General Motors recruited engineer and race car driver, Zora Arkus Duntov, to help them inject some performance into their brands.
Duntov wanted to make the Corvette competitive with sports cars from Europe like Ferrari and Maserati. To gain respect it needed to win on the track. He organized a team to build the SS or "Experimental Corvette" and took it to Sebring.
Harley Earl - GM Designer Extraordinaire
Harley Earl, the larger than life, first head of styling for a major
automobile manufacturer gave the world the joy of excess in color, chrome
and steel. Recruited by GM in the late 20s to transform its drab autos and
make them stand out from the offerings of its competitors, Earl transformed
the industry and the American psyche.
He invented the annual model change over, the concept car and put swagger
and some Hollywood panache into a staid industry. While its hard to defend
his buoyant designs as fine art, he captured the imagination of millions
worldwide, especially in Post WWII America, who embraced the outlandish
vehicles as proof that there will be a big and better tomorrow. He knew
how to create and sell dreams. Which is what he learned from his neighbor,
C. B. DeMille.
Birth of the Mustang
Before the fabled pony car first hit the streets a team of Ford designers
and engineers was assembled to create a concept car to test the public's
interest in a sporty new car. One of the treats in the video is seeing
Phil Clark at work on the original Mustang logo. We also see Clark
hard at work shaping the clay on the buck and his sketches adorn the walls
of the studio. It's a tribute to an extremely gifted designer who died
when he was only 32 but left behind a legacy of automotive design and a
daughter, Holly, who's dedicated to making sure the world remembers her
father's contribution to the Mustang.
This Ford PR film captures the inside story of the team's efforts that put
the first Mustang on the
Aerovette -- Corvette Show Car
One of the most beautiful concept cars created by GM was the XP-822 later
called the Aerovette. It sprang from the minds of famed GM engineer and
race car driver Zora Arkus Duntov and his engineers who originally built
two predecessors during 1969. John DeLorean, Chevrolet's general manager,
felt the program was impractical and too expensive and canceled the car.
But when he heard Fords plans to sell the DeTomaso Pantera through
Lincoln-Mercury dealers, DeLorean ordered one XP-882 cleaned up for display
at the 1970 New York Auto Show. Its designer, Charles Jordan, would later
become the VP of design went to work on a new version for the 1973 Paris
This time an XP-882 chassis was powered by an experimental four-rotor
Wankel engine. The rotary engines looked promising but their poor fuel
economy didnt bode well with an impending oil crisis on the horizon. The
car would go through several more iterations before being put out to
Mako Shark Corvette Concept Car
The Mako Shark was GM VP of Design, Bill Mitchell's vision for the follow
up to the Corvette Stingray. Legend has it he was inspired by sharks he'd
caught in the Bahamas. The design cues for this car can be seen in
Corvettes that rolled out starting in 1968 model year.
Zora Arkus-Duntov's last public interview
He put the 'Z' in the Corvette Z06, he was a legend in the automotive
industry. See now his last public interview.
Because he and I are products of the College of Engineering at the
University of Texas, although at different times, Harold Bettes and I had a
common academic background and friendship. After a highly productive
stint at a little (at the time) fledgling company named MSD ignitions while
I was toiling at Edelbrock, he moved on to another evolving organization in
Colorado Springs, Colorado, named the Superflow Corporation.
It was here that he birthed the concept of annually bringing together a
hundred or more persons in global motorsports (engine builders, parts
manufacturers and related stakeholders) into an activity that grew much
larger over time, bearing the name Advanced Engine Technology Conferences
(AETCs), now sponsored by COMP Cams and a part of the Performance Racing
Industry (PRI) Show in Orlando, Florida. Harold also formed a Hall of
Fame segment in the AETC program. Each year, a single person was
identified as having made major career contributions to motorsports and
honored at the annual AETC banquet, culminating each year's conferences.
No, this column isn't about Harold, but that's the stage on which the
Read more at:
Mickey Thompson Breaks 400 MPH Speed Barrirer
Thompson's life in the fast lane provides ample material for the
filmmakers. From the drag strips, to desert racing to land speed record
challenges, to car building, designing and race promotion Thompson earned
his place as a certified automotive icon.
He started calling himself the Fastest American on Wheels in 1958 after
setting a record of 194 miles per hour. His goal was to break the world
record of 394.2 miles per hour set in 1947. He began to build a world land
speed record car -- the Challenger 1.
