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Iconic Cars 5-Book Bundle: Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, Porsche, BMW M Series

Iconic Cars 5-Book Bundle: Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, Porsche, BMW M Series

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Iconic Cars 5-Book Bundle: Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, Porsche, BMW M Series

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Oct 27, 2015


These 5 volumes collect decades of expert coverage from Car and Driver and Road & Track to explore some of the world’s finest automobiles.
Car and Driver has tested nearly every version of the Chevrolet Corvette. Here, they compile and curate more than 50 years of articles, reviews, and news about this classic sports car from the first ’Vettes of the 1950s to the new Corvette Stingray.
Car and Driver has chronicled this high-end German brand from its first commercial automobile, the 356 Roadster, to its modern lineup of supercars, super sedans, and even super SUVs. This volume presents its most informative and entertaining articles from 1975 to today.
With more than 30 years of Camaro articles and reviews from the experts at Road & Track, this volume covers the launch, the racers, the duds, and, of course, the Camaro’s triumphant return. You’ll find road tests, reviews, and comparisons, along with interviews with the folks behind the scenes and columns from Matt DeLorenzo and Peter Egan.
The original pony car, the Ford Mustang is a beloved American icon. Culled from 50 years of Road & Track coverage, this volume presents road tests, reviews and articles on everything from Ford’s game-changing win at Le Mans in 1966 to the dark years of the Mustang II.
BMW M Series
This eBook collects Road & Track’s coverage of the acclaimed BMW M Series from 1985 to 2014, including features, reviews, comparison tests, and interviews on everything from the M3 and M5 to the short-lived M1 supercar, and even today’s M-badged SUVs.
Lançado em:
Oct 27, 2015

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Iconic Cars 5-Book Bundle - Road & Track


Iconic Cars


New York 2015

Car and Driver Iconic Cars: Corvette

Copyright © 2015 by Hearst Magazines

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Electronic edition published 2015 by RosettaBooks

Cover photo by Marc Urbano

Edited by Austin Irwin

ISBN (EPUB): 9780795347436

ISBN (Kindle): 9780795347443



1. Corvette SS (August 1957)

2. The Corvette Test (June 1971)

3. America’s Best Sports Car: Bricklin or Corvette? (May 1975)

4. The Lost Corvettes (May 1975)

5. Northwest Passage (February 1976)

6. Northwest Passage Part II (March 1976)

7. Building the Yukon Corvette (March 1976)

8. Duntov Turbo Corvette (November 1980)

9. The Marque of Zora (June 1989)

10. Chevrolet Corvette (December 1991)

11. Happy Birthday to Us (June 1996)

12. Corvette vs. Corvette (February 1997)

13. The Road to Remorses, The Road to Divorces (November 2012)

14. Weapons Grade (September 2013)

More Books

Corvette SS

SCI Technical Report



from the June 1957 Issue of Car and Driver (SPORTS CARS ILLUSTRATED)

Remember the fable of Tantalus? This unfortunate gent was doomed to stand in the midst of a sea with clear, cool water right up to his neck and boughs laden with succulent fruits hovering over his head. When he bent down to drink the sea rushed temptingly away, and the boughs always swung just beyond his reach. This sounds like a rough life, but it’s Paradise compared to what GM’s been doing to you and me—and to everybody that feels that American cars should be well represented in international racing.

Take a look at the machine laid out on the center spread. It’s not a four-alarm advance over all existing equipment, but it is basically a good car. Given more than half a chance and some intensive track testing it could compete on level terms with the world’s best—Sebring practice proved that. In view of this highly publicized fact it must have been extremely disappointing to many to hear that it wasn’t to go to Le Mans. Perhaps most disappointing to knowledgeable Europeans who felt that Sebring was just a trial outing and expected a full team and all-out effort for the 24-Hours. We won’t try to estimate the effect a no-show could have on American prestige abroad.

Of course, we can now sit back and see what it was actually all about. We can see that the men who built the Corvette SS were intensely sincere about the job, both as it was specifically outlined to them and as they hoped it might develop. The fine detail design and clean fabrication tell us this, as does their desire to see it compete seriously abroad. We can also see that the management of GM and Chevrolet had only one thing in mind all the time: to bask in all the publicity and excitement that they knew such a sensational Sebring entry would shine down upon them, and then to forget about it except possibly for some minor events in this country. Also, naturally, to show the world that GM could really clean up if they wanted to.

They warned us that this was all. When the SS was announced Chevy General Manager Ed Cole "emphasized that it is a research project to study advanced engineering characteristics in the field of performance, handling, braking and other safety features. The word we italicized is Chevy’s loophole in case another Congressional committee shouts Speedmonger! This was all they did and do intend, but they led many people on for too long, even poor Zora Duntov, who will probably take some of the public blame for the defection. Even Briggs Cunningham, who was scheduled to run the SS at Le Mans, wasn’t told no" until a month and a half after Sebring. And mostly they led on the rest of us who’d like to see these cars go out and DO something.

How did the car get built in the first place? A couple of top-level minds happened to click and the whole thing was shoved through as a triple-priority crash program with Sebring as a definite deadline. Now there’s no more deadline—no place to go. The next may be the SCCA Nationals, or perhaps Bonneville. Money is available, but authorization to use it is being withheld until Chevrolet does better in this little sales tussle with Ford. Some may say that race wins by the SS would boost Chevy sales, but we don’t think so. Production Corvettes might get a little more play but hardly enough to pay for the racing operation.

No, GM had every justification for handling the SS this way. We can only wish that there had been less pomp and a little more circumstance at Sebring, if that remains the only major appearance of the SS. We can also hope that the work of Duntov and his crew will be invested in future production Corvettes, since the present four-year-old chassis may be pushed hard by the new Mercedes 300SL Roadster and the Jaguar XK150. In any case the SS gives us a window through which we can see what Chevy Engineering has up its sleeve.

