1980 Chevy Corvette - Zora's Retirement Project

The Turbocharged Corvette He Always Wanted

Richard F. Newton Nov 1, 2004 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0411_10_z 1980_duntov_chevy_corvette Duntov_sticker 2/16

In the end, the engine was built to run 7 pounds of boost from a Turbo International unit, which was one of the least complex units on the market. By this time, Bob Schuller was getting concerned about putting a Corvette with all of this complexity into the marketplace. A great deal of care was taken to ensure that any Chevrolet dealer could work on the car. The folks at ACI looked at this Corvette as a car that would be driven. The emphasis was changing from pure raw performance to a car that could be used every day as a street-driven Corvette. Any pretense of performance was dropped.

"It took a full year to tool for the project, and the production costs were increasing dramatically," reported Schuller. The turbocharger was beginning to strain the relationship between Schuller and Duntov as the year went on.

The turbocharged engine became one of the real compromises of the project. ACI and Duntov finally just used the optional L82 engine with the turbo bolted on. There was too little time and too little money for much else. ACI simply didn't have the resources that Zora was used to having at GM.

Some people feel that when the car was offered with only the automatic transmission, there was very little hope. The whole notion of building a turbocharged Corvette with the Duntov name emblazoned on the front fender and then limiting the customer to an automatic was symbolic of the confusion developing in this project. They might as well have hung a huge sign on the car saying, "We're not really serious."

Vemp_0411_16_z 1980_duntov_chevy_corvette Flyer 3/16

People who are into performance really want to shift their own gears. The Porsche 911 Turbo had a four-speed, and Porsche couldn't build 911 Turbos fast enough to meet the demand. Even the Saab Turbo came with a five-speed transmission in 1980. Again, Saab couldn't meet the demand. Obviously, a lot of car buyers saw the turbocharger as an answer to their performance prayers. The Corvette buyer, though, wasn't really excited about turbo power-especially when it was in front of an automatic transmission. It quickly became apparent that GM management was correct about the demand for a turbocharged Corvette.

Even the top speed of this Duntov Corvette was compromised. Keep in mind that no one ever really drives these cars flat-out, but the speed is critical for bragging rights. The Porsche peaked out at 160 miles per hour, and the Saab was good for roughly 140 mph. The best the Duntov Corvette could do was 125 mph.

The Duntov Corvette could run the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds. It took the standard Corvette 15.9 seconds to do the same distance. Even 0-60 times were lacking. The Duntov took 7.5 seconds while the standard Corvette could get to 60 in about 7.6 seconds. For all practical purposes, the turbocharger added zip performance gain.

Let's go back and look at what the Porsche Turbo did. A standard Porsche could get from 0 to 60 in 6.3 seconds. The Porsche Turbo could do it in 5.3 seconds. It was the same at the dragstrip. A base-model Porsche could run the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds. The Turbo Porsche got to the end of the quarter in 13.4 seconds. Here was a car that very few thought of as being a strong dragstrip car, and it literally blew a turbocharged Corvette away.


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