Retirement wasn't easy for Duntov. When he retired from General Motors in 1975, Duntov confronted the same problem that many of us are grappling with right now. Zora simply wasn't ready to go silently into that long night. Here was a man whose whole life was wrapped up in cars, especially the Corvette. Here was a man who used to sleep on top of the drafting tables at the GM Technical Center for days at a time rather than go home. Driving home every night would take time away from his Corvette projects.
Then suddenly came the day when he wasn't going to the office. He no longer even had an office. Zora's life had changed dramatically. The only problem was that Zora's drive to move in the fast lane was just as intense. GM didn't need Zora any more, but Zora needed something besides the golf course. Retirement certainly didn't mean it was time to start attending the dog races in Florida.
Zora's final years with the Corvette were consumed with emissions and fuel-economy issues. From the time when he arrived at GM in the early '50s, the world had changed dramatically. The priorities of the '70s were very different from when he began developing the Corvette.
During his final years at GM, performance was no longer a priority. At every turn GM was rejecting Zora's vision for the Corvette. Before leaving GM, Duntov had been on a quest for the mid-engined Corvette. He was rebuffed at every turn. Zora Duntov always felt the Corvette had to make a technological statement. GM's upper management certainly did not share this vision.
Friends of Zora tell of how depressed he became with leaving Corvette at possibly the all-time low point in performance. When he retired, the Corvette was only developing 165 horsepower. If you ordered the optional L82, you got 205 horsepower. The hot new item for the '75 Corvette was the HEI ignition system. This was a system designed to reduce emissions and increase gas mileage. The old transistor ignition that produced horsepower in the L88 Corvette was gone. Times had changed, and now Zora was gone as well.
Zora immediately threw himself into the standard GM retirement program of consultation. A huge number of GM executives make a nice income off consulting fees.
Companies are eager to hire these retired engineers and executives for their special automotive expertise. They go from project to project and company to company to help firms make better use of technology.
It turned out that just as Duntov was searching for something to do, the owners of American Custom Industries were involved in a similar search. ACI, an aftermarket fiberglass parts manufacturer, had been heavily involved in the Greenwood Corvette during the early '70s. The relationship between ACI and John Greenwood had come to its conclusion, and now Bob Schuller, owner of Sylvania, Ohio-based ACI, was looking around for another Corvette project.
Schuller had an idea for involving Zora Duntov in his next project. The only problem was he didn't know Zora Duntov. He had met Zora several times at various Corvette functions, but they had never really spoken at any length. Schuller, though, had a way of changing all this.