With only five months to design a raceable car, the SS project was definitely a rush job for GM. As a result, Duntov had to rely heavily on components which had been thoroughly tested before, and could only lighten them if possible and fit a new framework around them. Fortunately a lot of miscellaneous information had been compiled from experimentation and racing with stock Corvettes and the special SR2 versions.

For one thing, they knew pretty well what the 283-inch V8 could and could not do. When the displacement was boosted from 265 there were some misgivings about the crankshaft, but undercutting the fillet radius at the journals has kept this glued together at 7000 and up. A weak point did show up at the wrist pin bosses in the piston, which distorted at high revs—notably in the badly overrevved SR2 at Nassau—and came apart. A little more meat around the boss cured that. Development on the SR2 for Daytona also led to the 40-inch tuned exhaust length that was incorporated in the SS. Racing during the winter helped to shake down the Rochester fuel injection system and determine its limitations.

Pressure of SCCA Production racing had forced the development of a four-speed gearbox, which with the use of an aluminum alloy case was just right for the SS. The iron case box, by the way, was available as of May first for $189 extra, or about the markup asked for the automatic transmission. Sounds encouraging.

The rush program for Sebring in 1956 turned up the sintered metallic and ceramic brake lining that’s been used on most racing Corvettes with considerable success. They’re fine if you don’t mind replacing the drums fairly frequently and warming up the brakes before using them hard. A type of drum finning was also devised that appeared to give good results.

With these for a start Duntov had to build a light, compact car with handling of a very high order. Since time was short the 300SL frame was elected as a good pattern to follow, and the placement of the main SS chassis tubes resembles the SL very closely—NOT the D-Type Jaguar, as the rumors have run for so long. When the major members were set smaller tubes could be added for the particular requirements of this engine and suspension and to add stiffness where stress tests showed it to be needed. Big cross tubes connect the abutments for the front and rear coil springs, the rear mounts being nicely curved and drilled towers. Where parts like the brake servo cylinders are attached the frame tubes are square, to ease mounting, but otherwise they’re round and about an inch in diameter. Particularly reminiscent of the Mercedes are the pyramided tubes at the cowl and the truss structure under the doors.

Front suspension resembles that of Chevy passenger cars in that the non-parallel wishbones are welded up of steel pressings, but the whole assembly is scaled down. Ball joints are fitted at the outer ends, and the wishbone frame pivots are rubber bushed. With more time metal-to-metal bushings might be installed for more precise control. A small-diameter anti-roll bar crosses the chassis under the suspension and is connected to the bottom wishbones by short links.

Nobody interested in fast cars will be shaken by de Dion rear suspension, but it is a novelty for Detroit machinery (except for notable show cars like the Le Sabre, Firebird I, the La Salles and Pontiac’s Club de Mer, only two of which ran). Though the rear end looks confused, the curved one-piece de Dion tube is fabricated and located very neatly indeed. There are four tubular trailing arms, two of which are rubber-bushed to the frame just forward of each rear wheel. The upper arms angle slightly outward and are ball-jointed to the tops of the hubs. The lower arms however converge to the center of the axle tube and are fixed to the underside of the tube by ball joints at that point. A rigid yet light three-point location resulted, the frame mounting of differential and brakes relieving the tube and arms of drive and braking torque reactions.

The arrangement of the bottom trailing arms was one of the few brand-new features of the SS, but it’s worth remembering that this was the source of one of the failures that retired the car at Sebring. Rubber bushings are suspect in a suspension anyway, if very good steering is the goal, and one of them here did shift and destroy the alignment. Since this didn’t show up on the much-flogged Mule it could well have been a material fault.

Springing at all four corners is by coil shock units. The long small-diameter coils are carried in cups attached to the body of the tubular shock and its piston rod, giving a quickly demountable unit with a built-in bump stop. Rebound is limited by fabric straps. At first there was an additional housing around the coil, but this was tossed out to cut weight and allow quick access.

Probably the highlight of engine development on the SS was the use of aluminum cylinder heads for the basically stock 283-inch engine. These heads are very similar in design to the stock part, with only a slight repositioning of the intake ports to take advantage of some Weslake gas flow theories. They are definitely designed and run without valve seat inserts. Using the stock valve spring pressure of 210 pounds open and the slightly tuliped valves of the SS, pounding-in of the seats was very slightly more than normal, but not enough to cause any concern at all. If this technique can be reproduced, it could open up a brand new field in special heads for OHV engines. Only major structural change to accommodate the heads is the use of necked-down studs to compensate for the greater expansion of aluminum.

At Sebring it seems that cooling troubles could be blamed on poor head gasket sealing, but it now looks like a subcontractor was to blame. Construction of the remote-mounted radiator header tank was farmed out, and a flow-control baffle was so misplaced that it cut off two thirds of the planned circulation. The tanks were peeled open and the baffles put in right. After that the ducted aluminum radiator performed as expected, as did the oil cooler incorporated in its base.

To the left of the radiator a Fiberglass duct scooped cool air into the Rochester injector machinery. The big air metering valve was faced forward instead of sideways to simplify the ducts and throttle control as much as possible. This injector requires a small air bleed to each nozzle for vaporization and idling, which is usually supplied by small pipes from the air cleaner. In this case there’s a tiny individual filter for each adjacent pair of nozzles.

Forty inch tuned exhaust headers arch high over frame tubes, then down and aft. Rear ones got the cockpit too hot so they’ll be moved forward.

More important, nozzles for Chevrolet injection are now being built by the Diesel Equipment Division of GM, and are improved in two ways. First, the all-important nozzle size is determined by a thin calibrated disc instead of a lengthy sized hole, giving benefits in accuracy of distribution (which is still not so good with this system as it might be). Nozzle jet size is now .0135 inch instead of .0110. Second, each nozzle now incorporates a filter screen in addition to that at the pump. This has just about eliminated the chance of stoppage. We weren’t alone in wondering about the flex cable drive to the injection pump, (SCI June 1957) but this has been reliable except when the pump begins to jam, in which case the drive goes out before major damage is done.

