluxed. The forged aluminum pistons had 12.5:1-compression.

The L88 used a radical camshaft and solid lifters. Up top was an aluminum high-rise intake manifold with a huge 830-cfm Holley four-barrel. The entire valvetrain was heavy duty and a K66 ignition was used. Also there was an aluminum radiator and a special cold-air hood scoop. The sexiest parts were the aluminum heads.

Dick Guldstrand, Bob Bondurant and Don Yenko drove a specially built L88 at Le Mans, hitting 171.5 mph on the Mulsanne straight! While leading the GT class, one of the stock wrist pins broke at the 11-1/2 hour mark , putting the L88 out of the race. Guldstrand commented, "Nobody was getting in your way... we showed them the short way around the track."
- K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 131 - '67 - '69 L-88 Racers
"Bringing Back Racing Respect"

Every Corvette owner had a best friend in Zora Arkus-Duntov, Chief of Engineering for the Vette from ‘56 to ’75. Duntov created a foundation of uncompromising performance for the GM’s flagship sports car. Were it not for his personal racing experience and his never-ending push for improvement, GM surely would have axed the car early on. Even better, Duntov always made sure racers had plenty of hot parts for their Corvettes.

The ‘63 Sting Ray should have put the Corvette ahead of the competition, but with the advent of the Shelby Cobra and the death of the Grand Sport, the Vette remained outgunned until the arrival of the big-block in ’65. It took two years for Duntov to sort out the details, but his latest Corvette stealth bomber—the ‘67 L88—was worth the wait.

While an L88 Corvette was some 900 pounds heavier than a ‘63 Grand Sport, Duntov nevertheless took the car as far as he could for a production vehicle. Make no mistake: The L88 Vettes were one tick away from being all-out race cars. As everyday drivers, they were all but unusable, just the way Duntov wanted it. Here’s why.

By the mid-’60s the Detroit horsepower wars were in full swing. Hot-rodders and wannabe racers were buying anything with big power numbers. While the solid-lifter, big-block Chevys were beasts for the street, the L88 was designed for one thing: racing. Not only was the L-88 stealthy in appearance, it looked like a second-rate performer on the order sheet. Most obvious was the power rating of 430 horsepower—five less than the 427/435 L71. And creature comforts? Fuggetaboutit! The L88 had a special “delete option” that removed items such as the heater, the radio, the A/C, and the radiator shroud. The engine had aluminum heads, a radical cam, a huge four-barrel carb, 12:1 compression, a 103-octane fuel requirement, and a 2,000-rpm idle. With open headers and a sharp tune, an L88 could generate over 600 hp.

Duntov made sure that the car’s underpinnings were also race-ready. The F41 suspension included stiffer shocks and springs, front and rear anti-sway bars, and racing brakes. Fender flares to cover racing tires were included in the trunk. The engine option alone cost $947, and when the other mandatory options were added, buyers were looking at least a 50 percent increase over the car’s base price, making the L88 package the most expensive Corvette to date. In keeping with the package’s low-profile nature, no special badges were added. During the three years the option was offered—’67 through ’69—only 216 L88s were ordered.

The L-88 delivered the goods on the track. The ‘67 Sunray DX and the ’68 Garner A.I.R. Corvettes were good examples of what these cars could do when treated to some well-executed race-prep work. Sunray Oil Company sponsored a pre-production ‘67 L88 Corvette with the help of Don Yenko. Three weeks after Yenko took delivery, the car was on the starting grid for the 12 Hours of Sebring. Driven by Yenko and Dave Morgan, the Sunray Vette smashed the GT class track record, won First in class, and Tenth overall. At the ‘68 24 Hours at Daytona race, the car ran 194 mph on the high-banked track, thanks to some special 2.60:1 gearing from Chevrolet.

The James Garner American International Racing team (A.I.R.) took delivery of three ’68 L88 Corvettes that were then driven from St. Louis to Culver City, California. With help from Dick Guldstrand, two of the cars were prepared for the 24 Hours at Daytona. Car No. 44 finished the race but was sold soon afterward when the team switched to Lola T70 Mk II coupes. Many years and many racers later, the car was completely restored. It occasionally runs at historic races.

The most aggressive and successful of the L88 Corvettes was the Owen-Corning Fiberglass car of Tony DeLorenzo and Jerry Thompson. Although not a numbers-matching L88 car, this all-out A/Production racer racked up 22 straight class wins, qualified on the pole at most of its races, and won two national championships. At the end of ’71, OCF decided that they had gotten enough out of racing and pulled the sponsorship.

Duntov envisioned a much lighter car, but the L88 package proved that with 600-plus hp and suspension parts to back it up, the Corvette once again had a fighting chance on the race track. - K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 33 - 1969 ZL-1 Corvette
"The $10,000 Mega-Buck Corvette"

Imagine having a new Corvette with more power than a big-block, and the weight of a small-block. That was the basic idea behind the all-aluminum, 427 ZL-1 Corvette. The idea of an all-aluminum engined Corvette was first outlined in 1957 as the "Q-Corvette." What finally emerged was more than anyone ever expected.

While everyone loved the 427's power, Duntov was not happy to have 51% of the Corvette's weight over the front wheels. Some calculating showed that if the engine was completely made of aluminum, the weight would be close to a small-block. So it was decided to go-for-broke and make the ZL-1 a monster.

