Duntov’s Secret & Back to Back SCCA B-Prod National Champion
1961 – 1962 Gulf Oil Corvette
This 1961 Chevrolet Corvette factory race car possesses a host of rare options and a provenance worthy of the velvet rope treatment at any of the world’s finest auto museums or vintage races. Gulf Oil sponsored and driven to an SCCA B-Production national championship by the likes of Dr. Dick “The Flying Dentist” Thompson and Don Yenko, it stands as one the most successful and important production-based Corvette race cars ever constructed. All the more impressive considering it was never supposed to exist.
Though hard to believe today—with manufacturers spending millions of dollars on motorsports and publicizing their efforts through some of the world’s finest marketing firms—there was a time when the mere mention of auto racing within the walls of an American auto company would spark outbreaks of upper-management indigestion.This trend surfaced immediately after World War II as racing began to claim lives at an alarming rate, and reached its zenith on June 11th, 1955, when a Mercedes 300 SLR piloted by Pierre Levegh struck another race car and flew into a crowd of spectators at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Photos of the accident published in Life magazine showed Levegh’s lifeless body lying on the track and some of the 83 dead scattered through the grandstands. The magazine’s predominantly American audience was appalled with the accident, and the American companies selling cars to these readers worried that calls to regulate auto racing would quickly expand to include the manufacturers themselves. On their own D-Day of sorts, June 6th, 1957, the Automobile Manufacturers Association banned its members from building race cars, speed parts, or publicizing the sport in any way. The racing of American sports cars was dead. Except, that is, for Zora Arkus-Duntov.
As a GM engineer, Duntov no doubt read the memo announcing his employer’s withdrawal from racing. He just didn’t care. He was, among other things, stubborn.
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.
Ordered new by Don Yenko for Grady Davis, V.P. of Gulf Oil
Winner of the 1961 SCCA B-Production National Championship with driver Dr. Dick Thompson, “The Flying Dentist”
Numerous winner’s circle appearances while driven by many famous racers including Don Yenko and Ben Moore
Raced at the 12 Hours of Sebring during the ’61 season
2011 NCRS American Heritage Award at Novi Nationals
Bloomington Gold Special Collection
Inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame
283/315 HP fuel injected engine
Borg-Warner 4-speed transmission
Posi-traction rear axle
Heavy duty brakes, steering and suspension
Chevrolet engineering “Sebring Package” fitted
37-gallon fiberglass fuel tank
Auxiliary front anti-sway bar
Meticulously restored to 1961 “Sebring” configuration