The clutch and four-speed box are regular Corvette units, with the exception of the alloy housings that we mentioned, and the drive shaft is open with two universals. A late-model Halibrand center section houses a straddle-mounted pinion, helical quick-change gears and a Chev Positraction differential. Torque goes from here to the wheels through open axles with Hooke-type universals and sliding splined joints.

Since the differential is hung solidly from the spring support cross tube, it’s tempting to mount the brakes inboard too and reduce unsprung weight. Duntov succumbed to this, as have many other designers, but Aston-Martin gave up this layout in 1953 for the good reason that heat from the brakes gets the differential hot, and vice-versa. It’s not surprising that the same trouble is cropping up with the SS, but it can probably be licked by much better air venting down there. Additional scoops at the front end duct cooling air down into funnels attached to the backing plates.

As we’ve mentioned it was expedient to use two-leading-shoe Chrysler Center-Plane mechanisms to get brakes of the proper size and type in a hurry. GM devised their own drum design, though, which has also turned up on another Corporation product. The drums have a cast iron face and working internal surface, plus an aluminum finned muff which is locked mechanically to the outside of the working surface. 120 small holes are punched through the periphery of each drum, and when aluminum is cast around this it fills the holes and becomes a mechanical part of the cast iron. You can see also that the resulting internal drum surface will be dotted with little aluminum spots which can carry heat right out to the fins without passing through the iron at all! It’s simple—almost crude—but it seems to work. Biggest danger is possible heat spotting from insufficient drum stiffness and uneven expansion.

These drums are 12 inches in diameter and 2-1/2 inches wide. It was just recently announced that the Buick 75 for 1957 will be equipped with aluminum-finned drums of exactly this construction on the front wheels only, which have just the same drum dimensions. There’s no reason to believe that it isn’t the same part. So, if you’d like SS Corvette brake drums for your Chrysler, DeSoto or ‘56 D500, go bang on the door of your Buick dealer!

Also interesting is the front/rear brake proportioning device used on all the Sebring Corvettes. This depends on two vacuum servo cylinders, mounted in the rear with the lightweight battery for convenience. The simple cowl-mounted master cylinder has a direct hydraulic connection to the right-hand servo cylinder, which in turn power-brakes the two front wheels directly. This requires two chassis-length hydraulic lines which are coil-wrapped for protection. In any case, then, the front wheel braking will always be proportional to pedal pressure, and will still be there if the vacuum fails.

Now, the hydraulic output of the left-hand servo cylinder is piped straight to the rear brakes, but the vacuum section is so linked to that for the front wheels that the two operate sympathetically. In other words, front brake force is directly controlled by the pedal, and rear braking is proportional to that at the front due to an air link between the respective vacuum cylinders. The basic front/rear proportion for the SS was set at 70/30.

Okay so far. The air pipe that connects the two vacuum cylinders can be sealed off by actuating an electric valve—undoubtedly a solenoid—which leaves the cylinder for the rear wheels completely isolated in whatever position it was when the valve closed. The electrical impulse is released by a mercury switch, mounted in the cockpit where it’s handy. This switch is angled forward so that the mercury will slide up toward the end a given distance for a given quantity of car deceleration. When the mercury hits the end, in a stop of a preset negative g, the solenoid is closed and rear braking force stays just as it was then—it can’t increase; it doesn’t go down. Front wheel force can then continue to rise in proportion to pedal pressure, but it’s absolutely impossible to lock up the rear wheels no matter how hard you try! They’re isolated from the circuit until the mercury switch and the valve open up again. With that mercury switch at just the right angle, braking at all four wheels can be fully used much more often than at present, when ultimate deceleration is limited by rear wheel locking. The switch angle could also be changed during a race to compensate for wet roads or different surfaces, or changing fuel loads. We’ve ridden in a car equipped with this rig, and think it’s very promising.

Styling department gave Corvette interior a typical dream car look. Exhaust heat, cleverly channeled into driver’s compartment, made cockpit unbearable.

If it gives more devices like these a tryout, the SS Corvette will be well justified as a rolling test-bed. Testing at Sebring before, during and after the race turned up a few basic faults in the SS’s layout that are now being reworked. One, of course, was the extreme heat in the driver’s compartment. To relieve this the front and rear pipes in the exhaust manifolds are being brought closer to the center pair, to pull the rear pipe away from the firewall. The pipes also curve more quickly to the outside of the magnesium body.

This manifolding, by the way, gave a big boost in power. The compression ratio on a competition version of the Chev V-8 had to be taken to 11/1 to get 310 horses, while the SS delivers the same amount on a 9/1 ratio with this exhaust.

On the bright side, there now exist three SS tube frames in addition to the Mule and the race car—a total of five possible machines. There are still a lot of guys at Chevrolet that believe in the SS and what it can do, and there’s always a chance that Chevys will sell better in ‘58! Let’s hope so, because this one is too good to be sent to the showers so early in the game.

The Corvette Test

C/D and Zora Arkus-Duntov compare the full range of Corvettes.



from the June 1971 Issue of Car and Driver

Steering gets plenty quick at 140 mph. And the suspension, which felt like flint on Sunset Strip, is supple, almost loose. In this high-velocity never-neverland all your senses need reorientation: A road that looks mirror flat pitches you violently up and down; the air makes tortured noises you hear right through the glass as it scrapes over the top of the windshield; an unseen force slowly twists and tortures the outside mirror until it surrenders and ends up pointing skyward.

Keeping the car, and yourself, on the straight and narrow is so much a hairtrigger operation that it takes your logical conscience about three miles to break through your concentration—you haven’t got time to carry on a mental debate about the morality of what you are doing. But when that logical, practical conscience does break through, it is not amused. Bad enough to spend a day driving to Nevada, but to tempt the worst kind of destruction by running a 454 Corvette right up to the redline in top gear and hold it there is damn near unAmerican. There is no defense. No rational excuse for driving along at double the posted speed limits in any other state.