Duntov started with a "stock" L88 and added an aluminum block that was fitted for a dry-sump oil system, larger main bearing bulkheads, extra cylinder head bolts, 12:1 compression pistons, a new camshaft, and open-chamber aluminum heads. Cast-iron sleeves were installed in the piston bores to solve the wear problem with the aluminum block. With a set of headers, the ZL-1 made over 585 horsepower at 6,600 rpm! Since the L88 was already void of unnecessary street hardware, the ZL-1 optioned Corvette weighed in at only 2,908 pounds, about the weight of a 1957 Vette.

The big hitch for the ZL-1 was its price. The ZL-1 option alone cost $3,000 on top of the L88 option. That made the ZL-1 cost over $10,000 in 1969! That was almost twice the cost of a normal 427 street Corvette.

Only two ZL-1 Corvettes were ever made, making them the rarest Corvettes ever. Performance was amazing: 12.1 quarter mile time and 180 mph top speed. This was really Chevrolet's all-out racing Corvette!
K. Scott Teeters


Here's the story:
lIlustrated Corvette Series No. 34 - Zora Arkus-Duntov's 1969 ZL-1 Corvette

Being Chief of Engineering for the Corvette surely had its perks. In 1969, Zora Arkus-Duntov showed the press his latest "mule car", a completely optioned-out for road-racing ZL-1 Corvette. The public finally had a glimpse of what it was like being in the beast.

Duntov was the best friend that any Corvette owner ever had. First and formost, he was a sports car racer. His "vision" for the perfect Corvette was a lightweight car with a high-revving, high output engine. The big-block 427 was not his ideal. However, the all-aluminum 427 made more power than anything at GM, plus it weighed as much as a small-block!

To show off what the '69 Corvette was capable of at the high end of the performance spectrum, Zora and his team built a Corvette the way any racer would. Starting with a "stock" L88 optioned Corvette, he then added the optional ZL-1. Like racers, they removed anything that didn't look like a race car.

All non-essential parts were removed: bumpers, upholstery, radio, spare tire, headlights, and heater. Then the good stuff was added. Cast-iron exhaust manifolds, mufflers, and pipes were replaced with steel header side exhausts. Racing mag wheels were 15 inches in diameter by 10.5 inches wide with non-D.O.T. approved, racing tires. Using the roadster body with a fixed hardtop roof, the only body mods were huge fender flares, the optional ZL-2 domed hood, and a lip along the leading edge of the hood to keep it from blowing off at 180-plus mph! This car was never driven on a public road, as it was a "research vehicle" only.

Needless to say, Duntov's toy ran like no other Corvette ever had up to that time. With 3.70 gears and a close-ratio four-speed, and not shifting like a drag racer, Duntov could hammer the quarter-mile in 12.1 seconds at 116 mph. In tight corners and heavy braking the '69 ZL-1 would pull over 1g. The suspension was set up to understeer slightly, but a controlled drift was possible. Top speed was somewhere over 180 mph!

Costing over $10,000, Zora's ZL-1 was twice as much as a stock Corvette. The cool thing was that so much great stuff was available from your local Chevy dealer.
K. Scott Teeters


lllustrated Corvette Series No. 40 - 1970 XP-882 Corvette Show Car
"Experimental Corvette - Bad Timing

It was a great day for Corvette fans. When the crowds piled into the New York Auto Show on April 2, 1970, they had no idea what Chevrolet was proposing as the next Corvette. The XP-882 Mid-Engine Experimental Corvette had almost everything a Vette lover would want... big-block power, huge wheels and tires, exotic suspension, drop-dead looks, and the engine located in the middle of the car, exactly where an exotic car engine should be.

But we all know how the story ended; they didn't come close to making the car. Forward thinking just couldn't overcome bad timing. Duntov's design team started working out the mechanical challenges for the XP-882 in 1968. Styling penned up a new look that screamed "Corvette!" It was crisp, edgy, modern, yet it "looked" like a Corvette.

New Chevy General Manager John Z. DeLorean stopped work on the XP-882 to pursue making Corvettes based on the new, inexpensive Camaro chassis. DeLorean met with fierce resistance from styling, engineering, and sales to NOT take the car in that direction. So the project was stopped in 1969 and was warehoused until 1970. When Ford announced a similar mid-engine project with DeTomaso, DeLorean resurrected the XP-882 and had it finished for the show car circuit. Because there were no press releases, everyone was stunned. The car magazines were all over it, initiating a feeding frenzy of speculation.

Mid-engine cars were very exotic in the '60s. Not only was the engine midship located, but it was transverse mounted. By using the front-wheel drive, automatic transmission from an Olds Toronado, Duntov was able to quickly get a working prototype. Suspension and brakes were obviously independent and disc. Wheels were spun-aluminum, with vent slots, and tires were E60x15 on the front and G60x15 on the rear. The interior of the car was basic prototype fashion, no frills and no real design at that point. The XP-882 was never officially tested for speed and performance.

Many other Corvette show cars have been more thought out than the XP-882, but the car was rushed into service and not fully developed like show cars of the '60s. But the timing couldn't have been worse for an all-new Corvette. The new platform was going to be expensive to make, requiring new transmission, suspension, body, and interior parts. Actual production wouldn't have started until '72 or '73, just in time for the first Arab oil embargo. Also in the brew was a GM internal push to develop a Wankel-engined prototype, so the second XP-882 chassis was made into the 1973 4-Rotor Aerovette.

All things considered, the XP-882 didn't have a chance, but it sure was exciting.
- K. Scott Teeters  

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