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1955 Chevy Corvette - The Corvette Is No Dog Anymore

This '55 helped change the Corvette's image forever.

By , Photography by

Back when I was working for Vette magazine in the early '90s, the iconic Zora Arkus-Duntov penned an article for us with the same headline I used for this story. It told us how he set a 150 mph top-speed record on the sand of Daytona Beach and changed the Corvette's performance image forever.

The car you see here is the one that was used in the testing for that historic record run. It was for this record-setting performance that the now-legendary Duntov camshaft was designed.

To put things into the proper perspective, the Corvette was perceived by many as a lost cause at this time. Production was only 700 units in '55 and more than a few were gathering dust on dealers' lots. Duntov approached Ed Cole with the high-speed run proposal during the time in which engineering was hot and heavy developing the Rochester fuel injection system for 1957. Cole agreed to the idea, with the caveat that it in no way intefere with the fuel injection program.

One major obstacle was that there were no '56 Corvettes available yet-they still hadn't been introduced to the public-so this '55 from the R&D fleet was pressed into service. Its chassis and engine were '56 spec. During testing in November of '55, it was determined there was not enough power for a two-way average of 150 mph-the record run was scheduled for the last part of December.

Duntov determined that he needed another 35-40 horsepower over the 225 the 265 small-block was making to achieve his goal and the part he felt was holding him back was the camshaft. He called in his proposed specs to engineering, a couple of cams were made, and after testing he was told the cam added 40-45 horsepower over the stock Corvette camshaft. Most people at Chevy at the time, derided his choice of specs and didn't think it would work. In the time preceding the record run, it became known inside GM as "the Duntov cam" and the name stuck.

Typical Duntov, he wrote, "When Rosey [Rosenberger] called and announced that the camshaft provided 40-45 hp more than the Corvette cam, I took it in stride. I expected it."

During testing in Arizona, this '55 climbed to top speeds of 155 mph-163 once with a tailwind, with Duntov behind the wheel. The big question was could these speeds be repeated at sea-level on sand.

With two four barrel carbs, a three-speed manual trans and the new Duntov cam-equipped 265 V8, a new '56 with a chopped-down windshield and Zora behind the wheel, set a record of 150.583 on the sand at Daytona Beach. To quote Zora, "the Corvette was no dog anymore."

The '55 you see here is now owned by Michigan's Ken Lingenfelter, owner of Lingenfelter Motor Sports.

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