Rationale be damned; plead temporary enthusiasm and get it over with. And get back to the beauty of it. Because that’s what happens. It happens to anybody who spends a few days with Zora Arkus-Duntov testing Corvettes of every engine description that Chevrolet makes in 1971: running them on the drag strip, around the skid pad and through a makeshift road course. And all the time talking to Duntov about it, about what he did to the suspension and the tires and the aerodynamics so that the Corvette is the only car built in America that can run 140 mph no sweat and the driver doesn’t have to worry about becoming history.

Later, when the driving is finished for the day, there is dinner and maybe a few drinks and more talk—talk about what it was like back when the Delahayes and the Talbots were trying to knock off the Mercedes and Auto Union juggernauts on the Grand Prix circuit; about how Duntov got the idea for the Ardun cylinderhead conversion while driving his flat-head Ford wide open across France one day before the war; about what it was like to work with Sydney Allard and drive an Allard at Le Mans and lose, then to switch to Porsche and win the class the next two years in a row.

But whether it is between courses at dinner or while the condensation was running down a Martini glass, Corvettes are never far below the surface. Little by little glimpses of automotive history would come out—things that put today, and the 1971 Corvette, into perspective: That he had worked with a brilliant engineer named John Dolza on the Rochester fuel-injection and the system is fundamentally sound today except that cubic inches are a cheaper way to horsepower; that the Duntov cam was an emergency horsepower device he developed when Chevrolet wanted to crack 150 mph on Daytona Beach in 1956; the contempt Duntov feels for the body shape of the 1963-1967 Stingray because it had just enough lift to be a bad airplane.

There are discussions of current technology and sketches on napkins; penciled-in arrows show that air doesn’t enter the radiator of the current Corvette through the grille—it is blocked off by the license plates and the head light shields—instead air is shoveled up by a spoiler below and behind the grille and enters the bodywork through two slots you can’t even see unless you lie down in front of the car.

There is an answer for every question and a reason for every one of the Corvette’s characteristics. Duntov will talk of the battles and compromises that have been thrashed out between him and the stylists, product planners, and memo writers but he is adamant about one feature—throughout production he has stood firmly against those who would have reduced the Corvette’s stability at high speed.

That is why tires are designed specifically for the Corvette—N44 nylon cord—good for sustained 140 mph driving and they are used on no other American car. Duntov knows it is against the law to travel at that speed in every state but one and he doesn’t care. If any Corvette driver, for whatever reason, should have occasion to drive at 140 mph the capability to do so safely should be built into the car. It’s built into the suspension; the Corvette has more suspension travel than any other car manufactured in this country. If Duntov and the engineers desired, this travel would allow them to make a soft ride—softer than any of the performance cars—but then the Corvette would be likely to bottom out at high speed and it would be unstable. So the ride stays hard even if there is excessive travel by Detroit standards; that’s the price you pay for 140-mph capability.

The same design priority comes out again and again in discussions of brakes, steering, aerodynamics—the concern for the Corvette driver who may some day run his pinched-waist two-seater up to the redline and hold it there. Traditionally, top speed is something that only European car builders worry about. But when Duntov speaks, and you break your concentration on what he is saying long enough to notice how he says it, you know that he is closer to them than us. Although born in Belgium, he is a Russian, and all of the years after he left Russia—studying engineering in Germany, occupying his spare time with racing motorcycles and cars; the years in Belgium and France working on race cars and the highest output engines of the day (often supercharged)—have had as profound an effect on his automotive philosophy as on his accent. And his accent is a hardened alloy of old world structures and formations that 30 years in the United States seem not to have scratched.

So you focus on the way he says his words, a way that is his alone, and you feel the intensity of his commitment to the Corvette and to engineering it to a level of performance surpassing all of the volume production cars in the world. Then, almost without noticing the transition, you find yourself in Nevada with the tachometer just a needle-width away from the red zone. The speedometer reads over 140 mph and you know that everything is all right, if it can ever be all right in any car, at that speed, because Zora Arkus-Duntov would settle for nothing less.

Obviously this is no ordinary road test. But then how could it be when it’s about a man so rare and complex as Duntov and about cars so Detroit-yet-European as the Corvette. At this point it would be the worst kind of irresponsible journalism to say that Duntov is personally responsible for every nut, bolt and forging in the Corvette—dozens of Chevrolet engineers work on it. Still, over the years, it has been his vision of what a high-performance sports car should be that has transformed the descendants of the bulbous, indifferent 1953 Corvette into a two-place touring machine that can be successfully raced in the international GT category. So when you can have him—Chevrolet Chief Engineer-Corvette—present at the test to drive and explain why the 1971 Corvette behaves the way it does, the results have to be more meaningful.

The project was simple at the start. Every year for the last five years C/D readers have voted the Corvette as Best All-Around Car in the world, bar none. Any car with that strong a rating deserves an in-depth review. That means all of the Corvettes, one with each engine. And a little patience, for unless you plan months in advance, having the whole cast show up in one place on one day is impossible. We settled for two on one day and three a few weeks later—the LT1 being in the line-up twice—and were fortunate in having Dun-tov present for both sessions.

The test cars were all coupes as is the majority (62%) of the production run. While having at least one convertible in the test would have allowed an examination of that model, it would have also added an undesirable variable. The different sound qualities of the two body styles and the different car weights would have certainly clouded the clear picture we now have of the various engines.

This is not to say that to have a valid test all participating cars should be equipped alike except for the engine. On the contrary, the Corvette has great latitude—it can be optioned as a luxury tourer or as a high-performance sports car—but the difference should hinge on the choice of engine. So we’ve divided the test cars into those two categories. Both touring cars have the low-compression, hydraulic-lifter engines and the relaxed nature of the powerplants is complemented by automatic transmissions and air conditioners. The performance models are equally distinct in their roles; higher-compression, mechanical lifter engines with close-ratio 4-speed transmissions, and to keep the weight down, no air conditioning. All of the cars have Chevrolet’s standard axle ratio for the engine/transmission combination.

