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Building The Great Hall

Bloomington Gold Announces More Great Hall Inductees

Andy Bolig - April 29, 2013 10:20 AM

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Zora Duntov (Corvette Engineer)

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1961 Gulf Racer (SCCA National Champion)

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We will tell the stories that document why they were the Pioneers.

The Great Hall is conceived to run for five years:  2010 - 2014.  Each year, 10 people and 10 cars will be inducted into The Great Hall.

Each year, the committee will select that year's inductees. At the end of the fifth year, the conclusion of our efforts will result in something that has been missing from our sport - recognition of our Pioneers. The Great Hall will document the 50 most influential people and organizations and the 50 most influential and historic Corvettes that shaped the Corvette Sport as we know it today.  The people and Corvettes featured may/may not be related. We are featuring the people and their efforts, not what they may own. We will feature the car and not who currently owns it. We will tell the stories that document why they were the Pioneers.

Zora Arkus-Duntov (Corvette Engineer)

Although Bill Mitchell designed breathtaking cars like the iconic 1963-67 Corvettes, Zora Duntov made an even more powerful impact on the Corvette brand. Without Duntov’s personal mission to turn the lumbering early Corvettes into true sports cars with high performance engines, there would simply be no Corvettes, Corvette businesses, or Great Halls.  The Corvette would be a tiny footnote in a dusty library book.  Without the brand personality of both style and performance, the Corvette would not have survived.  It almost didn’t anyway.

The Russian-born engineer had a one track mind focused on making things go fast—the one thing that the early Corvettes couldn’t do.  A 1953 Cadillac was just as quick as the Corvette in zero-to-sixty acceleration. Young Duntov hatched a plan to whip this dog into shape.  Focused on engines and chassis design, Duntov stair-stepped the development of both; often times out of sight of upper management’s eye. Impossible today, but Duntov often finagled his own goals above and beyond management’s. 

One way or another, Duntov was somewhere in the equation when it involved performance improvements for racing and street Corvettes. ’57 Fuelies.  327s. Grand Sports and later the ZL1. Without Zora Duntov’s obsession with making Corvettes go faster and handle better, the brand personality of Corvette would have been something different than it is today. Although Duntov retired in 1974, his persona still exists today in the C7 Corvette.


1961 Gulf Racer (SCCA National Champion)
Owner: Dana Mecum

I.G. (Grady) Davis was not only the executive VP of research for Gulf Oil in 1961, but also was interested in testing lubricants in real-life situations.  Specifically, in Corvette race cars. 

Davis and Gulf Oil were the ideal combination to fuel serious Corvette track performances as well as generate excitement among Corvette fans.  Davis and the Gulf racers pioneered Corvette’s technological advancements and publicity. For example, Davis and Gulf also requested the development of knock off wheels introduced on production Sting Rays in 1963 and provided the funding and driving talent to be the first to campaign the newly minted Grand Sports. 

Everything contributed to the brand image of “fast and cool”. Gulf’s sponsorship allowed Chevrolet to remain somewhat innocent of promoting racing in the eyes of GM upper management who wanted nothing to do with the connection.  Duntov and the boys whispered, “Let Gulf Oil do it.”  And Gulf was more than willing to oblige.

This particular Gulf racer #5391 was one of three ordered in 1961 by Grady Davis through Yenko Chevrolet.  Driven first by Don Yenko, it finished the season driven by Great Hall inductee, Dr. Dick Thompson and won the 1961 SCCA National Championship. Not long after its fame, it was sold, painted red, and disappeared into the haystack of thousands of other Corvettes. Found and restored years later, it retains its original invoice and VIN. This makes #5391 the first formally sponsored Corvette champion.


Don't miss The Great Hall Event at the Bloomington Gold Show!

For Your Information:
2013 Bloomington Gold Show
June 28 - 30
The University of Illinois
Assembly Hall Grounds
Champaign, IL
Induction Ceremony: Friday, June 28th at 4:00p.m.

 


 

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