Thompson took his new car out to the Bonneville Salt Flats on October 6,
1959 and piloted it to a World Speed Record of 363.48 miles per hour. He
also set a world speed record in A/BFS Class that remained unbeaten
until1990 when Al Teague broke it at 389.372 miles per hour in his
In 1960, Thompson returned to the Bonneville Salt Flats with a modified
Challenger 1 for another record attempt. Its four 410 cubic-inch engines
secured his title when he set a new American record at 330.51 miles per
hour. He bested the world speed with a run at 407 miles per hour (which
was faster than any man had drive
a car before) but crashed before he could make a second run and thus secure
the official record.
The Challenger 1 had its last record run two year later on July 24, 1962.
The poor conditions of the salt flats halted the first attempt because he
couldnt get any traction as the car bounced on the salt bed. He found a
smoother part of the Flats for another run and turned in a speed of 357
mph. But he announced that the Challengers days on the Salt Flats were
Corvette at Le Mans
At a time when Grand Prix racing was occurring throughout Europe, Le Mans
was envisioned as a different test from motorsports at the time. Instead of
focusing on the ability of a car company to build the fastest machines of
the time, the 24 Hours of Le Mans would instead concentrate on the ability
of manufacturers to build sporty yet reliable cars. This would drive
innovation in not only reliable but also fuel-efficient vehicles, since the
nature of endurance racing requires as little time to be spent in the pits
At the same time, due to the design of Le Mans, a drive would be created
for better aerodynamics and stability of cars at high speeds. While this
was shared with Grand Prix racing, few tracks in Europe featured straights
the length of the Mulsanne. The fact that the road is public and therefore
not maintained to the same quality as some permanent racing circuits also
puts more of a strain on parts, causing more emphasis on reliability.
Corvette SS at Sebring Race Day 1957
The Chevrolet Corvette 'SS' is an experimental magnesium-bodied car and set
a new lap record at Sebring, Florida, in 1957. It has served as the
forerunner of many Corvette sports/racing models.
The Corvette SS raced for the first time at Sebring, where suspension
problems and other mechanical defects forced its retirement after only 23
laps. General Motors was enthusiastic about the potential of the SS based
on results from practice and lap speeds.
Juan Manuel Fangio, the winner at Sebring in 1957, was impressed enough
with the car to test the SS under practice conditions. The results was
astonishing: Fangio completed a full lap a full 3:27.4 seconds faster in a car he had never driven before
than other drivers could in cars they were experienced driving.
Chrysler Airflow at Bonneville
Chrysler wanted to demonstrate to the public that its new car, the Airlfow,
was fast and fuel efficient. They took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats for
some test/publicity runs.
Some say that despite their promotional efforts, the future arrived with a
thud when Chrysler introduced its line of Airflow coupes and sedans in
1934. The streamlined car, a product of the science of aerodynamics, had
long been predicted in works of science fiction but no manufacturer had,
heretofore, been bold enough to realize that Buck Rogersesque vision.
Chrysler's engineering triumvirate Carl Breer, Owen Skelton and Fred Zeder
scientifically tackled the aerodynamic challenge and got Walter P. Chrysler
to authorize design testing in a wind tunnel, overseen by no less an
authority than Orville Wright.
The result was more than just a slippery envelope of a body, a radical
departure from virtually all that had gone before. The design of the '34
Chrysler (and DeSoto) Airflow took some getting used to and, sadly, the car
buying public just didn't "get" the snubby deco look, a true "cab forward"
design dictated by the wind. The look was underpinned by a new kind of
construction - the body panels were mounted on a steel cage, not unlike
Saturn's, which was structurally connected to the frame creating a single
stress-bearing unit, the precursor to unit body construction. Airflow body
and frames were wood-free, another departure from tradition.
As it became apparent that the public wasn't as enthused as the engineers
and the media -- Walter P. Chrysler shared the cover of Time Magazine with
his Airflow -- the company scrambled to tone down the radical styling,
losing the deco waterfall grill a/k/a "bull nose" by the second year and
modifying design elements to hark back to more traditional,
Owning an Airflow today is tantamount to having a piece of history to
yourself. The significance of this design, even though it was a commercial
disaster has reverberated through the decades and into another century.
In just about every way, figurative and literal, Chrysler's Airflow was
ahead of the curve and remains a true automotive icon for the ages.
Hemi Under Glass Last Ride
After 39 years at the wheel of one of the most famous and unusual cars in
drag racing, the Hemi Under Glass, Bob Riggle decided to hang it up.
We were there to capture the last runs of this iconic car and the driver
who thrilled crowds at drag strips all over the country.