Clearly, the 350 cu.in. 270-hp Corvette engine does not fall in the performance category. It is the lowest output 4-bbl. V-8 Chevrolet builds (available as an option in every model except the Vega) and it specializes in painless performance. It is quiet and completely without vice. Those who want to be comfortable and avoid the mechanical hassle but still go fast should opt for the LS5, the 365-hp 454. It’s every bit as relaxed as the base engine but an ox for strength, able to turn an air conditioner compressor and quick quarter miles at the same time. Just don’t forget the gas money.

But those powerplants are of little interest to the Corvette purist, the man who remembers the soul and vitality of the high-winding fuel-injected 283 when it was the only street engine in the country that put out one horsepower per cubic inch. Today’s equivalent is the LT1—a solid-lifter 350 rated at 330-hp. The compression ratio has been dropped to 9.0-to-one this year, a giant step down from the 11.25 that some of the small-block Corvettes have had in the past, but it hasn’t lost the vibrant, high-strung personality that made it famous. It’s eager and it talks to you. Today it is probably even better known as the Z28, which is what it is called when ordered in the Camaro. Corvette engineers originated the idea so Duntov winces when you say the two engines are the same, but they are. Somehow, though, it seems less subdued in the Corvette, perhaps because of the fiber glass body which acts as less of a barrier to sound than the steel of the Camaro. In the LT1 you’re always aware of the clatter from the solid lifters and the exhaust pipes radiate sound right up through the floor. It’s a frustrated racer, a fact it nevers lets you forget.

If you want the fastest Corvette, however, there is no confusion. Order the LS6—the 425-hp 454. It’s like the LT1 only bigger. The LS6 is available in other Chevrolets, certainly in the Chevelle, but not with exactly the same equipment that makes up the Corvette package. It’s a premium quality engine from the very core—double-shot-peened connecting rods, tuftrided crank, forged pistons—and you pay for it: $1220.70 as an option. But no corners have been cut. The price includes transistorized ignition, a double disc clutch (which not only has lower pedal effort and shorter travel but also enough torque capacity for long life even with a 3.08 axle ratio), and aluminum heads (which save 55 lbs.). It’s Duntov’s favorite engine and he’s tortured because few customers can afford it.

Maybe for street engine I make mistake—aluminum heads are expensive and that weight doesn’t matter on the street. But he’s not going to compromise the performance just to take money out. And he has harsh words for the bean counters who occasionally eliminate a worthwhile option or feature. The L46 for example. Until this year you could buy a 350 cu.in. 350-hp engine with a hydraulic camshaft that had very nearly the performance of the LT1 but was also compatible with air conditioning. And you could buy it for about $150 compared to $483 for the LT1. Redundant, decided the bean counters and axed it off the list. Duntov thinks otherwise.

Zora Arkus-Duntov’s goal is to provide Corvette drivers with the equipment they need—as opposed to what they think they need—in a high performance road car.

As for the engines that have survived, they have clearly suffered, not from the bean counters but at the hands of the emission control engineers. Dropping the compression ratio has pruned about 5% off the horsepower curves of all the Corvette engines and it shows up on the drag strip. The LS6 is fast, make no mistake—13.8 seconds at 104.65 mph for the quarter—but the three 2-bbl. 435-hp 427 tested two years ago (September ‘69) turned 106.8 mph. Axle ratios enter in here. While the 427 had a 3.70, the LS6 was hobbled with a 3.36 which not only means that you just hit third gear before the speed traps but makes getting a clean start more difficult.

The LS6 will definitely produce better times with a higher numerical axle ratio. And with a freer exhaust system. According to Duntov, 50 horsepower is lost in the mufflers. That, however, is life. You have to have mufflers on the street. California laws say they have to be quiet ones and the LS6’s are—stifled even. The pulses are still distinct—when each cylinder is pumping out over 50 horsepower they couldn’t be otherwise—but they’re muted. Giants in padded cells. (Chevrolet used to offer a chambered-pipe outside exhaust system that cost about 10 fewer horsepower than the mufflers but that’s too loud now. . . .)

As you would expect, the personalities of the LS5 and the LT1 are worlds apart. In performance however, they are neck and neck. With the 454 automatic, just stand on it and go. Even though it is 305 lbs. heavier than the LT1, it reaches the end of the quarter about 0.3 seconds sooner. Like the LS6, the LT1 is very difficult to launch properly—the close-ratio gear box is not really suitable for standing start acceleration—so that even though the smaller engine Corvette is traveling faster at the end, it takes longer to get there. Naturally, the 270-hp model takes the longest of all to get there—15.55 seconds at 90.36 mph—and with its power-robbing options, it should be the slowest possible Corvette.

All of the Corvettes would be quicker if a cold air induction system were available. The discontinued L88 had one—a backwards facing hood scoop—but it also let a lot of engine noise seep out which California didn’t like—and it was in conflict with the emission control hardware—so it was killed. (Duntov wouldn’t admit to any plans to revive it.) Cold air to the carburetor is particularly helpful in a Corvette because it has the least underhood area of any 8-cylinder Chevrolet—which means it suffers the most from high underhood temperatures. You can see it from the drag strip results. Each succeeding run is slower than the previous one until a final equilibrium is reached, usually 1-2 mph slower than the first run following a cool-off period. The high engine compartment temperatures are also transferred into the cockpit. Considerable effort has been made to ventilate the underhood area more effectively, the front fender vents help, but not enough to make the passenger compartment comfortable in hot weather. So unless you are intent on straight-line performance, we recommend air conditioning.

Two different close-ratio 4-speeds are available on the Corvette, the normal one which Duntov says is plenty good enough for any kind of street use, and the M22, known as the rock crusher to those who can’t remember M22. The difference between the two is the gears—a little straighter cut on the teeth in the rock crusher—and a great deal of noise. Both of the boxes shift alike because the synchronizers are the same. And they shift very well because of the Corvette’s excellent shift linkage. Unlike other Detroit 4-speeds, the Corvette linkage is mounted to the frame—which means that it doesn’t have to be rubber isolated to avoid rattles and vibrations. So you get solid shifts but no lever buzz. The shifter is also adjustable for a shorter throw.

