Required reading for any automotive enthusiast should be a biography of Corvette’s first Chief Engineer, Zora Duntov. Duntov was a Belgian who narrowly escaped Nazi persecution by making his way to the US at the beginning of WWII. He and his brother developed racing parts for the popular Ford flat head V8, including innovative cylinder heads with overhead cams. These heads alone would be enough for the history books to remember him. But when he saw the first Corvette on display at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York he knew it had potential. He wrote Chevrolet’s engineering department a famous letter explaining why nobody wanted a six cylinder sports car with an automatic transmission. The rest is history, and he retired as Corvette’s Chief in 1975. Always pushing the envelope, he built several Corvette concepts with rear mounted engines and all-wheel drive, only to draw criticism from GM’s top brass.
Zora and His Team
Having to make due with the traditional chassis, he stripped all nonessential weight and installed the most powerful engine at his disposal for 1970, and named it after himself. The original Corvette ZR1 was a 1970 Corvette aimed at weekend racers. But its fate was sealed by the oil crisis, as thirsty Big Block V8s were phased out by all manufacturers. The option code was revived in 1990 as a $27,000 package that allowed Corvette to set many endurance and race records that still stand. With the help of a supercharger, ZR1 returned again in 2009 as a 638 hp carbon fiber missile that lasted until 2013.
ZR1 Rumors of a mid-engined prototype
GM has applied to resurrect the ZR1 trademark with the Patent Office.
We’re not jumping to conclusions here, but something significant is in the works from team Corvette. The Stingray, Grand Sport, and Z06 will soon be joined by a new supercar. Some are speculating that a limited production ZR1 will feature a mid-rear mounted V8 in order to compete with the Ford GT and McLaren in proper fashion. Corvette has its own assembly plant in Bowling Green, KY that has more than enough space for a low-volume supercar. The assembly line was modified to build the low volume Cadillac XLR from 2003 to 2009, so they have experience thinking outside the box. GM is smart enough to not change the recipe, with lesser model Corvettes staying true to their heritage. What they are building is a halo car that will hopefully see Zora’s dreams come true.
Later Model Rear Engine Concepts