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1953-19621963-19671968-19821984-19961997-2004Corvette Concept CarsProduction Statistics

1957 Corvette SS (Super Sport)

  • The 1957 Corvette SS, an engineering test mule chassis for the creation of an official Chevrolet race effort culminating with the 24 Hours of LeMans. Soon after its race debut, the Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) banned manufacturer-sponsored racing, and the SS had been relegated to test track duty.

The Corvette SS began life as an experimental race car, and was unveiled to the public at the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race on March 23, 1957. The SS was in training for Chevrolet's debut at LeMans that year. The Sebring race was, in many ways, Chevrolet's inauguration into modern racing. But the SS never finished the race, much to the dismay of the racing community. Soon after Sebring, the (AMA) Automobile Manufacturer's Association banned manufacturer-sponsored racing, and the SS was relegated to test track duty. Custom-built by the Chevrolet Engineering Center under the direction of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the SS featured a lightweight magnesium alloy body, and a tubular frame in place of Corvette's box-rail frame. Also included were a four-speed manual transmission, independent front and four-link rear suspension, the extensive use of aluminum, and a 283 cubic-inch fuel-injected V8 with 300-plus horsepower. The SS was extremely light, having a dry weight of 1,850 lbs. (approx. 950 lbs. less than the 1957 production Corvette). An SS chassis was restyled in 1959 by Bill Mitchell, then GM Vice President in charge of Styling, who turned it into the Stingray Racer. Years later, the Corvette SS name resurfaced on an engineering prototype built in 1990 the Corvette ZR-1 SS. Now housed in the National Corvette Museum, the '90s version of the SS was developed by Chevrolet engineering to test alternative lightweight materials such as magnesium, and their effects on performance. It featured a Dual-Overhead Cam version of the 5.7-liter V8, and produced 425 horsepower and 400 lbs.-ft. torque. At 2,750 lbs. (715 less than a 1990 production ZR-1), the ZR-1 SS maintained the tradition of light weight and high performance.

Zora Arkus-Duntov aspired to take the Corvette SS to Le Mans in 1957; his dream was fulfilled by Corvette Racing decades later

Zora Arkus-Duntov

Zora Arkus-Duntov (December 1909 April 1996) was a Belgian-born American engineer. His work on the Chevrolet Corvette earned him the nickname "Father of the Corvette. Zora joined General Motors in 1953 after seeing the Motorama Corvette on display in New York. Zora found the car to be visually superb, but was disappointed with what was underneath. He wrote Chevrolet chief engineer Ed Cole that it would be his complement to work on such a beautiful car, he also included a technical paper which proposed an analytical method of determining a car's top speed. Chevrolet was so impressed that engineer Maurice Olley invited him to come to Detroit. On May 1, 1953, Zora Arkus-Duntov started at Chevrolet as an assistant staff engineer. Shortly after going to work for Chevrolet, Zora set the tone for what he was about to accomplish in a memo to his bosses. The document, entitled, "Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders and Chevrolet", laid the foundation for the strategy that Chevrolet used to create the successful performance parts programs.

Zora became director of high performance at Chevrolet and helped to transform the Corvette from a docile roadster into a formidable sports car that challenged Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, and Mercedes-Benz. After helping to introduce the small-block V8 engine to the Corvette in 1955, providing the car with the much needed power, he set about showcasing the engine by ascending Pikes Peak in 1956 in a pre-production prototype Chevy, setting a stock car record. Not satisfied, he took a Corvette to Daytona Beach the same year and hit a record setting 150 mph over the flying mile. In his spare time, the brilliant and vocal GM driver/engineer also developed the famous Duntov high-lift camshaft and helped bring fuel injection to the Corvette in 1957.

In 1963, Zora launched the Grand Sport program. The idea was to create a special lightweight Corvette weighing only 1,800 pounds and race it on an international circuit against not only Cobras and other GT-Class cars, but also racing only prototypes from Ferrari, Ford and Porsche. Power for the Grand Sport was to come from an aluminum version of the small block V8, equipped with special twin spark plug cylinder heads. At 377ci, output was a projected 550 hp at 6,400 rpm. But as it had so often, GM policy prohibited Zora from going racing, but not before five Grand Sports were built. The five Grand Sports eventually fell into the hands of private owners, and Zora was able to support them in spite of the official ban. Zora retired in 1975

The science of aerodynamics has progressed since the days when GM engineers conducted airflow tests with tufts of yarn taped to Zora Arkus-Duntov's 1957 Corvette SS.

also see; 1959 Corvette Stingray Concept Racer

1953-19621963-19671968-19821984-19961997-2004Corvette Concept CarsProduction Statistics

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