They may have, in the braking department, however. Corvettes have extremely powerful brakes and three of the four test cars easily lived up to expectation. But the fourth—the nose heavy, air conditioned, all iron 454—preferred to lock up its rear wheels early and could pull only a little over 0.8G and still maintain good directional stability. No brake system proportioning valves are used in the Corvette and although there is a considerable weight distribution variation between models, Duntov is convinced that none is necessary—but he planned to recheck the nose heavy car situation on his return to Detroit just to make sure.

When it comes to handling, the variables are even more complex. According to Duntov, production cars can range all the way from 0.75 to 0.85G on the skid pad. The 454s are usually better because those models have a rear anti-sway bar which makes them almost neutral. But you can’t count on it. There is a considerable variation in suspension rates: up to 10% in the springs and nearly as much in the anti-sway bars—they can’t be produced to tolerances closer than that at a reasonable cost. And then there are the tires. For all considerations that make a good street tire—directional stability, ride quality, noise, etc.—the Goodyears are slightly better but the Firestones will usually generate a fraction more lateral force on the skid pad. Then there is car weight, which varied in this test from 3370 to 3675 lbs., and weight distribution. In this test the lightest car, the LT1, turned out to be best, circulating around the pad at 0.80G. It also had the least understeer.

But on the road course it was almost impossible to feel the difference between the four versions. All of them understeer slightly—just the right amount in our opinion—and are extremely tolerant of driver technique. For those who intend to race there is an optional heavy duty suspension but it is so hard that Duntov doesn’t think anybody could stand it on the street. And to discourage the masochists, he has fixed it so that you have to special order a heavy duty car—intended strictly for racing, with heavy duty brakes, clutch, rear end, etc.—and not a single convenience option, not even a radio, is available on that model.

It’s all a part of Duntov’s loyalty to Corvette drivers. He wants them to have what they need—as opposed to what they think they need—in an extremely high performance road car. Because of that desire he frequently finds himself at odds with the stylists. The deluxe wheel cover option is a case in point. The Turbo-Flash styling adds 28 lbs. to the car and makes it impossible to dynamically balance the wheels. Duntov recommends the base hub-cap-and-trim-ring setup. And there have been even more serious conflicts over the basic body shape. Originally the stylists had a big spoiler slated for the rear of the current Corvette before it went into production. Duntov insisted that it be trimmed down to its current non-functional size. Testing had shown the spoiler pushed the rear down so hard that the nose came up, causing the front end to go light—far worse than no spoiler at all.

Occasionally you find a problem that hasn’t been fixed. On the 140-mph pass through Nevada in the LS5 we discovered that it would only run wide-open throttle for a few miles before it would overheat. When the subject came up later Duntov nodded—he knew it. It’s because of the radiator shroud. You have to have it at low speeds so the fan will be effective but at high speeds it sort of corks off the flow of air that would otherwise be rammed through the radiator. He has the solution on the shelf—a shroud with flaps that open at speed—but the bean counters aren’t too interested in that. And since it’s not a safety consideration, there is no reason to press the issue. Duntov knows about discretion. It comes with age.

Which is a subject he doesn’t talk about much. He’s close on sixty and it is weighing on him. But it doesn’t stop him. Seemingly, nothing can. You see it when he drives. A few laps at the photographer’s insistence—just to finish off. Never mind that it’s just to use a roll of Tri-X. It’s done right. Wide open throttle till the last millisecond—brake late—brake hard—on the power early. Not a twitch in the line. Just a taste of tire smoke filters through the cockpit. Hell. Zora Arkus-Duntov will still blow the doors off 98% of the guys that buy his cars. And that bodes well for next year’s Corvette.

America’s Best Sports Car: Bricklin or Corvette?

Being second doesn’t necessarily mean being last.



from the May 1975 Issue of Car and Driver

Willow Springs Raceway wanders across the desert floor and slithers up foothills of California’s Soledad Mountain as if a passing glacier long ago had snagged the asphalt ribbon and towed part of the course up the slopes. Turn Six’s descending corkscrew is Willow’s equalizer. The Corvette is on its tiptoes diving downward, darting from left to right, its tail yawing sideways under light braking. The Bricklin seizes the opportunity to close the gap—it has the advantage of stability with soft understeer through the switchback and can brake aggressively right up to the pavement’s edge. Delayed by the corrections its driver is forced to make, the Corvette is late turning on the power as it exits onto the straight. Accelerating down the flattening grade, the Chevy gradually recaptures the advantage from the charging Bricklin, and the gap widens on the long back straightaway. By the start/finish line, the interval between the cars has grown to just under two seconds (on a 1:54 lap), a symbolic performance separation that was to hold throughout Car and Driver’s test of the original U.S. sports car and the Canadian-made challenger hot on its heels.

Vast financial investments, a loudly publicized New Brunswick assembly plant and an artful promotional effort have finally produced a tangible threat to the Corvette. With two contenders eyeing the same turf, a championship bout is the inevitable test. So we took to a few California and Arizona highways, Willow Springs and Irwindale Raceways and the testing laboratories of Automotive Environmental Systems to sort out a winner.

The gull-winged protagonist is Bricklin Number 781, the very first 1975 model off the New Brunswick assembly line. Unlike all 780 of its 1974-model forebears, this Bricklin is powered by a 351-cubic inch Ford Windsor V-8 instead of an AMC 360 engine. The current season’s output will also be massaged with a host of other detail refinements inevitable in an automobile struggling through its infancy. Most important among them is the deletion of a four-speed manual transmission choice. Malcolm Bricklin has deemed it not in keeping with his car’s safety image, so the Ford-made C-4 Cruise-o-matic is the only transmission currently specified. Another detail change: What started out as a $3500 idea has become a fully-equipped reality at $9780.

