Thursday, January 05, 2012

Zora Arkus Duntov, somethings I knew, some things I just learned

In addition to the galleries of Super Sport Corvettes that Zora made, I've posted very little biographical info about him. I just read the following

The Belgian born son of Russian Jewish parents, Duntov had already outrun the Nazis, revolutionized hot-rodding (with his eponymous line of Ardun accessories for Ford’s Flathead V8), and aided the development of Allard sports cars by the time he saw the new-for-‘53 Corvette at the New York Motorama. He loved the car’s lines and despised everything else. So he wrote a letter to GM telling them as much and was hired shortly thereafter.

Duntov’s love of speed was no mere whim. While helping Allard engineer their sports cars he proved a talented driver as well and later piloted a Porsche 550 to class wins in two 24 Hours of Le Mans; the last of which, ironically, during the same 1955 event that would eventually lead to the AMA ban on racing. Nonetheless, he profoundly influenced American motorsports and, in particular, the Corvette.

By 1955 the Corvette traded the 150hp straight six engines and powerglide automatic transmissions of ’53 and ’54, for 195hp, 265ci V8s and three speed manual transmissions. By ’57 the Corvette added a 283hp 283ci V8, a limited slip differential and fuel injection. All the while, Duntov kept his eyes and talents focused on the racetrack and by the 1957 AMA ban on racing he stood at the center of one of the greatest contradictions of mid-century corporate America. While GM’s brass touted safety, forward styling and advanced color theory, Zora Arkus-Duntov quietly slipped some of the country’s most successful race cars out the back door; among them the championship winning Corvette seen here.

 Duntov would have a hard time explaining why his engineers vacationed together in Nassau during Speed Week.  Harder still the suitcases packed with Bermuda shorts and prototype intake manifolds.

Duntov’s available speed equipment; since the words ‘speed equipment’ weren’t exactly politically correct in ’61, however, the high performance parts were identified by their harmless sounding RPO or “Regular Production Option” numbers. It seems that while the AMA might wonder why any factory would offer a fuel injected, 315hp 283ci V8, they were far less likely to question “RPO354.”

Ditto RPOs 675, 685, and 687 which, in non-GM-speak are a Posi-traction differential, four-speed manual transmission, and heavy-duty suspension and brakes, respectively. The boxes of uninstalled parts that came with a few cars, on the other hand, are a different story altogether. Known by a select few as the ‘Sebring package,’ the vented hood, stiff front anti-rollbar, aerodynamic headlight covers, and 37 gallon fiberglass gas tank didn’t have RPO numbers and, by all accounts, left Duntov’s office without his bosses’ blessing or knowledge.

 Duntov would have a hard time explaining why his engineers vacationed together in Nassau during Speed Week.  Harder still the suitcases packed with Bermuda shorts and prototype intake manifolds.

Partnered with Zora to win races in Corvettes were Don Yenko, and Dr Dick Thompson. Dick was a dentist, and such an expert in winning SCCA raes with Corvettes he wrote a book on what a buyer should do to order the things only the insiders knew about (the RPO codes) and items like aluminum flywheels... and that little trick got Don Yenko suspended from SCCA racing for 6 months. FIA racing allowed the aluminum, but SCCA didn't allow them in B-Production

info from http://www.sportscardigest.com/duntovs-secret-corvette-gulf-oil-race-car/

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment