1980 Chevy Corvette - Zora's Retirement Project

The Turbocharged Corvette He Always Wanted

Richard F. Newton Nov 1, 2004 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0411_17_z 1980_duntov_chevy_corvette Headlight 1/16

Then came the price of the Duntov Corvette. It was right around $12,000 more than the Corvette at your local Chevrolet dealership. In 1980, the Corvette cost roughly $18,000. If you went wild with the little option boxes, it was still hard to get a Corvette over $25,000. The Duntov Corvette started at $30,000.

Selling a performance car, a turbocharged performance car no less, without any real performance was not a good sign. When all was said and done, the only good part was the Duntov Corvette could keep up with a stock four-speed Corvette. This was the setting for a sales disaster. The Duntov Corvette hit the showroom as a fairly slow car with an automatic transmission, and ACI was asking a premium price.

The Duntov Turbo landed in the marketplace with a huge thud. Once a prospective buyer got past the questionable styling, there wasn't a whole lot to like. Both Schuller and Duntov realized that there was no way they were going to reach the goal of 200 cars.

Today the Duntov Corvette is an interesting statement about the car collector hobby. It's a statement about how rare does not necessarily mean valuable. Owning a Duntov Corvette is like owning a three-speed '63 split-window coupe. Both are very rare cars that no one seems to want. Perhaps the best way to describe this sort of car is to call it interesting.

One final irony to this saga was that when Chevrolet finally did offer a turbocharged Corvette in 1987, the world got very excited; Dave McLellan did what Zora hadn't been able to do. The Corvette world finally got the turbocharger that everyone had wanted for the past decade. In the first year they sold 184 Callaway Corvettes, almost the number of turbo Vettes that ACI had projected.

Vemp_0411_19_z 1980_duntov_chevy_corvette Duntov 2/16

Bob Schuller and Zora Duntov were correct that a market existed for a turbocharged Corvette. An interesting footnote is to go back and look at how optimistic Chevrolet had been about the turbo market. When they turned Duntov down, they said the market would only support 1,000 cars. In fact it could barely even support 200. We won't even get into Zora's marketing estimate of 6,000 cars.

Nonetheless, a real market existed-no matter how small it might have been. While ACI charged $12,000 extra for the Duntov Turbo, Callaway was asking in excess of $20,000 more for his turbocharged Corvette. Keep in mind that the base price for an '87 Corvette was $27,000. The Callaway B2K option was even more expensive than the Duntov car had been.

The early Callaway turbo had a totally stock interior and only a few external differences. The extra $20,000 got you performance-not image. Essentially Callaway took the exact opposite approach from ACI and Duntov. When sales of the B2K went totally flat, Callaway began to offer a modified body to rescue the sales curve. Even outstanding performance alone couldn't sell the turbocharged Corvette.

You can really look at these two cars as being on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Duntov Corvette gave you a gee-whiz body design. The Callaway Corvette gave you incredible performance. Actually the B2K was very similar in performance to the ZR-1 Corvette, which Chevrolet couldn't sell either, but that's another story for another day.

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