Despite the similar performance levels, each has its own character. You can tell which comes from St. Louis and which comes from New Brunswick.

In the incumbent’s corner we have the thoroughly experienced Corvette Stingray. It too has shed an important option for 1975: the big-block 454-cu. in. engine. Only two versions of the 350-cu. in. small-block V-8 remain, both exhaling through a single catalytic converter. Our test car was built with the base 165-horsepower (net) engine because the optional 205-hp L82 engine had not been released at the time of this comparison. Wherever possible, we chose options for the Corvette to match it to the Bricklin, including a Turbo-Hydra-matic transmission (mandatory in California), boosting the base $6810 Corvette up to a $8352 machine.

They come off amazingly close, these two American GT coupes. As long as you focus on the performance readout, they are practically identical. Whether it’s regulatory strictures, market pressures or economic demands that have squeezed both cars down to a comparatively mediocre but remarkably similar level doesn’t really matter. Stand on the gas and both machines will deliver you to the end of the quarter-mile within half a second of each other. They both corner within 0.01 G of each other and even deliver fuel economy within a half mpg during every phase of the C/D Mileage Cycle. On paper, they’re almost interchangeable—with the Corvette enjoying a small performance edge. But live with them and they become completely different cars. Each has a character so individual that you know immediately if your mount came from St. Louis or New Brunswick.

The Corvette feels highly competent, with power-everything to help you guide the long body around as well as an automatic transmission that knows just when you want it to upshift. But its excitement level inevitably sags under the eighth annual repeat of its dated body style.

Meanwhile, the Bricklin bursts on the scene all flair and flamboyancy, with gull-wing doors and a rakish wedge profile. It’s a little crude, especially compared to the Corvette’s practiced proficiency, but Malcolm’s toy unquestionably has the more interesting personality. If your happiness computer accepts only performance inputs, the Corvette is your car. But if there is an adjustment factor for character and panache, you’d better cast your lot with the Bricklin.

Much of the Bricklin’s appeal comes from the fact that you get it on just by getting in. Roll this set of gull wings into a shopping-center parking lot and it’s as though a flying saucer had landed. An occasional bystander may recount memories of the legendary 300SL, but for your average American, the Bricklin is a far-out form of transportation.

Entry is a bit of a hardship with the high, wide sills to cross, and the hardware to open the doors is rather complicated. A hydraulic pump groans into activity at the touch of a switch and powers a pair of convertible-top rams, one to boost each door open. Solenoid-activated unlatching is automatic. If you leave the lights on and run the battery down, you’ll have to connect jumper cables to a socket in the right front fender well. But if you’re inside trying to get out when some phase of the system fails, there is a manual latch release and a removable pivot pin connecting the hydraulic ram to the door. That allows you to lift the 90-pound wing and squeeze out through whatever crack you can make between it and the body. It feels a lot like climbing out a manhole while a semi-trailer is parked on the cover.

Our one major complaint about the design of the gull-wing doors is that there is no switching interlock to prevent one from simultaneously raising one door and lowering the other.

This act blocks the hydraulic pump and burns out its electric motor. Running both doors up or down at the same time is fine (though they move more slowly), but there is no protection against the one taboo that can cause the system to self-destruct before your eyes. The interior of the Corvette, for contrast, is a snug fit but easy to jump into and motor off with no fuss. Once you’re in, the instrumentation seizes your attention. The tach and speedometer are the biggest, easiest-to-read dials on the road, and they’re backed up by five subordinate dials to the side. From there it’s gradually downhill as the problems mount up. The steering wheel offers a clear view of the gauges, but it’s located a good six inches too close to your chest. The $82 tilt telescope option offers no relief whatsoever—its range is from too close to really too close. The heater/air-conditioner controls are too small to read (particularly at night) and the system refuses to circulate a reasonable volume of ventilation air unless the air-conditioning compressor is engaged. The automatic shift quadrant has no indicator pointer, so you have only feel to tell you what gear you’re in.

Throughout the Corvette, it seems as if some design team had been determined to sterilize all the character out of the command station. There is no suggestion that this is the spaceship on wheels it could be if only the designers had taken advantage of current technology. It’s not luxuriously distinguished as the most expensive Chevrolet—or even identified as a Chevrolet at all. Padding with imitation stitching covers the front wall, but the steering-wheel rim doesn’t even rate fake thread to disguise its test-tube origin.

Bricklin SV-1

The Bricklin’s interior problems are more critical and will, in fact, soon cancel much of its tremendous novelty advantage over the Corvette. Every furnishing seems to work against basic comfort. The roof is too low for headroom, the throttle pedal raises your right knee into interference with the leather steering-wheel rim and the lumpy seat doesn’t offer any support for your thighs. The value of the VDO instrumentation array is lost because you can’t see the speedometer or tachometer unless you crane your neck to peer around the wheel rim, and the upper half of the digital clock in the radio dial is masked unless you bow your head.

And it’s a hard car to see out of as well. The thick-section A-pillars block a fat wedge out of your forward vision, and a belt line hiked up to earlobe level cuts off the side view. Through the hatchback window, you see a thin rectangle of the road close behind the car, so you must dip your head to make any effective use of the inside rearview mirror. If twisting your neck isn’t enough to generate a headache, there are other forms of punishment in the Bricklin. The wind whooshes across the side windows in vigorous symphony with the rumbling exhaust (which is intrusive even at idle) to raise the interior sound level to a 79 dBA crescendo at 70 mph—compared to the Corvette’s 76 dBA. It’s easier to see up than out through the side windows, but that also makes it easier for the sun to beat through them. And the air vents can’t keep up with that radiant heat until you switch on the air conditioning (and take a fuel-economy penalty).

