Zora Arkus Duntov – In His Own Words
Recently, while performing research on the mid-engine Corvette, I stumbled upon a series of Podcasts that had been recorded nearly a decade ago by retired Corvette Engineer, Dave McLellan. The 22-part series, titled “Corvette CHIEF – Dave McLellan” covers a range of topics, ranging from his thoughts on the mid-engine Corvette, to a historical overview of the brand itself. The series was recorded between January 31, 2008 and May 18, 2009, so some of the information is a bit dated.
However, on the episode 2 of the podcast series, in an episode titled “Test Drive with Zora Arkus-Duntov,” I found a piece of automotive – and C1 Corvette – history that was absolutely too good to pass up.
As part of the promotional material for the car, Zora Arkus-Duntov recorded a narrative about a 1961 Corvette that was later pressed on a small, 45 rpm record and distributed to potential consumers.
The recording is really in two-parts.
The first is Duntov introducing the car – the aforementioned ’61 Corvette – and then immediately taking the car out for a test drive. For the next couple of minutes, we are treated to the awesome sounds of the 315 horsepower small-block Chevy engine as Duntov puts the car thru its paces. The second part of the recording features Duntov discussing the 1961 Corvette in detail, providing some valuable insights into the refinements made to the model. He also shares his own opinions about the nature of Corvette ownership.
Per McLellan’s podcast, he says of Duntov, “I find this fascinating because in the discussion that Zora give us and in the test-drive, he has defined the car in his image, and it turns out that he also defined a car that customers were excited about.”
Although the podcast is under copyright with Apple Music, we were able to find a copy of the original recording and have since published it to YouTube. We thought we’d share it here, along with a transcript of the original narrative from Zora Arkus-Duntov. Given the instrumental role Duntov would ultimately play in the development of this car (well beyond the 1961 model year), this piece of “Corvette history” is a priceless glimpse into the past of this incredible man and the ultimate American sports car he would help pioneer for the next 30 years.
(Partial – Begins with Duntov’s Introduction of the 1961 Corvette)
“I have a ’61 Corvette all ready to go. This one is equipped with our new 315 horsepower engine, four-speed closed ratio transmission, high-lift cam and fuel injection. Let’s get in.”
“Is your seatbelt fastened? Alright, let’s go.”
<<Sounds of Corvette turning over and accelerating. Later, sounds of car shifting and decelerating.>>
“You just took a ride in 1961 Corvette. This car was powered with 315 horsepower, fuel-injected engine. This car has performance engine. Actually all Corvettes are high-performance cars. The difference is only in degree.”
“We have two new engines this year. One is the 315 (hp) fuel-injected engine, and another 275 (hp) engine. These two engines have the same size, that is the same displacement, as all other Corvette engines. The difference is in cylinder heads.”
“We do have revised styling of the rear-end, which renders the luggage space somewhat more convenient. We also have an increase of leg room, which will contribute to the comfort of tall people.”
“Those of you who are familiar with the previous Corvette know that the car was continuously refined, and this process of refinement didn’t stop and continues to ’61. All this refinement are in the area of rendering the car more controllable, more responsive…maybe I can say best to ‘be as an extension of your body’ “
“All of the cars of such nature is designed for those who appreciate driving, who enjoy driving. I would say designed for elite of motoring world, cause the sound you heard can tell you just that much.”
“So if you are one of those who like and enjoy driving, you should – you owe it to yourself – to drive this car.” -Zora Arkus-Duntov, circa 1960