1980 Chevy Corvette - Zora's Retirement Project

The Turbocharged Corvette He Always Wanted

Richard F. Newton Nov 1, 2004 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0411_06_z 1980_duntov_chevy_corvette Hood_vent 1/16

Bob Schuller invited Zora to speak at ACI's annual open house. The most creative aspect of this plan was the rather nasty-looking '74 Corvette that Duntov owned. This '74 ran great, but it was a little (okay, a lot) worse for wear. Schuller suggested that instead of paying Zora his standard speaking fee, ACI would totally refurbish the exterior of Zora's Corvette. Zora's personal Corvette would then become a showcase for ACI technology.

The goal was to demonstrate the level of quality that ACI was capable of performing. Schuller felt that he had to demonstrate this quality to Duntov, not just talk about it. The best part was the plan really worked. Zora was very impressed with the result of the ACI work on his personal Corvette. Now it was time for Schuller to bring up the idea of a special-edition Corvette endorsed by Zora Duntov.

Duntov, though, wanted one special thing. He felt if he was going to have his name emblazoned on a Corvette, then it must be turbocharged. The idea of a new fiberglass Corvette body was about to get just a little more complicated.

Remember, GM had already turned Duntov down on the turbocharger. "Twice I asked for a turbocharger," reported Duntov in a 1980 interview. "Each time I was turned down. They said that a turbocharged L82 would only sell a thousand units. I said it would be more like 6,000. They just said it would be unprofitable, and that was the end of the turbocharger for the Corvette."

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The turbo thing was starting to get very big in the late '70s and early '80s. Saab had been the first to use turbocharging, followed closely by Porsche. Turbocharging was seen as the answer to a lot of problems. As long as you stayed out of the power, you could get incredibly high fuel mileage and had a really nice car for driving around town. Let the rpms build and the increased power was stunning.

Chevrolet had done a considerable amount of work on turbocharged Corvettes. Zora had become a huge proponent of turbocharging. At one point there was a very strong indication that the future of Corvette performance was going to be a turbocharged V-6 engine.

Keep in mind that in the mid '70s, the automobile industry was struggling with both emissions and fuel mileage. It was also a time when both items were controlled by mechanical devices. It would be a few years before computer technology was brought to bear on engine performance.

With all of the government mandates, GM had to admit the last thing they needed was a crazy engineer telling them that the Corvette needed to be a technological statement. Especially when this engineer's product line was selling less than 25,000 cars a year.

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When ACI agreed to let Duntov have his turbocharged Corvette, it was like a dream come true. Zora could finally show his critics how wrong they had been. ACI's Bob Schuller was just as pleased to show off his new design for the very special Corvette.

This Duntov Corvette was based on the old Greenwood body, but it was smoothed out to give it a little more beauty and less beast. The large scoops that Greenwood had on the front fenders were gone, as well as the giant hood vents. The idea was to eliminate the machismo look of the Greenwood and go for a more refined and elegant look.

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