Corvette Stingray

While they’re working on those interior problems, Bricklin’s engineers would do well to take a careful look at the general quality level of their materials. The car looks a little too much like a carefully finished Fiberfab with its glued-down vinyl trim, carpeting that doesn’t quite cover the fiberglass floor and flimsy plastic shift gate (a part fine for the Hornet it came from but hardly up to the standards of a $9780 GT car). The luxury level would rise substantially if the suede-like upholstery material used in the center of the seats were spread throughout the interior in place of the smooth vinyl. It looks much like the genuine article but is in fact just a convincing imitation, so cost shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle. But why worry about it? In the final analysis, both these cars win friends and influence people with their exterior looks. Hit the road with a Bricklin and women fall hopelessly in love from two lanes away. Z-Car drivers circle in for a closer look knowing full well this new kid on the block has lowered their car’s sex appeal a hefty notch.

The demand for a transportation device that can radiate such excitement is so vigorous that neither Chevrolet nor Bricklin’s General Vehicle Inc. can hope to satisfy all their cash customers. This year’s production of Corvettes was entirely spoken for by dealers by March 1, and dealers who don’t have enough of them seek out Stingrays with offers of up to S1000 over invoice to help out those hooked on Corvettes who need a fix. As for the Bricklin, entrepreneurs buy ‘74s on the East Coast, truck them west like contraband and sell them for over $10,000.

Surprisingly enough, the sheer enthusiasm for these cars doesn’t seem to hinge on any real demand for sparkling performance. Chevrolet’s market research shows that 60 percent of the new Corvette buyers ultimately move on to either a Monte Carlo, a Grand Prix or a Cougar. More than likely, few of this year’s buyers are aware that there is a whopping 30-hp sacrifice in the base engine and 35-hp loss with the optional L82 because a proposed dual-exhaust system didn’t make the emissions grade, forcing the engineers to come up with a last-minute design that funnels everything through one large catalytic converter. This has driven the acceleration levels of our test car (admittedly a worst-case version with the base engine, economy axle, air conditioning and automatic transmission) back to the level of a good 15 years ago. A quarter-mile takes 16.1 seconds to build speed up to 87.4 mph—only slightly quicker than a Mazda RX-3. If the road is long and straight enough, you can still coax the 1975 Vette’s acceleration and top speed.

The Bricklin’s Ford 351 rumbles lustily at idle, but its two-barrel carburetor flattens the engine out above 4000 rpm; 16.6 seconds (83.6 mph) was our best time in the quarter-mile in the Bricklin, though it is 130 pounds lighter than the Corvette. The small carburetor also effectively limits the noise during acceleration inside the Bricklin, which is hardly the case in the Corvette. As you snap open its secondaries, the Corvette’s cold-air hood comes into play and intake noise is channeled through the heater plenum for your 97.5-dBA listening displeasure. The Bricklin’s noise level peaks at a comparatively sedate 82 dBA up to 70 mph, and its engine doesn’t sound much louder when you run it flat out. (It will pull 118 mph—hardly the stuff exotica dreams are made of.)

Malcolm Bricklin has his own dreams of what this car should be, and speed isn’t a very important part of them. Safety is the most marketable attraction, he thinks, so his sports car is labeled SV-1 to let you know up front that it’s a safety vehicle. The car’s principal advantage over contemporary automobiles is a steel-tube perimeter frame that circles the passenger compartment at bumper height. Its main body cab is also built around a tubing cage, as is the Corvette’s—this is almost a necessity for sufficient stiffness with a fiberglass body. The Bricklin, however, probably does have some strength advantage over the Corvette due to its large-section windshield pillars and an overhead structure sturdy enough to take the loads imposed by gull-wing doors.

Two other unusual features of the Bricklin have been widely but incorrectly promoted as safety features. The huge bumpers prevent cosmetic damage up to an impressive 12 mph during a barrier impact, but that really offers no extra increment of occupant protection. Crash injuries are caused by a passenger’s impact with the interior of a car, so it matters little whether the front fenders or a urethane-coated bumper is the first to collapse on the outside. The Bricklin’s body material also has no real safety advantage, but it should be highly resistant to light damage. It’s made just like the Corvette’s (fiberglass in a sheet molding compound composition formed between two matched metal dies) but with one additional step: The Bricklin’s outermost skin is a 0.40- to 0.60-inch-thick sheet of acrylic plastic that is first vacuum-formed and then laid into the dies with the fiberglass, where the two bond together while curing. This acrylic is more scratch-resistant than paint because it is impregnated with color rather than just covered on the surface.

Light scratches come out with sanding and polishing, and deep gouges can be filled by any reasonably competent Bricklin owner with liquid acrylic of the proper color and then sanded. Between the bumpers and the body material, the Bricklin should be the most damage-resistant car on the road. But it is hard to label it a legitimate safety car because the interior surfaces do not have the soft lining that ESV experiments have shown to be essential. In terms of active safety from good handling and braking ability, the Bricklin does a fair job with what amounts to an AMC Hornet suspension and brakes. Stopping ability is limited by rear drums that lock the back wheels early, and we encountered some fade of the front discs during the fray at Willow Springs.

The Corvette’s four-wheel disc system allows substantially shorter stops than are possible with the Bricklin (191 feet versus 216 feet), but care must be used during cornering and braking to keep the Stingray’s nose ahead of its tail. The GM-specification radial tires inflated to a soft 20 psi (recommended pressure) break loose before generating much lateral grip (0.67 G versus the 0.68 G attainable with the Bricklin), so it’s hard to use the Corvette’s penchant for swinging its tail wide. Getting the car sideways is easy, though. In fact, the Corvette will do it for you if you aren’t gentle at the steering wheel. But getting crossed up and sliding back and forth across the track is hardly the fast way around; it scrubs off too much forward speed.

It takes a long sweeping bend for the Corvette to feel really keyed into the track. The tail drifts just wide enough to cancel undesirable understeer and you can motor through with your foot flat on the throttle. In the same circumstance, the Bricklin’s speed is limited by the grip of the front tires and it feels more like a big sedan. Body roll is well controlled, but it takes a quarter turn of the steering wheel before the car’s direction changes a noticeable amount. The Bricklin’s fat BFG Radial T/As break away gently with plenty of warning;

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