The father of the performance Corvette
Zora Arkus-Duntov was a brilliant engineer who transformed the Corvette from a stylish sports-car into a legendary high-performance machine. Arkus-Duntov was born in 1909 and raised in Saint Petersburg, Russia. After the Russian Revolution, the family immigrated to Berlin, Germany where Arkus-Duntov earned an engineering degree from Charlottenburg Technical University. He published numerous papers about the benefits of concepts like four-wheel drive and steering for racing. The family would move again to Paris before the onset of WWII, and Arkus-Duntov and his brother would join the French Air-Force. When France surrendered, Arkus-Duntov obtained visas for his wife and family to flee to America.
The family settled in New York City, where Arkus-Duntov and his brother established Ardun Mechanical. The company built munitions for the war effort, and became famous for developing the Ardun cylinder head for the Flathead Ford V8. It was not until he attended the 1953 Motorama show in New York City that Arkus-Duntov first laid eyes on a Corvette. He thought it was the finest looking car he had ever seen, but was disappointed to find that it was powered by an ordinary inline-6 engine. He wrote to General Motors President Ed Cole suggesting improvements that would increase the car’s performance. Cole was so impressed that he hired Arkus-Duntov to take on the project. Over the next 20 years, Arkus-Duntov would spearhead the development of the Corvette into a full-fledged sports-car.
Arkus-Duntov began to take the Corvette racing and continually tweaked the small-block V8 in search of more horsepower. The 1957 Corvette showcased an innovative fuel injection system that helped it become the first production car in the world to produce one horsepower per cubic inch of displacement. Arkus-Duntov also developed numerous prototype Corvettes, like the magnesium-bodied Corvette Super Sport, and was instrumental in creating the famous Z06 performance package and the Corvette Grand Sport. He also become the first chief engineer of the Corvette program. Though Arkus-Duntov retired in 1975, his contributions to the Corvette left a lasting legacy that can still be seen today, a phenomenon many refer to as “the mark of Zora.”